Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The differences in costs between undergraduate and postgraduate degrees

Degrees can come in many different forms and may sometimes be confusing to understand. What most of us understand, however, is that the undergraduate degree is your Bachelors whereas the postgraduate is either a Masters or a PhD.  You will need an undergraduate degree to get onto a Masters and you will often need a Masters to get onto a PhD. Pretty straight forward so far?

Undergraduate fees

The fees surrounding university degrees are not as straight forward as they may seem. Undergraduate fees are currently £9,250 per year for home students (figures differ for international). This may seem like a lot however all home students, regardless of household income, are eligible for a Tuition Fee Loan which covers the full cost of your tuition. This is paid directly to your university so you do not even need to deal with the money. On top of this, students are entitled to a Maintenance Loan which can be used to cover living expenses such as food and rent. The Maintenance loan depends on where you are from, where you will be studying and your household income. The maximum you can get for the academic year 20/21, if living away from home but outside London, is £9,203. This is great as it means that all students can afford living expenses regardless of if they have financial support from their families.

Masters fees

Postgraduate fees, on the other hand, are not so straight forward. Masters degrees are usually a year if studied full time, however for some subjects it may be two. The tuition fees vary massively based on what course you are studying and at which university. The average cost of a Masters degree is £7,946 however some can be significantly higher than this. For example, a Master of Business degree at Imperial College London would set you back a humongous £54,500. In my opinion, this is very unfair as it is only accessible to the very privileged members of society.

For a Masters degree you can only get one loan of a maximum of £10,609. This is meant to cover your living expenses and your tuition fees for the whole of your degree. This means that if your Masters is a two-year course, your loan will be split into two. This loan does not depend on your household income, however as you can tell, it is not enough for most students who do not have other finances available to them. I think this is a huge barrier to many students who wish to pursue a Masters but simply can’t afford it.

PhD fees

The fees associated with PhDs are undoubtedly the most varied and hard to comprehend. PhDs are usually three or four years. Their tuition fee costs can vary massively based on the subject, but the average is £4,327 per year for home students. This is considerably lower than undergraduate or Masters fees as you are usually doing your own work and research for the majority of the degree, meaning there is less teaching to pay for. There are a few funding options available based on what you are studying. Some students may be eligible for a Doctoral Loan from the government. This can be up to £26,445 split over the number of years you are studying. Funding may also be attained from national research councils or the university itself. So, if you are interested in a PhD, you may be eligible for funding, but this largely depends on what and where you are studying.

Ultimately, undergraduate fees are by far the simplest to understand and to get. However, if you want to pursue further study and don’t have a hefty bank account, don’t lose all hope. There are various other funding opportunities such as scholarships available. On top of this, fees vary massively worldwide. A number of countries in Europe offer Masters degrees for free (no tuition fees, just living costs). Some countries also have extremely low PhD fees when compared to the UK. This overview has only scraped the surface of understanding fees, so it is always worth doing your own research.

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