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Foreign students are struggling to pay for UK universities 

Foreign students arriving in the UK to study are struggling to cope with increased costs as the pandemic and issues surrounding Brexit have driven up the cost of studying in the UK.

Though international students have always been expected to pay significantly higher expenses than home students – roughly £35,250 more for a standard three year degree – many have found that the new financial strain is too much. 

With the UK government’s traffic light travel system, aimed at regulating arrivals to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, flights are rare and expensive, particularly from red list countries. 

International students, and their families, are expected to cover these costs – which include PCR tests and quarantine hotel bookings – without additional aid as they are not eligible for student loans. 

“There were hardly any flights available and the ones that I could get were so expensive. It was difficult. It was a struggle just to get here,” says Aarnav, an engineering student at the University of Warwick who arrived this September from Kenya – a red-list country.

UK universities are aware of the financial problems faced by international students, and a few, like Liverpool, are chartering flights to get students here whilst others are reimbursing the personal costs of quarantine bookings.

The UK Government has also issued a £50 million support package which is also available to help foreign students. 


“If I hadn’t received a scholarship, which only covers part of my expenses, I would definitely not have been able to even think about studying here at all”

– Aditi, PPE student from Toronto

Brexit also means that European students who previously would have paid the same costs as home students have seen their fees double. 

This combination of already higher costs and the additional struggles posed by the pandemic and Brexit is now causing many international students to feel a greater financial burden, leaving many questioning if studying at a UK university is even worth it. 

“If I hadn’t received a scholarship, which only covers part of my expenses, I would definitely not have been able to even think about studying here at all. It is ridiculous how expensive it is,” says Aditi, a PPE student from Toronto. 

Despite this, with UK universities continuing to dominate the world university rankings – for example, Warwick ranked within Europe’s top 20 higher education institutions and Oxford was named the world’s best university for its sixth consecutive year – UK universities are continuing to attract foreign students. 

According to Universities UK, for many, including the 538,615 international students studying in the UK in 2019-20, studying at a UK university remains a firm ambition of theirs.

But now, realising this dream is proving to be a greater financial struggle than many students had anticipated. 


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