Student life

Studying in the UK: A guide for international students


Last updated: 07/01/21

Please note that information surrounding Brexit rules has been taken directly from the government website and that this information is correct to the best of our knowledge at point of publishing – you can stay up to date with the latest Brexit news by visiting the government website.


Coming to study in the UK from abroad is a big decision, and one that requires a lot of thought and research. Not only that, but there’s lots of organising to do, such as arranging visas, tuition fees and bank accounts, as well as finding suitable student accommodation.

As with most things, it’s always better to plan ahead than to leave everything to the last minute, so here’s a handy guide to help you get ready for studying in the UK!

First of all - why study in the UK?

There are lots of reasons you might want to study abroad, whether it’s because you want to travel, meet new people or learn a new language.

But there are also many advantages of studying in the UK specifically, including:

How many international students are there in the UK?

If you choose to study in the UK, you’ll be in good company - there were 485,600 overseas students studying at UK universities in 2018/19, making up 20% of the total student population.

So if you’re worried about feeling homesick while studying abroad, there will likely be plenty of other students in the same boat who can provide emotional support.

How much does it cost to study at UK universities?

Tuition fees for international students studying in the UK can vary massively depending on the course and university you choose, so it’s important to do your research before you apply.

In 2019/20, tuition fees for undergraduate international students in the UK cost from around £9,250 up to £39,475, or up to £61,435 for medical degrees.*

*Reddin Survey of University Tuition Fees 2019/20, Complete University Guide

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5 things to organise before you arrive in the UK

1. Secure your international student loan

At the moment if you’re from the EU you should be eligible for student finance in the UK, which means your tuition fees will be paid for by a loan that you pay back at a later date.

However, if you live outside of the EU you'll likely have to fund your degree yourself. To obtain a successful visa application, you’ll need to prove that you can cover this tuition cost as well as your living expenses – you can find out more about international student visas below.

But there’s no need to worry if you don't have the money to pay for tuition - there may be other options available. For more information, check out the Save the Student website.

2. Apply for your international student visa

Depending upon which country you come from, you might need to apply for a visa or to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Student visas

You can apply for a student visa to study in the UK as long as:

  • you’re aged 16 or over (you may require a child student visa if you’re 16/17 and are studying at an independent school).
  • have been offered a place on a course by a licensed student sponsor and are over 16
  • have enough money to support yourself and pay for your course
  • can speak, read, write and understand English
  • have consent from your parents if you’re 16 or 17 - you’ll need evidence of this when you apply

For courses up to six months, you won’t need a visa as long as you’re studying at an accredited institution. And if you’re studying on an English language course that lasts up to 11 months, you can apply for a short-term study visa.*

EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and you started living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

This means that you’ll be able to stay in the UK and continue to work, study and access benefits/services. Applying to the EUSS is free and if you want to stay in the UK, you’ll have to apply to the scheme before 30th June 2021.

Check what type of international student visa you need on the UK government website here.

3. Sort out your international student accommodation

The last thing you’ll want is to turn up to university and have nowhere to stay, so it’s worth sorting out your accommodation before you arrive.

Once you’ve received an offer of a place at university, you should be guaranteed accommodation with them too. Most students live in university accommodation called ‘halls’ or alternatively you can rent a room in a private house. Some universities even have halls specifically for international students to help you make friends easily.

Already arranged your student accommodation? Your accommodation provider may also have arranged some contents insurance inside your room with Endsleigh. You can check what's covered by entering your accommodation provider or HH reference number here.

Download our eBook to find out what to look out for when securing your international student house!

4. Take out international student health insurance

You’ll need to prove that you have international student health insurance to cover you for any medical care you might need while you’re residing in the UK.

EU nationals

If you're from the EU and started studying at an accredited UK higher education institute in the UK on/before 31/12/20, you can use your EHIC* card for healthcare treatment until the end of your course, no matter what your nationality is. But if your course extends passed 30/06/21, you’ll need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme as mentioned above.

If your course started after 31/12/20 and lasts for longer than six months, you’ll be required to pay the immigration health surcharge as part of your student visa application. For more information, visit the government website.

Non-EU nationals

If you're a student from a country outside the EU, rules will depend on the length of your course.

Course is six months or longer: As you’ll have paid the immigration surcharge as part of your visa application, you’ll have access to the NHS. If you arrived before 31st December 2020, you’ll need to provide your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) as proof of right to use the NHS.

Course is less than six months: You’ll need private health insurance which was obtained before you came to the UK. This policy should allow you to access private clinics, and potentially some NHS GPs on a discretionary basis.

*It appears as though the EHIC card will be changing to the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card), although as the details for this and what it means for international students in the UK are still being rolled out, make sure you check the government website for official guidance.

5. Set up your international student bank account

Setting up a UK bank account will make it easier to pay bills, keep your money safe and prevent you from paying any foreign currency charges you might incur if you use a non-UK bank account.

In order to open a bank account while you're here in the UK, you’ll need to be able to provide the following:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid visa - Non-EU students only
  • Proof of address in the UK, such as a tenancy agreement or a utility bill
  • Proof of address in your home country
  • Proof of student status - you'll normally receive this once you enrol at university
  • Proof of income - this may mean a credit check and interview to establish you will be able to maintain the account

You'll also need to visit the bank in person to get everything set up.

International student insurance.

Student life can be expensive, so it pays to be prepared in case you end up footing the bill for any expensive medical costs should you have an accident or get ill while studying in the UK.

It’s also important to remember that neither the EHIC or health surcharge will cover any extra expenses or losses incurred as a result of illness or injury - such as cancelled travel plans or lost course fees.

That’s why it’s a good idea to check whether you need any additional insurance cover for your trip to the UK.

Find out more about international student travel insurance.

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