University is a big change from school. Many students find the process of moving away from home and becoming self-sufficient overwhelming. One factor which contributes to this is the high cost of university. It can seem extortionate at first, but once you know the reasoning behind the cost of university it will start to make sense. Knowing this information may even convince you that the high price is worth it for a good education.
University is a heavy cost for students all across the UK, even for those with scholarships and bursaries. The main reason for the excessive cost is the lack of government funding for universities. All schools of higher education are profitable institutes which receive minimal public funding so must charge fees for high quality tuition. On top of this initial cost, you also need to pay for accommodation and buy your own daily essentials like food. The government sets a limit on the amount universities can charge for tuition per year. There is, however, no limit on the accommodation costs.
For further details on the subject, including the actual cost of university, more reasons why higher education is so expensive and how to reduce this, keep reading.
Why is university so expensive?
University is one of the first big expenses young people have to pay. Most families start putting aside money from when their children are a very young age in order to gain enough funds for university in later life.
One of the main reasons university costs so much is because it receives little to no public funding from the government. You are able to gain primary, secondary and sixth form education completely free of charge, so long as you attend a state-run school. This is because the government puts aside a portion of their yearly education budget for public schools in the UK. Check out this Think Student article that discusses sixth form education being free.
However, it is not within the interests of the government to completely fund higher education, as it would cost too much. Hence, it is required that you pay university tuition fees.
As well as the lack of public funding, universities have above average running costs anyway. For a start, they are usually composed of multiple large buildings which may be spread out across the city, and these cost money to heat and light.
More importantly, the point of university is to receive education on the highest-level topics, and in order to do this, you need good quality lecturers. Each of these lecturers needs to be paid a decent salary for their knowledge and teaching skill.
On top of all this, universities are profitable organisations, so want to be making additional money on top of covering running costs. This allows them to create a larger budget for the next year. They can then invest this in better equipment, development of facilities and funding for social groups and societies within the university.
All of these factors come together to produce the high cost which students must pay each year for their tuition.
How much does university cost?
The cost of university is the same wherever you go in the UK. The tuition fees do not depend on the reputation or quality of the university, so going to a better school will not cost you more. This is because the government limits the price universities can charge each year.
University fees are split into two different categories. The tuition fees, which currently stand at £9250 per year, are fixed by the government. On the other hand, accommodation and living costs are flexible, and will be chosen by your landlord. The actual cost of university can be seen in this Think Student article.
However, the tuition fees paid by students can still fluctuate depending on the level you choose to take your degree to. For a three-year, undergraduate course, the total cost will be £27,750. For students who choose to increase the length of their degree and take a Master’s in their subject, the total cost becomes £37,000 at a minimum.
Another way lots of students choose to increase the length of their degree programs is by participating in a year abroad. This is a popular option, particularly for those who want to increase their language skills and cultural understanding whilst studying at a different university.
Unfortunately, taking a year abroad also then means that the cost of your degree will increase to the £37,000 mark for the total four years. This cost is often worth paying, especially as you want an extra year in education, and there are many benefits to the year abroad programme.
Click here to view the Oxford Scholastica website. This will give you an idea of the benefits to taking a year abroad as well as more general information on what it is.
How much does university accommodation cost?
Accommodation can cost anywhere between £5000 (£122 per week) and £9000 (£220 per week) per year. You can read more about the different average costs for accommodation in UK universities here on the Complete University Guide website.
The total cost depends on where you stay and the type of residency you choose. In order of price, your options are self-catering accommodation, catered accommodation and private residency. This article from UCAS explains the different types of accommodation further.
In your second and third years, you will most likely rent a student home with several of your peers. This is around the same price but allows you more freedom as you are renting an entire house (although the bigger the house, the higher the cost!)
The most expensive area to live in is, of course, London, not just in housing prices, but for the total cost of living. After accommodation costs, you will also need to buy meals, clothes and transport passes. For the full university experience, you’ll also inevitably end up spending quite a large sum on nights out.
After London, there is quite the range in prices for living in cities across the UK, but the cost is all down to the university you choose. At the end of the day, if your first-choice school is in an expensive area, there’s not much you can do, and it’s a price worth paying.
Manchester University is a fairly mid-range university in terms of accommodation and living costs. This table on their website summarises the average yearly and weekly costs for a student living in Manchester.
Can you get a scholarship to university in the UK?
University scholarships are awarded to students who have exceptional talent in their chosen subject area. The scholarship removes a given amount of money from your yearly tuition fees, and this amount is decided by the university.
There is no set number of scholarships a university must offer, so you will have to research your chosen university. Make sure you look for scholarship opportunities in your specific subject or subject area.
Scholarships are mainly part of competitive schemes. This means you will not just be rewarded the money based on your personal achievements. You must prove that you have an edge over other students applying to the university and to the scholarship.
This Think Student article provides more information on how to get a university scholarship and why applying is a good idea.
If you are lucky enough to receive a scholarship, you could receive the reward in one of two forms. The university might subtract the money from the total tuition fees before you are required to pay.
On the other hand, they may send you the sum at the beginning of the year which you will then be able to spend in whichever you choose. This means the scholarship could fund your tuition, accommodation, society memberships or travel costs. You could even choose to spend the money equally between these different exploits.
Can you apply for student finance?
Although scholarships are an ideal way to reduce the cost of university, most students will not receive scholarships to their first choices. Therefore, the most popular way of funding a degree is through student finance.
This funding comes in two forms, tuition loans and maintenance loans. Tuition fee loans can only be used to cover the cost of tuition fees. In the same way, maintenance loans can only be used for paying back the cost of accommodation.
In order to apply for student finance, you must meet several criteria. You must be a resident of the UK who is studying full-time at a public university for your first degree-level qualification. If you do not meet these criteria, it is still possible to receive some funding but the amount you are given may be reduced.
Student finance applications are open from the beginning of February for students starting their studies in the next academic year. You can read more about when applications open in this article.
You are given over a year to process your student finance documentation. The deadline is 9 months after the official starting date of your university course. This means most students have until around the end of May in their first year of university before the applications close.
You can read more about the deadline and how this is calculated from the beginning of the year in this article.
How long does it take to pay your student loans back?
Student loans are structured to give you the best possible start in life without having to worry about paying off borrowed money. You are not required to pay back any of your student finance until you earn over a threshold amount. Currently, this is £27,295 per year before tax.
As well as this, the monthly repayments for students are generally very small. Again, they are based on the amount you earn each year. Therefore, your student loan repayments will start out relatively small and increase as you progress through higher paying jobs.
At the moment, the repayments each month are 9% of what you earn for undergraduates, and 6% of your earnings for postgraduate loans. Click here to read this government-written article explaining how loan repayments work.
The other benefit to the university loan repayment system is that if a loan isn’t repaid after a certain number of years, it is written off. Once a person has reached or is close to retirement age, which is currently around 65, they will no longer have to make loan repayments.
These three factors accommodate students who have recently finished university so that they do not have to worry over loan repayments. This Think Student article goes into further detail about what happens to your loan depending on your age and how much you earn.
As a student, or ex-student, there are several ways to avoid paying back your student loans on top of these other techniques. For five other legal ways of dodging student loan repayments, click here.
Can parents pay university fees?
Depending on your financial situation at home and how kind your parents are, they may offer to fund some of your university degree. On average, parents in the UK put about £5000 towards either their children’s tuition fees or accommodation and living costs. This concept is explained further in this Think Student article.
Generally, even if your parents are capable of paying for some of your degree, you should take on this burden yourself as a student. This is your first chance to take some independence and get a taste of adulthood, so you should really take it seriously and pay for yourself.
Of course, you won’t have the funds to pay for an entire degree aged 18, but this is why student finance is so important. It is also your responsibility to make sure you are budgeting properly and not spending more money than you have. You can read some great tips on how to budget as a student if you click here.
In order to fund yourself at university, you will need to either get a job or find another source of frequent income. It is obviously a good idea to use your parents as a last resort if you are struggling financially. However, you want to try and support yourself for as long as possible before resorting to this.
Is university worth the expense?
Although university comes at quite the cost, it is definitely worth the money in the long run, so long as you go for the right reasons. It’s obviously not worth spending over £9000 per year if your main concern is going out and getting wasted every night.
However, if you have the right mindset and want to go to university, not just for the social aspect, but because you have a passion for the subject, it is worth the money. Having a degree allows you to apply for higher paying jobs straight after leaving education. It also increases your employability as it proves your dedication to the subject area and ability to study at a high level.
That said, if your interests lie in a subject area which cannot be studied at university, it may not be you. For jobs such as plumbing and thatching, an apprenticeship would be the best option for you, and with no cost.
So, whether university is worth it or not depends on where your interests lie and whether you’re willing to put in the work. This Think Student article covers the pros and cons of university and describes the traits you need to enjoy higher education.