Travelling and settling in new places introduces us to people, cultures, experiences and ideas beyond our own – putting what we already think we know in perspective and allowing us to learn and teach at once.
Studying abroad lets you combine the natural learning process of living abroad with formal education. The language skills, cross-cultural competence and personal development all add to your employability in our globalised economy.
But studying abroad shouldn’t be an expensive privilege. From exchange programmes within your UK degree to applying to an overseas uni for your entire degree, to the countries where undergrad and especially postgrad study is cheaper than in the UK, there are many options.
Affordability isn’t only about tuition fees, although of course they’re a huge part of it. You really need to look into the loans / grants / scholarships available to you and budget for your travel to and from your destination, time there and added extras like the cost of exploring your new home and the part of the world you’re in!
Finding an affordable exchange programme
Exchange programmes allow you to study abroad while still receiving your UK loan. The most famous is probably the Erasmus+ exchange programme, which remains open to students enrolled at a UK university and to staff while Britain is still a member of the EU. It’s an affordable, regulated and reputable programme which allows students to travel to a partner university in the EU and receive a grant of around 300 euros a month. But Brexit has brought uncertainty, and should it come to a no-deal Brexit, funding will only continue for students already enrolled on the programme.
Thankfully Erasmus isn’t the only affordable way to study abroad while enrolled at a UK university. Many universities have independent study abroad arrangements with universities abroad which mean you could spend a term studying somewhere as far-flung as Australia or China while still receiving your UK loan. It’s always worth checking out what each British university offers.
You can also keep an eye on the internships and study opportunities featured by the British Council.
Finding an affordable undergraduate degrees overseas
The UK government will not give you a tuition or maintenance loan while you undertake a whole degree overseas. However, some countries’ governments do offer financial aid for fees and living costs which covers non-nationals.
The Netherlands is one such country, making it popular with international students. Many Dutch courses are taught in English, you can take out loans to cover the 1,700 euro tuition costs and you might even be able to access some non-repayable monthly grants from the government depending on your circumstances. Italy has even cheaper tuition fees at some 600 or 800 euros a year and offers loans / grants to all EU students.
Germany, home to some globally top-ranking universities, offers some 800 courses in English (if you’re not lucky enough to be bilingual). Although loans are not available to foreign students unless you have lived there for five years, you may well be eligible for some grants.
Check out the ten cheapest universities in Europe, which are exclusively Italian and German.
Looking beyond Europe: this list goes over the cheapest study options in Europe but also details options from Argentina to India.
With British universities’ fees currently so high you could consider self-funding through a part-time job or savings while studying in a country with considerably lower tuition fees.
Finding an affordable postgraduate degrees overseas
Taught postgraduate courses in the UK are prohibitively expensive and the maximum £10,000 government loan won’t even cover the tuition in some cases. I’ve written elsewhere about how this is an ever-more-pressing class issue, especially as Master’s become increasingly desirable in the workplace – so maybe this is the stage at which study abroad makes the very most financial sense. (On a side note, check out Debut’s advice on how to make postgraduate study affordable.)
There are places in Europe where you can do a Master’s for free. Germany is one of the best options: you’ll have a range of world-ranking universities to pick from, you’ll be taught in English (if you don’t speak German) and have a (low) monthly registration fee but no tuition fees. The only downside is that it will be a two-year course – but for some people this might be a bonus.
Looking beyond Europe: in the USA you don’t actually need a Master’s before you can do a PhD, so you could apply directly for programmes and scholarships over there. But beware: American tuition fees are even more expensive than the UK so only take up your place if they also offer you a scholarship. Be sure to check out this website all about funding US study.