Celebrating 25 years

Read about our history

Higher Education: The Hidden Cost for Expat Parents

Some things in life you can’t put a price on however, the cost of higher education for your child, it seems you can. That price is £36,000 on average – and that’s just the tuition fees for three years. Fees can reach an eye-watering £38,000 per year for international students looking to study for an undergraduate medical degree at one of the top UK universities.  As a British expat, you probably think this doesn’t apply to you, but think again. Your child could still be charged international fees for attending a university in the UK, even if they are a British citizen.  

How are fees calculated?

Fees are broken down into two categories, ’home’ and ‘overseas’. UK nationals will usually pay home fees while international students pay overseas fees. Knowing which fees your child will qualify for can be complicated. Qualifying for home fees status is based on residency, and not citizenship. Each part of the UK will have different rules. England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all have different qualifying criteria for home fees. To make things more complicated, each university will interpret the rules and regulations differently. Ultimately, the university will have the final say. Expats can apply for home fees directly with the university, but this doesn’t guarantee that your child will be accepted.  

The cost of higher education

For international students, the total cost is hard to predict. Tuition fees and accommodation costs can vary drastically depending on the course and the location. Tuition fees start from £10,000 per academic year, while the UK average is around £12,000. Clinical or laboratory-based degrees can cost significantly more, up to £38,000 per year.  Accommodation costs are highly dependent on the location of the university. A 2017 survey carried out by Save the Student revealed the notable difference in accommodation prices across the UK. The student advisory service found that the average cost of rent across the UK is around £125 per week. Students pay £182 per week on average for accommodation in London, £60 more than the national average. Students in Northern Ireland pay half that amount, with rent costs coming in at around £90 per week. As you can see, the cost of higher education for international students varies considerably. The total average cost for international students is estimated to be £22,000 per year – £66,00 over a three-year course.  With little to no support from Student Finance, parents will be liable for the bill. Having to cover the staggering tuition fees alone can seem daunting, but with the right planning, it doesn’t have to be.  

Education planning

When your planning for your child’s future, being prepared is half the battle. An education savings fund allows you to set aside a manageable amount each month, to save for your child’s future education costs.  The way the fund is managed and its future growth is key to making your savings go further. Speaking with a financial expert before setting up a savings fund is always advised, but start planning early. It can be easy to put these things off, especially when your child is young. With a total average cost of £66,000 for a three-year university course, getting a head start with savings is the smart move. Saving £66,000 from your child’s birth is much less of a financial strain than starting to save five years before they turn 18. As with any investment, there is an element of financial risk. Interest rates can change, but the likelihood is your savings will increase over time.   

What to do next

You shouldn’t rely on your child being accepted for home fees; several factors could mean they pay overseas fees. Ultimately the decision is made by the university, so you won’t know if your child has been accepted for home fees until it’s too late. Our experts have extensive experience in helping people prepare for their child’s future. If you would like to speak with a financial advisor and discuss the best investment strategies for your situation, contact us using the form below. 

Ready to chat with
a specialist?

Get started

You may also be interested in

interest rates

Interest rates: what are they, and how do they work?

Key points: Interest rates show the cost of borrowing and how rewarding it is to save. Inflation is the rate at which the price of goods and services increases over...

Read more
Double tax agreements explained

Double tax agreements – what are they and how do they affect expats?

Key points Double tax agreements prevent you from being taxed twice on the same income. The UK has the world’s largest network of double tax agreements. Double tax agreements provide...

Read more
Investment funds

Investment Funds: What you Need to Know

Key points Investment funds pool money from multiple investors to buy assets. Funds offer a passive and active option to cater to different goals. Investment funds offer a straightforward way...

Read more

What is a high-net-worth individual and how do you become one?

Key points Net worth is a metric that gives a snapshot of your bigger financial picture. HNWIs are those with between £1 million and £5 million in liquid assets. Investments...

Read more