Within the UK, public university tuition fees can vary based on the home status of the student and their chosen country of study. In addition, degrees provided by English universities with a TEF award (teaching excellence and student outcomes framework) are able to charge higher tuition fees in accordance with government approved annual limits.
This report analyzes tuition fees across public UK universities and how costs can differ between institutions from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Top UK tuition fee statistics
- Across the UK, tuition fees remain frozen for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 academic years.
- In each UK country, tuition fee caps vary depending on a student’s home status.
- The average undergraduate English student pays £9,250 in tuition fees annually to study in England.
- This totals £27,750 for a 3-year degree on average.
- The average Scottish student can receive free tuition for a 4-year degree to study in Scotland.
- The average Welsh student pays £9,000 in tuition fees annually to study in Wales.
- This totals £27,000 for a 3-year degree on average.
- The average Northern Irish student pays £4,630 in tuition fees annually to study in Northern Ireland.
- This totals £13,890 for a 3-year degree on average.
- Tuition fees for students without UK home status can be much higher.
UK tuition fee caps for undergraduate degrees
In the UK, tuition fee caps are in place to prevent public institutes of higher education from raising tuition rates without regulation. In addition, the government often freezes fees for periods at a time, allowing working-class and middle-class students to have improved accessibility to a university education.
- As of 2023, students from Scotland who choose to study in Scotland have the lowest annual max cap for undergraduate degrees in the UK, at £1,820.
- However, this max cap is paid for by the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS), allowing Scottish students to study in Scotland for free in almost all cases.
- All students from the UK that study in England are capped at £9,250 annually.
- All students from the UK that study in Wales are capped at £9,000 annually.
- Students from Northern Ireland who choose to study in Northern Ireland have an annual max cap for undergraduate degrees of £4,630.
|Student home status||Studying in England||Studying in Scotland||Studying in Wales||Studying in Northern Ireland|
A graph is given below to show UK tuition fee caps for students with a home status in England:
A graph is given below to show UK tuition fee caps for students with a home status in Scotland:
A graph is given below to show UK tuition fee caps for students with a home status in Wales:
A graph is given below to show UK tuition fee caps for students with a home status in Northern Ireland:
Total tuition fees for UK undergraduate degrees
- English students studying in their own country have the highest total tuition fees to pay out of students from the UK.
- Welsh students studying in their own country have the second-highest total tuition fees.
- Northern Irish students studying in their own country have the third-highest total tuition fees.
- However, their fees are just over half that of English students.
- Scottish students studying in their own country do not have to pay any tuition fees.
|Student country of study and home status||3-year tuition cost*||4-year tuition cost*|
A graph is given below to show the total estimated UK undergraduate degree tuition fees for students studying in their home status country:
UK postgraduate degree tuition fees
- The average cost of a master’s degree in the UK is estimated at around £11,000 per year.
- However, this can range from £3,000 to over £30,000+ depending on the subject, university and length of study.
- In general, STEM subjects are more expensive than non-STEM.
- Additionally, taught master’s are generally more expensive than research master’s.
- MBAs are specialized degrees and also tend to have a higher price.
- International students can expect tuition fees to be around double that of students with a settled status for many courses.
- The average cost of a PhD in the UK is estimated at around £4,500 per year.
- However, this can range from £3,000 to £6,000.
- As with master’s degrees, STEM subjects tend to be more expensive than non-STEM.
- Once more, international students can expect to pay around double the cost of tuition fees when compared to students with a settled status.
Tuition fees for international students in the UK
For international students, UK home status allows eligibility for tuition fee and maintenance loans. It requires the student to have lived in the UK for at least three years before their course start date.
- As of 2023, students from the European Economic Area and Swiss nationals who have been granted settled/pre-settled status continue to be eligible for home status on broadly pre-Brexit terms.
- Non-EU international students can also qualify for home status.
- Once granted settled status, an international student will pay tuition fees in accordance with their UK country of settlement.
- For international students without settled status, undergraduate tuition fees can range from £11,400 to £38,000 per year.
- Average undergraduate tuition fees for an international student are estimated at £22,200 per year.
- International postgraduate tuition fees can range from £3,000 to £30,000+ per year.
- Average postgraduate tuition fees for an international student are estimated at £17,109 per year.
Historic university tuition fees increases in England
Since the introduction of widespread tuition fees in England in 1998, the cost of tuition has increased with regularity, although price freezing has been commonplace.
- As of 2023, tuition fees are capped at £9,250 for universities in England.
- This cap has remained the same since it was introduced in 2017.
- Since 1998, tuition fee caps have increased by 925%.
- For the given period, tuition fee caps in England have increased by 37% annually on average.
Timeline of key events
- Before 1998, full-time students based in England were able to attend public universities without tuition fees.
- As the demand for higher education increased, insufficient funding became a major issue.
- In 1998 under Blair’s Labour, the tuition fee system was expanded and students were required to pay up to £1,000 each year.
- By 2004 the Higher Education Act was introduced, allowing English universities to begin charging variable fees up to £3,000 annually, starting in 2006.
- Tuition fees were raised to £9,000 per year in 2012 under the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition formed by David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
- This increase was introduced following an independent review of the student finance system.
|Year||Tuition fee cap||Change|
|2017 – 2023||£9,250||+ 2.78%|
|2012 – 2016||£9,000||+ 200%|
|2006 – 2011||£3,000*||+ 200%|
|1998 – 2005||£1,000|
A graph is given below to show historic tuition fee increases in England:
UK university tuition fees FAQ
Who sets university tuition fees in the UK?
- In the UK, tuition fees for students to pay the cost of their teaching are set by the government.
- Tuition fee limits may change from year-to-year, in accordance with other university costs.
- In addition to limits, price freezing is often utilized.
When were tuition fees first introduced in the UK?
- Full tuition fees were first introduced in the UK in 1981.
- They were initially intended for international university students only.
- After a one year dip in numbers, the number of international students continued to grow.
What are TEF universities?
- TEF (teaching excellence and student outcomes framework) is an assessment of undergraduate teaching in UK-based institutions. Institutions can be ranked as either Gold, Silver or Bronze according to the framework.
- The scheme was introduced in 2017 in order to rank universities across 3 key areas:
- Teaching quality
- Learning environment
- Student outcomes and learning gain
- All public English institutions meeting basic requirements are allowed to raise fees according to limits. Although Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish institutions can opt-in, receiving the award will not affect their overall funding.