Many international students find completing their UK university admission application online using the centralized system, UCAS, a very easy part of the process. However, they find it difficult applying for the visa and knowing how much their degree at a British university is going to cost them. So how can you be sure that you’re meeting all the requirements set by your chosen institutions, and be certain that you are able to cover all the necessary expenses?
Unless you come from European Economic Area (EEA) or you are a Swiss national, you’ll need a Tier 4 student visa to study in the United Kingdom. You will have to apply for this up to 3 months before the start date of your program, but many students do not know how long this process will take, so it’s a good idea to leave plenty of time to do your research and plan ahead of time. It normally takes about three weeks to receive a decision on your student visa, although you can get a more accurate time frame from the UK Visas and Immigration processing times guide. Before you send your application to the embassy, there are several things you should know.
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The first step to take is to log in to your UCAS application and add your passport number to the appropriate section on the form. UCAS means the University and Colleges Admissions Service and is located in the UK. You’ll then have to provide proof of your English language proficiency. Each university you are applying to will tell you if you need to take a UKVI approved English language test, an alternative test or participate in a Skype interview.
If the visa you are applying for asks you to prove your English language skills, your secure English language test (SELT) must be sat in one of the UK Home Office’s approved SELT centers or you sit for TOEFL or IELTS. This is a new condition set in April 2015, so check your visa application carefully in case this is a requirement.
Once you have successfully sat the test and secured the certificate, you can now accept any offer that you have for a course, so that your university can give you a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) if it holds a Tier 4 sponsor license.
Financial advice for students
Once you have been given admission and you confirm your acceptance, you can begin your student visa application. Please take your time and provide all the information required, including your CAS and your English language test certificate. If you fail to, it could delay your application and you might not receive your visa early enough.
The UK government also wants to see evidence that you can afford to take care of yourself while studying there. Please note that undergraduate tuition fees for international students in the UK start at about £9,000, and can go over £30,000 a year for medical courses at the most prestigious universities. The average tuition fee is about £12,000 per year.
In addition to the tuition fees, you will also be expected to cover living expenses like accommodation, food, gas or electricity for heating and light, clothes, books and equipment for your course, and travel to and from your home country. International students have also been given an NHS health surcharge of £150 a year (payable at the same time you submit your online visa application), so this should also be taken into account.
Ensure that you include everything when you work out how much your study will cost. Your universities should be the first port of call for precise information on course fees and any financial help available to you. They should also provide a figure for the cost of living in the area for an academic year – cities such as London, Oxford, Manchester, Bath and Birmingham will be more expensive than out-of-town locations.
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Research has shown that the average cost of studying in the UK for an international student is about £24,000 a year. While this includes both tuition fees and cost of living, it still seems a hefty price tag. If you’re unsure that you can cover all the costs once you have completed your budget calculations, contact your universities, UKCISA and the British Council for information on funding opportunities.
More detailed information on meeting financial requirements can be found in the Tier 4 student visa eligibility guidelines and in the money section of the policy guidance.
The UK is the world’s second most popular destination for international students, and many applicants seek a degree from a British university because of the competitive edge that it will give them over those who study for a degree in their home country, as well as a higher salary once they graduate. So despite an involved application process and the overall cost, these are usually outweighed by the future returns, and should not put you off from applying for a higher education course in the UK.