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How much does it cost to study abroad

Choosing to go abroad for your studies is exciting and gives you a unique opportunity to experience different cultures whilst pursuing your higher education. One of the major factors to consider for any student going down this path is the costs involved in studying abroad.

Depending on where you currently live, you may find that studying abroad works out either cheaper or more expensive than in your home country. Either way you should thoroughly check what it will cost to study in your chosen country very early in the search process.

We have put together a list of the costs to consider when studying abroad and a rough guide of the prices that you can expect to pay as an international student. We also cost some examples of going to university abroad.

Tuition fees

The most straightforward cost to work out when studying abroad is your tuition fees. These will vary depending on your chosen course, the university and the country of your university.

If you are studying for a Bachelor’s degree, most courses will take between 3-4 years to complete when you study Full-time, whilst a Masters degree will take between 1-2 years to complete when studied Full-time. In many countries, tuition fees are published as per-year, in others they may be published as per semester, in both cases this makes it simple to work out your predicted tuition fees.

If you are looking to study in Europe, some universities in countries such as Germany, France and Italy do not charge tuition fees for international students, which can make these locations very attractive as study destinations.

Annual tuition fees for international students in countries such as the UK, Australia and New Zealand and Canada are often comparable, whilst tuition fees in the US are generally the most expensive.

We have collected a small sample of comparable undergraduate course fees from around the world to highlight how much course fees can differ.

International student tuition fees compared

CountryCourseProviderTuition Fees p.a. in USD
AustraliaBachelor of BusinessWestern Sydney University$20,727
AustraliaBachelor of CommerceACU$19,257
AustraliaBachelor of BusinessGriffith University$21,747
CanadaBachelorsSt Thomas University$13561.20
CanadaBachelors, BusinessYork University$26759.51
CanadaBachelor of CommerceUniversity of Alberta$29367.39
FranceBachelor in International ManagementESSCA School of Management$10475.08
FranceBachelor in ManagementAudencia Business School$30348.36
FranceGlobal BBAemlyon business school$14793.47
GermanyInternational Business AdministrationConstructor University$21,888.40
GermanyBusiness AdministrationFree University of BerlinNo tuition fees
GermanyBusiness AdministrationUniversity of StuttgartNo fees/$3,283.30
ItalyBachelor of Arts in Business AdministrationJohn Cabot University$21,888.40
ItalyWorld Bachelor in BusinessBocconi University$27188.12
ItalyCommunication, Media and AdvertisingIULM University of Milan$9304.86
New ZealandBachelor of CommerceUniversity of Auckland$26,419
New ZealandBachelor of CommerceUniversity of Canterbury$21,040
New ZealandBachelor of BusinessMassey University$20,319
United KingdomBusiness ManagementThe University of Edinburgh$32,998
United KingdomBusiness ManagementUniversity of Sheffield$28,241
United KingdomBusiness ManagementUniversity of Derby$18,553
USABachelorsColumbia Business School$73,832
USABachelorsUniversity of Michigan$65,732
USABachelorsIowa State University of Science and Technology$29,200

In this small sample, you can see that studying a Business Bachelors degree can cost up to ~$70,000 p.a. at a prestigious university such as Columbia Business School in the US, which is a great deal more expensive than at a prestigious university in the UK, where course fees for a Business Bachelor’s degree at The University of Edinburgh amount to ~$33,000 p.a.

Elsewhere, it is entirely possible to get a fantastic standard of education in Italy for course fees as low as ~$9,300 p.a., in this example at the IULM University of Milan.

If you are happy for your studies to be taught in German, you can study a Business Administration Bachelors degree with no course fees at all at the Free University of Berlin in Germany, with only small registration fees of a few hundred Euros required per year.

This small sample of Bachelor degree tuition fees also shows that it is usually possible to find universities that offer courses with tuition fees to suit most budgets, regardless of country.

Accommodation

In most countries that you may consider for studying abroad, your accommodation options will include one or more of the following:

  • Shared living in purpose built buildings such as dormitories and halls of residence
  • Apartments which may be single or shared
  • Private rental accommodation
  • Homestay accommodation, where you stay with a local family during your studies

The exact options available to you will depend on your choice of location. In countries such as the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, on-campus dormitories run by your university are very common and popular, especially for first and second year students. In countries such as the USA and Canada, on-campus housing will often come with a mandatory meal plan, taking care of your food requirements during your studies.

In European countries such as France, Germany and Italy, both publicly and privately run off-campus dormitories are common, as is private rented accommodation. Publicly run housing by region include CROUS housing in France and Studentenwerk housing in Germany. For example, if you wish to find residence in Berlin in Germany, you may look to studierendenWERK BERLIN for your accommodation, or if you want to find accommodation in Lyon, France, you may look to Crous Lyon.

Some European countries such as the Netherlands are struggling with a lack of housing options for students, so competition for even private rental accommodation is very tough. The level of competition can also depend on the city of your university.

Costs of accommodation can vary a great deal by university, city and country.

On campus accommodation in countries like the UK, USA, Australia and Canada can cost between USD $5,000 – USD $15,000 per year. Cheaper accommodation options will include dormitories with shared facilities such as bathrooms and kitchen, whilst more expensive options will allow students more privacy with their own bathroom facilities.

Private rental accommodation is much more common in European cities such as Germany, France and Italy, and can cost between USD $3,000 – USD $12,000 depending on the location and the facilities available.

Homestay accommodation is popular in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and will usually be organized on your behalf, helping you to find a suitable family to live with during your studies, either by your university or an organization like the Australian Homestay Network.

You will have to contribute to the household expenses during a homestay arrangement, but these fees will all be calculated for you as part of your homestay agreement. Example prices for a homestay in Sydney, Australia with all your meals included work out to around USD $12,000 for a full calendar year, but prices vary by region. This is comparable in price to living on campus at Western Sydney University in a one bedroom superior apartment.

Food & socializing

Some of your main everyday costs to consider when you budget for studying abroad are food, drink and socializing. You should be able to determine a rough budget based on your habits in your home country, but be aware that the costs of food and drink do differ from country to country.

Your budgeting may be made easier if you choose to stay in university dorms where meal plans are mandatory. This can cost around $6,000 – $8,000 per year at American universities, and slightly cheaper at around $4,000 – $5,000 per year at Canadian universities. The benefits of meal plans are that your budgeting for food and drink is done for you, and you tend to have plenty of different food options available on your university campus.

Elsewhere in Europe and countries such as Australia and the UK, self-catering is much more common for your food and drink. You must be careful to allocate a sensible budget which will allow you to eat healthily during your studies, as well as the occasional treat!

In most countries, you can try starting with a budget of $200 per month to cover both your food shopping and going out for occasional meals and drinks, but you will have to tailor your budget to suit both your own requirements and your budget, as well as the prices in the country you are moving to.

A helpful guide for students looking to study in the UK has been published by the British Council website, which gives you a good starting point for monthly budgets, whilst the Australian government has its costs of living calculator which is also very useful for working out the cost of studying and living in Australia.

Health insurance

A cost that you may not immediately consider as part of studying abroad is health insurance. Some form of health insurance is essentially mandatory no matter where in the world you plan to study abroad, and will usually incur some kind of costs. Health insurance exists to make sure that any medical expenses that you may incur whilst in a foreign country are covered, and may well be an essential part of your application for a student visa.

Depending on the country you travel to, your health cover might involve enrolling on the country’s national health service, or taking out a private health insurance plan.

Countries that let you enroll on their national health service include:

  • The UK, which requires you to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) of $585 for each year of your studies for access to the NHS.
  • Italy, which allows you to enroll in their national health service for a fee of just $160 for each year of your studies.
  • France, in which it is mandatory to register to the French social security system, which entitles you to reimbursement of your health care expenses.

If you are a EEA-citizen or are living in a country member of the EEA, you will benefit from having access to a European Health Insurance Card, which will cover your medical expenses in other EU nations.

In most other study destinations, you are required to arrange for private health insurance. Your university will probably recommend a selection of private health insurance providers to look at, and prices will vary depending on your chosen level of cover.

In Australia, you are required to buy OSHC, which is a type of health insurance policy specifically for international students. These can only be purchased from a handful of providers, including: ahm OSHC, Allianz Care Australia (Peoplecare), BUPA Australia, CBHS International Health, Medibank Private, NIB OSHC. You can shop around these providers to find a quote that suits you. At time of writing, quotes for a calendar year of health cover from ahm OSHC came to USD $373.57, while Allianz Care Australia was slightly more expensive at USD $409.49.

Health insurance in the US is usually the most expensive of any study abroad destination. Private healthcare operates a little differently in the US and the policy you require can depend on the university at which you enroll and the state you will live in. Some universities operate mandatory health insurance plans for all their students. As an example, students of the University of Boston in the US are automatically enrolled onto their Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), which costs from $3,280 per year, which is added to the fees due on your student account, which includes other fees such as tuition fees, accommodation and meal plans.

Other US universities may not offer their own health insurance schemes, in which case you are required to find your own private health insurance through a company such as Student Medicover, which would cost around $1,320 per year for the most basic level of cover.

Student visas

If you are moving abroad for your studies, depending on the country you are moving to, you are likely to need a student visa to cover the period that you will be studying. Full details of student visa application processes can be found on government websites, such as:

Costs vary depending on the country, but the most expensive countries for student visa applications are the UK (USD $614), USA (USD $510) and Australia (USD $455).

The cheapest countries in terms of student visa applications are Italy (USD $53) and Germany (USD $80).

Do bear in mind that if you are a EEA-citizen or are living in a country member of the EEA, you will not be required to obtain a student visa if you are moving between EEA/EU countries.

Student visa applications may stipulate certain financial conditions, for example the Government of Australia requires that a student must have around AUD $24,505 per year available to cover living expenses.

Utilities & bills

If you are living in university provided accommodation, utilities such as Gas, Electricity, Water and Internet access are likely already factored into your accommodation fees.

If you are renting privately, you will have to budget to pay for these bills. Depending on the location of your accommodation, bills for utilities can typically cost from USD $100 – $200 per month in most countries.

Other costs

Other costs to consider as a student, no matter where you are based, include general costs of living and studying. These include:

  • Travel costs, if you have to catch public transportation to your university
  • Study costs, such as books, laptops
  • Clothing & laundry
  • Mobile phone contracts
  • Toiletries
  • Socialising

You may be able to calculate these costs based on your normal habits, but a budget of USD $100 per month is a reasonable estimate to start with to cover these expenses in most countries.

So, how much can you expect to spend to study abroad?

The total amount that it will cost you to study abroad ultimately depends on a number of factors, including where you are from and what you are studying, but we can look at some examples to give you a good idea what to expect. We will look at the prices of a hypothetical student from Nigeria wishing to study abroad in 4 different locations around the world to see how they compare.

Example 1

In this example, we look at the costs for a student from Nigeria to study a Business Management Bachelor’s degree in the UK at the University of Sheffield, who has elected to live in accommodation provided by the university. These costs are for the first year of study of a 3 year full-time course.

Tuition feesUSD $28,420 p.a.
Accommodation (St. George’s Flats, 42 weeks)USD $7,788 p.a.
Food and Socialising (Suggested by University of Sheffield)USD $205 p.m. / USD $2,152.50 for duration of stay
Health cover (NHS healthcare surcharge)USD $585
UK Student visa applicationUSD $614
Utilities & BillsIncluded in student accommodation rent
Other costs, such as mobile contract and socializingUSD $100 p.m. / USD $1,050 for duration of stay
Flight cost from Lagos to Manchester (one-way, two stops), courtesy of kayak.comUSD $1,697.11 + USD $12.45 train fee to Sheffield 
Total p.a.$42,319.06

This scenario amounts to a total cost of studying abroad in Sheffield, the UK, of around USD $42,320 per year, including a flight from Nigeria to the UK and connection train.

Example 2

In this example, we look at the costs for a student from Nigeria to study a Bachelors degree in the USA at Arizona State University, who has elected to live in on campus accommodation.

Tuition feesUSD $37,051
Accommodation & Meal costsUSD $16,091
Health insurance USD $2,935
US student visa applicationUSD $510
Utilities & BillsIncluded in student accommodation rent
Other costs, such as travel, mobile contract, socializing and study materialUSD $5,056
Flight cost from Lagos to Arizona (one-way, two stops), courtesy of kayak.comUSD $1,819
Total p.a.USD $63,462

This scenario amounts to a total cost of studying abroad in Arizona, the US, of around USD $63,460 per year, including a flight from Nigeria to the USA.

Example 3

In this example we look at the costs for a student from Nigeria to study a Bachelors degree in Australia at Western Sydney University, who has elected to live in on campus accommodation.

Tuition fees, Bachelor of CommunicationUSD $20,318.43
Accommodation (Shared apartment, 3 bed, 48 weeks)USD $7,031.04
Food and socializing (suggested by Study Australia)USD $164.78 p.w. / USD $7,909.44 for duration of stay
Health insurance (OSHC quote from Allainz CareUSD $379.69 for 48 weeks period
Australia student visa applicationUSD $466
Utilities & BillsIncluded in student accommodation rent
Other costsUSD $200 p.m. / $2,400 for duration of stay
Flight cost from Lagos to Sydney (one-way, for start of term on 15th January, two stops), courtesy of skyscanner.netUSD $1,253.67
Total p.a.USD $39,758.27

This scenario amounts to a total cost of studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, of around USD $39,760 per pear including a flight from Nigeria to Australia. Please note that a condition of an Australian student visa is that the student must have around AUD $24,505 per year of funds available to cover living expenses.

Example 4

In this example we look at the costs for a student from Nigeria to study a Bachelors degree in Italy at Politecnico di Milano, who has elected to live in residence halls.

Tuition feesUSD $4,244
Accommodation (Double room in Issac Newton residence, Milan)USD $5,234.59
Food and socializing (guides provided by Politecnico di Milano)USD $390 p.m.
Health insurance, registering with Italian National Service SSNUSD $163.32
Italy student visa applicationUSD $54.53
Utilities & BillsIncluded in student accommodation rent
Other costs such as phone & travel costsUSD $100 p.m / USD $1,200 for duration of stay
Flight cost from Lagos to Milan (one-way, one stop), courtesy of skyscanner.netUSD $622.83
Total p.a.USD $16,199.27

This scenario amounts to a total cost of studying abroad in MIlan, Italy of around $16,200 per year, including a flight from Lagos to Milan.

Travel expenses

A major cost to consider when studying abroad is the travel costs associated with traveling from your home country to your place of study. This will need to be factored in for any journeys you plan to make back home during your studies.

These costs will vary depending on your personal circumstances, you may be traveling just across a border via coach or train or you may be flying to another continent entirely. Make sure that you budget for the amount of travel that you expect to make during your studies.

Bank accounts, currency exchange and fluctuation

An as international student, you should consider how you are going to access your finances, as this can end up costing you a lot of money if you are unprepared. If you use your existing debit cards to withdraw money or pay for goods in your new country, it is highly likely that you will incur currency conversion fees.

International students should, where possible, aim to open a bank account in their new country and use this during their studies abroad. This will also make the process of applying for part-time work easier, if this is something that you plan to do during your studies.

Converting money from the currency of your country to the currency of your new country is another potential cost to consider. Exchange rates of currencies fluctuate continuously. You will find that if you move regular amounts of money across from your home country, they will not convert at the same rate. It might pay to move larger amounts of money on those occasions when exchange rates are favorable to you.

Budgeting and unexpected expenses

When you have been able to work out your expected costs when studying abroad, you should be able to work out a budget that you can afford. A realistic and affordable budget is essential to managing your finances when you study abroad, and sticking to this budget is important to ensure that you can focus on what’s important, your studies!

No amount of planning can predict every eventuality when you study abroad, and there may be unexpected costs to cater for. Consider setting up an emergency fund that you can pay regular small amounts into, so that you are able to build up a buffer should any unexpected costs arise.

In conclusion

The costs of studying abroad are very specific to you, your background and your requirements. By doing plenty of research you may find that studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive.

Popular study abroad destinations such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand offer comparable overall costs for international students, whilst the USA tends to be the most expensive option. This does reflect the reputation and performance of universities in world university rankings.

If you are interested in looking at study destinations in Europe, great savings can be found in some countries, whilst you can still receive an excellent quality of education and enjoy a good quality of life during your studies. The choice is yours!

Next: Getting a student visa for studying abroad