UK Living Standards: An International Student’s Comprehensive Guide - PFEC

UK Living Standards:

An International Student’s
Comprehensive Guide

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UK Living Standards: An International Student’s Comprehensive Guide 9 Months ago

In the coming, international students continue to be drawn to the United Kingdom for its world-class education and diverse cultural experiences.

This article delves into the standard of living that international students can expect in the UK, providing insights into various aspects that make up their daily lives.

From accommodations to expenses, this comprehensive guide aims to offer a clear picture of what it's like to live and study in the UK as an international student.

1. Tuition Fees at UK Universities

The United Kingdom, a hub of global education and home to several ancient and prestigious institutions, provides a unique academic experience. UK residents enjoy the privilege of free public education until the age of 18. When compared to other premier educational destinations, the UK's tuition costs are reasonable.

For an undergraduate three-year program in the UK, the average annual tuition for a student residing on campus is £9,250 for domestic students and can rise up to £38,000 for international students in premier institutions. For some of the elite universities, the fee might go even higher.

Tuition fees for popular undergraduate programs span across:

Tuition fees for popular undergraduate programs span across

These figures aim to provide an overview to help students gauge the feasibility of pursuing education in the UK.

Some affordable yet esteemed UK universities include:

Some affordable yet esteemed UK universities include

2. Cost of Living in the UK


various types of accommodation options available for international students in the UK and their associated costs in detail.

I. On-Campus Accommodation

On-campus accommodation, also known as university dormitories or halls of residence, is a popular choice for many international students. These accommodations are conveniently located within or near the university campus, making it easy to access classes and other campus facilities.

  • Proximity to classes and university facilities.
  • Opportunity to connect with fellow students and build a sense of community.
  • Often inclusive of utility bills and internet.

II. Private Halls of Residence

Private halls of residence are similar to on-campus accommodation but are owned and managed by private companies. They offer a range of room types and communal facilities, similar to what you might find in on-campus accommodations.

  • Similar benefits to on-campus accommodations.
  • Flexibility to choose from various room types and amenities.
  • Often include social events and activities organized by the management.

III. Private Accommodation

Private accommodation includes renting apartments, flats, or houses from private landlords. This option provides more independence and the opportunity to live off-campus.

  • Greater privacy and independence.
  • Flexibility to choose the location and size of the property.
  • Opportunity to experience local neighbourhoods.

IV. Homestays

Homestays involve living with a local host family. This option provides a unique cultural experience and the chance to immerse yourself in British daily life.

  • Immersive cultural experience.
  • Supportive family environment.
  • Meals might be included, reducing food expenses.

V. Short-Term Accommodation

Short-term accommodations include options like hostels, guesthouses, or serviced apartments. These are ideal for students who are just arriving in the UK and need temporary housing until they find a more permanent solution.

  • Suitable for students who need temporary housing.
  • Can be cost-effective for short stays.
  • Provides time to explore different housing options.

3. Food and Groceries

When it comes to the cost of living in the UK, budgeting for food and groceries is a crucial consideration for international students. The UK offers a diverse range of dining options, from cooking at home to dining out at local eateries. Let's explore the details of food expenses and strategies to manage your budget effectively.

I. Cooking at Home

Cooking your meals at home can be a cost-effective option, allowing you to control your expenses and dietary choices. Here's a breakdown of what you can expect:

  • Groceries: The cost of groceries depends on factors like where you shop and your dietary preferences. Supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Asda offer a wide variety of products at different price points. On average, you might spend around £30 to £50 per week on groceries.
  • Meal Planning: Planning your meals for the week can help you make efficient use of your groceries and reduce food waste. Look for budget-friendly recipes and consider cooking in batches to save time and money.

II. Dining Out

While cooking at home is cost-effective, occasionally dining out can be a treat. Here's what you can expect when eating out:

  • Cafes and Fast Food: Affordable options like cafes and fast-food restaurants offer quick and budget-friendly meals. A meal at a fast-food restaurant might cost around £5 to £10.
  • Restaurants: Dining at mid-range restaurants or local eateries can be a bit pricier, with meals costing around £15 to £30 per person, excluding drinks.
Transportation in UK

4. Transportation

5. Getting around in the UK is an important consideration for international students. The country offers a well-connected transportation system that includes public transit options and other modes of travel. Understanding transportation costs and making informed choices can help you manage your budget effectively.

I. Public Transportation

The UK boasts an efficient and integrated public transportation system that includes buses, trains, trams, and the iconic London Underground. Here's what you need to know:

• Oyster Card (London): ): If you're in London, the Oyster card (a smart card for public transport in London) is a convenient way to access public transportation, including the London Underground, buses, and some overground trains. It offers discounted fares compared to buying individual tickets.
An Oyster card can cost around £1.50 for a single bus journey and up to £5.10 for a single Tube journey during peak times.

• Travelcards: In London, you can also purchase daily, weekly, or monthly Travelcards, which provide unlimited travel within specific zones. These are cost-effective if you plan to use public transportation frequently.

• Outside London: In other cities, buses and trains are widely available. Many cities offer student discounts on transportation passes.

II. Bicycling

Cycling is a popular and eco-friendly mode of transportation in the UK. Many cities have designated bike lanes and bike-sharing programs.

III. Taxis and Ride-Sharing

Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are available in urban areas. While convenient, they tend to be more expensive than public transportation.


5. Entertainment and Leisure

While pursuing your education in the UK, it's important to strike a balance between your academic responsibilities and leisure activities. The UK offers a rich array of cultural experiences and entertainment options for international students. Here's a comprehensive guide to managing your leisure expenses and making the most of your free time.

I. Cultural and Historical Sites

The UK is steeped in history and culture, with numerous museums, galleries, and historical sites to explore. Many of these attractions offer discounted or free entry for students.

II. Theatres and Performing Arts

London's West End is famous for its world-class theatre productions, but many other cities also offer vibrant performing arts scenes. You can catch plays, musicals, ballets, and other performances.

III. Music and Nightlife

From live music venues to nightclubs, the UK has a lively music and nightlife scene. Many cities have venues that host concerts, gigs, and DJ nights.

IV. Parks and Outdoor Activities

The UK is known for its beautiful parks and green spaces. You can enjoy leisurely walks, picnics, and outdoor activities.

V. Student Clubs and Societies

Most universities have a wide range of student clubs and societies catering to various interests, from sports and hobbies to cultural and academic pursuits.

VI. Mobile Connectivity in the UK:

The UK's mobile market is dominated by four primary network operators: EE, O2, Vodafone, and Three. However, several Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) like Giffgaff, Tesco Mobile, and Virgin Mobile also operate, leveraging the infrastructure of the primary operators to offer their services.

Coverage: Almost all of the UK has strong mobile coverage, with cities and towns boasting 4G and, increasingly, 5G services. Rural areas might have slightly reduced connectivity but still maintain reasonable 3G or 4G coverage.

Internet Connectivity in the UK: The UK's broadband landscape is as diverse as its mobile counterpart. Major providers include BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, and Sky, among others.

Types of Broadband: From standard ADSL broadband to fibre optic broadband, the UK offers a range of internet speeds to suit different requirements. Fibre optic, particularly, provides lightning-fast internet and is available in most urban areas.

Installation: For those setting up a new connection, there might be an initial installation fee. Some providers waive this fee during promotional periods or for longer contract durations.

6. Part-Time Work Opportunities

Balancing your studies with part-time work can be a great way to manage your expenses and gain valuable work experience while studying in the UK. Here's a comprehensive guide to understanding the part-time work opportunities available to international students..

I. On-Campus Employment

Many UK universities offer on-campus job opportunities for international students. These positions are designed to be flexible and accommodating to your academic schedule.

Types of On-Campus Jobs:

  • Library Assistants
  • Campus Tour Guides
  • Student Ambassadors
  • Administrative Assistants

Work Hours: On-campus jobs usually offer up to 20 hours of work per week during term time and full-time during holidays.


  • Convenient location on campus.
  • Flexible work hours that align with your class schedule.
  • Networking opportunities with faculty and staff.

II. Off-Campus Employment

International students are also allowed to work off-campus in the UK, provided they hold a Tier 4 student visa. Off-campus work can provide broader work experience and exposure to the local job market.

Types of Off-Campus Jobs:

  • Retail Assistants
  • Waitstaff
  • Customer Service Representatives
  • Internships
  • Work Hours: Like on-campus jobs, off-campus employment usually allows up to 20 hours of work per week during term time and full-time during holidays.


    • Diversified work experience.
    • Exposure to different industries and job roles.
    • Opportunity to build a professional network.

    III. Work Regulations

    When considering part-time work as an international student, keep these regulations in mind:

    • Work Hours: While studying, you can work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time during holidays.

    • Minimum Wage: The UK has a minimum wage requirement that employers must adhere to. Be sure to research the current minimum wage rates.

    • National Insurance Number: To work legally in the UK, you'll need a National Insurance (NI) number. You can apply for one upon arrival.

    IV. Balancing Work and Studies:

    It's important to strike a balance between your work commitments and academic responsibilities:

    • Time Management: Plan your work schedule around your class timings and study sessions to ensure you have enough time for both.
    • Prioritize Studies: Remember that your primary purpose in the UK is to study. Ensure that your work commitments don't negatively impact your academic performance.
    • Communication: If you find it challenging to manage both work and studies, communicate with your employer and discuss potential adjustments to your work schedule.

    7. Post-Study Work Opportunities

    Post-Study Work Rights through The "New Graduate Route“ permits international students to stay and work opportunities, 𝐮𝐩 𝐭𝐨 𝟐 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐦𝐚𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫'𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐮𝐩 𝐭𝐨 𝟑 𝐲𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐏𝐡𝐃 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐮𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐬.

    Eligibility Criteria for Post-Study Work Opportunities in UK


    • Extended Stay: The extended visa duration provides additional time to gain valuable work experience and explore potential career opportunities.
    • Building a Network: The extended stay facilitates networking with industry professionals and potential employers.

    8. Affordable Cities in the UK for International Students

    A key monetary detail for international students to factor in is the exchange rate, especially when considering the conversion into British Pounds Sterling. Estimating daily expenses involves understanding the equivalent of your home currency in GBP.

    Several exchange services and banks can mark up the rate to boost their profit margins from currency conversion. Given this, it becomes vital for prospective students to delve into both the most affordable and pricier cities in the UK, ensuring they get a clear picture of the potential living costs during their academic journey in the country.

    Here are the five most expensive UK cities to live, according to TimeOut:

    • London
    • Cambridge
    • Oxford
    • Guildford
    • Brighton

    And if the cost-of-living crisis is tempting you to move somewhere new, here are the five cheapest.

    • Kingston Upon Hull
    • Coventry
    • Leicester
    • Birmingham
    • Aberdeen

    9. Average Salaries in UK

    The most recent governmental statistics from August 2023 show that the UK's average weekly wage, not including bonuses, stands at £613 before taxes. This translates to an approximate annual salary of about £31,876, marking a 7.8% rise in the period from April to June 2023. This surge in wages represents the most significant increase since the inception of these records in 2001.

    Following are the tables to help you with the clear picture (Data collected from Forbes.

    Average Salaries in Australia

    Remarkably, the median compensation for top CEOs (specifically from the FTSE 100 list) soared to an astounding £3.91 million in 2022, reflecting a 16% annual increase.,/b> This figure, presented by the High Pay Centre, an organization analyzing executive compensations, is over 118 times the average UK worker's earnings.

    Average Salaries in Australia

    For a more granular look into the earnings of typical workers, the ONS's Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings offers insights. The most recent version of this survey was released in October 2022, and in the sections that follow, we dissect its key findings to gain a deeper grasp of wage distributions across the nation.

    Average Salaries in Australia
    Top 10 Best-Remunerated Professions in UK as on 2022

    10. Health Care and Insurance

    Ensuring access to quality health care is a vital consideration for international students studying in the UK. The country offers a comprehensive health care system, and understanding health care options and insurance requirements can help you stay healthy and financially secure during your time abroad.

    I. National Health Service (NHS)

    The United Kingdom has a publicly funded health care system known as the National Health Service (NHS). The NHS provides medical treatment, consultations, surgeries, and other health services to residents and certain non-residents, including international students.

    Access to NHS: International students studying in the UK for more than six months and holding a valid Tier 4 student visa usually have access to NHS services. You'll need to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) as part of your visa application, which covers most medical treatments and services under the NHS.

    • Access to a wide range of medical services and treatments.
    • Generally lower cost compared to private health care.

    II. Private Health Insurance

    While the NHS provides essential health care services, some international students choose to purchase additional private health insurance for added coverage.


    • Extended coverage beyond what the NHS provides.
    • Coverage for services like dental care, vision care, and prescriptions.

    III. Prescription Costs

    Prescription medications are not always free under the NHS. You might need to pay a fee for each prescribed medicine, unless you are eligible for exemption (e.g., if you have a medical exemption certificate).

    IV. Registering with a General Practitioner (GP)

    It's recommended to register with a local General Practitioner (GP) to ensure access to primary health care services. A GP is your first point of contact for non-emergency health concerns.


    • Access to regular health check-ups and medical advice.
    • Referrals to specialists if needed.

    V. Emergency Medical Treatment

    In case of emergencies, you can seek medical treatment at Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments at hospitals. Emergency treatment is free regardless of whether you have private health insurance.

    11. Cultural and Social Life

    Studying in the UK not only offers an excellent education but also provides a rich cultural and social experience. Engaging in cultural activities, participating in social events, and exploring the local community can contribute to a well-rounded student life. Here's a comprehensive guide to managing your cultural and social expenses while enjoying your time in the UK.

    I. Diversity and Inclusion

    The UK is known for its diverse and inclusive society. Embracing this multicultural environment can enhance your personal growth and broaden your perspectives.

    II. Social Activities and Clubs

    Universities in the UK offer a wide range of student clubs and societies catering to various interests. Joining these groups is an excellent way to connect with peers who share similar passions.

    III. Local Events and Festivals

    The UK hosts numerous events, festivals, and celebrations throughout the year. Participating in these cultural gatherings can provide insight into local traditions and customs.

    IV. Museums and Galleries

    The UK is home to world-class museums and galleries that offer insights into art, history, and culture. Many institutions offer discounted or free entry for students.

    V. Socializing and Dining Out

    Socializing with friends and classmates often involves dining out or meeting at cafes. Exploring local cuisine and trying different restaurants can be a delightful experience.

    12. Academic Environment

    As an international student pursuing education in the United Kingdom, you'll find yourself immersed in a dynamic academic environment that fosters intellectual growth, independent thinking, and research excellence. This section provides an in-depth exploration of the teaching styles and research opportunities that contribute to the enriching academic experience offered by UK universities.

    I. Teaching Styles: Independent Learning and Critical Thinking

    UK universities are renowned for their emphasis on fostering independent learning and critical thinking skills among students. The teaching styles employed in these institutions reflect this commitment to developing well-rounded and intellectually curious individuals.

    II. Lectures

    Lectures are a fundamental aspect of the UK's higher education system. In these sessions, professors present key concepts, theories, and ideas related to the course material. However, the emphasis is not solely on passive note-taking. Instead, students are encouraged to actively engage with the material, ask questions, and seek clarification.

    III. Seminars

    Seminars are smaller group sessions that provide a platform for in-depth discussions and analysis. Students are expected to participate actively, share their perspectives, and engage in debates. Seminars allow for a more intimate exploration of complex topics and encourage critical thinking.

    IV. Tutorials

    Tutorials offer personalized learning experiences. In these sessions, students work closely with professors or tutors to delve into specific subjects, clarify doubts, and receive feedback on assignments. Tutorials facilitate one-on-one or small-group interactions, enabling students to explore topics in greater depth.

    V. Research Opportunities: A Path to Academic and Professional Development

    The UK's universities are globally recognized for their groundbreaking research contributions across various fields. International students have the unique opportunity to engage with cutting-edge research projects, contributing to their academic and professional growth.

    a. Collaborative Research Projects
    Many UK universities prioritize research collaborations between students and faculty members. This enables international students to actively participate in ongoing research initiatives, collaborate with experts in their field, and contribute to the advancement of knowledge.

    b. Undergraduate Research Opportunities
    Even at the undergraduate level, UK universities encourage students to engage in research endeavors. This early exposure allows students to explore their interests, develop critical research skills, and gain insights into the methodologies employed in their chosen disciplines.

    c. Research Facilities and Resources
    The well-equipped research facilities and extensive resources available at UK universities provide a conducive environment for students to explore diverse research areas. Access to state-of-the-art laboratories, libraries, and online databases empowers students to conduct comprehensive research.

    d. Professional Development
    Engaging in research activities not only enriches academic experiences but also enhances employability. Participation in research projects equips international students with problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, and a deep understanding of their chosen fields – qualities highly valued by prospective employers.

    Part Time Work Opportunities

    13. Weather and Climate

    The UK's weather is known for its unpredictability. Be prepared for rain, and invest in appropriate clothing to stay comfortable throughout the year.

    I. Seasonal Overview

    • Spring (March to May): As the country emerges from winter, spring in the UK can be a delightful time. Flowers bloom, and temperatures start to rise, although there can still be occasional frosty mornings and rainy days.
    • Summer (June to August): Typically the warmest months, with longer days and plenty of sunshine. However, be prepared for the occasional downpour or cooler day, especially in northern regions.
    • Autumn (September to November): Characterized by falling leaves and a shift to cooler temperatures. Rain becomes more frequent, and by November, there might be early frosts.
    • Winter (December to February): The coldest season, with shorter days and longer nights. Snow is possible, particularly in the north and at higher altitudes.

    II. Regional Variations

    • Northern Scotland: Generally colder with more rainfall. Winters can be harsh, with a higher likelihood of snow.
    • Southern England: Relatively milder with less rainfall compared to the north. London can experience warmer temperatures due to the urban heat effect.
    • Western UK: Areas like Wales and the west of Scotland get more rainfall, thanks to the prevailing westerly winds.

    III. Clothing Essentials

    • Umbrella and Raincoat: Given the UK's penchant for sudden showers, always having these at hand is wise.
    • Layering: Due to the fluctuating temperatures, dressing in layers is practical. It allows you to add or remove clothing based on the day's weather.
    • Winter Gear: Invest in a good-quality winter coat, gloves, scarf, and hat for the colder months.
    • Footwear: Waterproof shoes or boots can be invaluable, especially during the wetter months.

    IV. Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

    The shorter days in autumn and winter can lead to feelings of depression in some individuals, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Students should be aware of this and consider investing in SAD lamps, taking Vitamin D supplements, or seeking support if needed.

     Visa Regulations in UK

    14. Visa Regulations

    Understanding visa requirements and regulations is crucial for international students. The UK government provides guidance on student visas, work permits, and post-study options.

    For more compelling reasons read our blog "A comprehensive Guide to Student Visa for UK: Types, Requirements, and Application Process".

    15. Safety and Security

    The UK maintains a reputation for safety. However, it's important to stay aware of your surroundings and adhere to common-sense safety practices.

    To know more, read our Blog: Safety and Security for International Students in the UK

    16. Banking and Finance for International Students in UK

    I. The Importance of Having a UK Bank Account

    When you're studying in the UK, managing your finances effectively is crucial. Opening a bank account in the UK not only ensures easy access to your money but also aids in streamlining your financial activities, from paying tuition fees and rent to budgeting for your day-to-day expenses.

    II. Benefits of Opening a Student Bank Account

    • Low or No Fees: One of the most significant advantages of student accounts is that many of them come with no monthly fees or very minimal charges.

    • Overdraft Facilities: Some UK banks offer interest-free overdrafts for students. This can be beneficial for emergencies or unexpected expenses. However, always be cautious and ensure you understand the terms, as fees can apply if you exceed the limit.

    • Mobile Banking: With technological advancements, most UK banks now offer mobile banking facilities. This makes it easier for students to manage their finances, transfer money, and check their account balance on the go.

    • Special Discounts: To attract student clientele, many banks offer additional perks such as discounts on shopping, travel, and entertainment.

    III. How to Open a Student Bank Account in the UK

    • Required Documents: Typically, banks require proof of your student status, a valid passport, proof of UK address (like a utility bill or rent agreement), and sometimes proof of your overseas address.

    • Choosing the Right Bank: It's essential to research and choose a bank that aligns with your needs. Factors to consider include proximity to your university, available facilities, customer service, and the benefits on offer.

    • Process: Once you have your documents ready and have chosen a bank, the process is relatively straightforward. Visit the bank, fill out the necessary forms, and submit your documents. The bank will verify your details, and once approved, your account will be operational.

    IV. Digital Banking Options

    In addition to traditional banks, the UK also has a growing sector of digital banks such as Monzo, Revolut, and Starling. These banks operate entirely online or via mobile apps. They offer real-time transaction updates, no fees for international payments, and budgeting tools which can be particularly beneficial for students.

    V. Tips for Financial Management

    • Set a Budget: Given the various expenses like tuition, books, rent, and daily needs, setting a monthly budget can help avoid overspending.

    • Avoid Unnecessary Debt: While student accounts offer overdraft facilities, use them judiciously. It's easy to get into debt but harder to get out of it.

    • Take Advantage of Student Discounts: The UK offers a plethora of student discounts. Use them to save on everyday purchases.

    • Stay Updated: Regularly check your account statements and set up alerts for payments to avoid any late fees or penalties.

    Money Saving Tips for International Students in the UK


    Living as an international student in the UK offers a blend of academic excellence, cultural diversity, and personal growth. With robust support systems, abundant work opportunities, and a vibrant social scene, the UK continues to be a top choice for students seeking a high standard of living while pursuing their education. Embrace the journey, make the most of your experiences, and let the UK leave an indelible mark on your academic and personal life.