The cost of studying abroad

  • 10 min read
The cost of studying abroad

Studying abroad is a priceless experience that offers countless benefits. With tuition fees and living costs varying a lot between universities, cities, and countries, there’s a study abroad option to suit every budget. In some cases, you could actually wind up saving money.

Students who invest in a study abroad experience can make huge personal and professional returns. You can’t put a price on the knowledge you’ll gain, the friendships you’ll make, and the memories you’ll share.

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Tuition fees

Tuition fees are the sums of money you pay to cover the cost of your higher education. They differ according to what and where you study.

Tuition fees by higher-education level

Your tuition fees will be determined by whether you’re taking an undergraduate or graduate program.

As a general rule, master’s degrees have a higher annual cost than three or four-year bachelor’s programs. However, their shorter duration means that they can be cheaper overall.

The table below shows the kind of tuition fees you can expect to pay across the world’s most popular study abroad destinations:

Country Bachelor's degree (per year) Master's degree (per year)
Australia $14,393 - 32,384 $15,832 - 35,982
US $26,000 - 50,000 $20,000 - 35,000
UK $13,150 - 34,190 $15,030 - 25,050
Germany $0 (public universities) or up to $26,300 (private universities) $0 (public universities) or $24,000 - 36,000 (private universities)
France $200 - 3,272 $287 - 4,453
China $1,665 - 3,030 $4,200 - 13,760
Spain $802 - 2,947 (public universities) or $5,894 - 23,577 (private universities) $1,179 - 4,126 (public universities) or $5,894 - 23,577 (private universities)
Russia $1,750 - 12,570 $1,133 - 5,900

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020; Go Overseas, 2020; Motivist Japan, 2020; Study Portals, 2020;, 2020)

Tuition fees by subject

In countries like the UK, students pay a standardized tuition fee. However, in some nations, such as the US, the cost of your education will depend on your choice of major. Here are some of the most affordable and most expensive subjects you could study:

Most affordable

(Source:, 2020; Inside Higher Ed, 2017)

Most expensive

(Source: Pew Trusts, 2017; Inside Higher Ed, 2017)


After tuition, accommodation is normally the second-largest outgoing for international students.

The table below outlines how much you might need to spend on rent and utilities each month:

Country Monthly rent cost Monthly utilities costs
Australia $273 - 864 $133
Canada $190 - 531 $129
US $500 - 3,500 $185
UK $719 - 855 $131
Germany $248 - 785 $130
France $236 - 540 $83
China $114 - 530 $75
Japan $114 - 558 $103
Spain $424 - 766 $135
Russia $500 - 700 $79

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020; Go Overseas, 2020; Motivist Japan, 2020; Study Portals, 2020;, 2020)

If you’re looking for a housing option that won’t break the bank, consider applying for a place in your University’s residence halls. Most universities offer rooms to suit every budget, and some even include a meal plan.

If you’d prefer to rent privately, try finding a house or apartment on the outskirts of the city. Properties located in or near city centers are usually pricey, so renting in smaller towns or villages can help you save.

Finding yourself a roommate or some housemates will save you even more money. It means you won’t have to cover the rent bill alone, and you can split the cost of utilities.

Participating in a homestay with a local family is another budget-friendly housing option. Besides having all of your meals and utilities included in the cost, it’s a priceless cultural-exchange experience that will help you settle into the local area.

Starting the property hunt early is the key to securing housing that fits your needs and budget, but this can be tricky to organize from your home country. Luckily, most institutions have housing offices that can support you with your search and help you to liaise with landlords.


With the exception of students living in catered residence halls or homestays, you’ll be responsible for doing your own grocery shopping and cooking.

Your monthly grocery costs will depend on the kind of lifestyle you lead and the food you enjoy eating, but the figures below provide a rough benchmark:

Country Monthly grocery cost
Australia $228
Canada $151
US $180
UK $263
Germany $118
France $293
China $200
Japan $175
Spain $235
Russia $143

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020; Go Overseas, 2020; Motivist Japan, 2020; Study Portals, 2020;, 2020)

Buying groceries doesn’t have to eat up your finances. Here’s some advice for shopping on a student budget:

  • Swap big brands for value products: You won’t be able to tell the difference between products, and you’ll make a tasty saving
  • Practice your cooking skills: Rather than forking out on expensive restaurants and take-outs, recreate your favorite dishes at home for a portion of the price
  • Look for student discounts: Shopping at stores that offer discounts for students will help keep your finances in check
  • Register for a supermarket loyalty card: Earn points every time you shop and receive coupons and vouchers in return
  • Buy frozen rather than fresh: Frozen food has a longer shelf life, is significantly cheaper, and still tastes great
  • Split shopping costs with your housemates: Take it in turns to buy communal items like toilet rolls, milk, and cleaning products
  • Plan your meals: Arriving at the store with a shopping list means you’re more likely to stay within budget
  • Batch cook: Cooking for one can be tricky, so try batch cooking and freezing your leftovers. It’s much more cost-efficient too
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach: Unless you want to end up buying the whole supermarket, avoid shopping when you’re hungry

Academic supplies

As a university student, you’ll be responsible for sourcing your own course materials. From textbooks and notepads to laptops and art supplies, here’s a look at the average costs of academic supplies around the world:

Country Cost of academic supplies* (per year)
Australia $550
Canada $459
US $1,170
UK $962
Germany $356
France $712
China $466
Japan $336
Spain $1,060
Russia $300

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020;, 2020; Study Portals, 2020; SRAS Students Abroad, 2020)

*Academic supplies include, but are not limited to, textbooks, stationary, art materials, printers, ink, USB flash drives, and rucksacks.

Before purchasing a coursebook, see whether it’s stocked in your university’s library. If not, you’ll probably be able to find a second-hand copy at a discounted rate online.


Most students studying abroad will need to secure a student visa. Student visas grant you permission to remain in a nation for the duration of your program.

Most countries charge a visa application fee, and some will require payment for a temporary residence permit too. Each country has its own application process and charges, but you can find more information in our easy-to-follow visa guides.

Country Visa application cost
Australia $446
Canada $114
US $510
UK $458
Germany $71
France $117
China $97
Japan $28
Spain $70
Russia $160

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020; Go Overseas, 2020; Motivist Japan, 2020; Study Portals, 2020;, 2020)

Health insurance

In many countries, it’s a legal requirement for international students to have valid health insurance. Without it, your visa application will be refused.

Even if you aren’t legally obliged to provide evidence of your health cover, it’s still essential to take out a policy. Besides avoiding eye-watering medical fees, it could literally save your life.

Instead of just accepting the first health insurance quote you’re given, shop around. Price comparison websites are great for finding the best deals.

Country Average health cover cost (per year)
Australia $105
Canada $294
US $1,020
UK Health insurance not required
Germany $1,134
France $496
China $116
Japan $288
Spain $212
Russia $150

(Source: Times Higher Education, 2020; International student insurance, 2020; Study in Russia, 2020)


If you’re an international student who plans to travel home during the university holidays, it’s important to factor in your transportation costs. Here are some top tips for more cost-effective travel:

  • Book your flight early: Flight prices generally become more expensive as the departure date approaches. Planning and booking your flights well in advance of your travel dates means you won’t overpay.
  • Use flight search engines: Websites like Skyscanner and help you to find the best flight deals around.
  • Sign up for an airline rewards card: You’ll earn points every time you fly, and could gather enough credit for hefty discounts, or even a free flight.
  • Choose budget airlines: Less legroom and fewer in-flight meal options is a small price to pay for the huge savings you could make.

Besides international travel, you’ll also need to get around your new home. Some universities, like those in Germany, provide students with a free public transport pass upon enrollment.

If this isn’t the case in your host country, buying unlimited weekly or monthly travel passes is usually much cheaper than single-trip tickets. If you’re hoping to avoid public transport altogether, consider investing in a bike. Cycling to campus is a fantastic way to get some exercise and reduce your carbon footprint.

Final money-saving tips

If you’re looking to make your money go even further, the following suggestions could prove useful:

  • Pay your tuition fees in advance: Some institutions offer discounts of between 5-15% to students who cover their academic expenses upfront.
  • Consider an online degree program: The tuition fees are considerably cheaper, and you won’t need to worry about accommodation costs.
  • Open a high-interest bank account: Keeping your money in a high-interest savings account means you’ll receive a small financial bonus each year.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate: Exchange rates can fluctuate dramatically, so bear this in mind when you’re transferring money between accounts or choosing which currency to pay in.
  • Find employment: Many countries allow international students to work part-time alongside their studies (usually up to 20 hours per week).