International Students in the UK: A Brief Overview and Helpful Tips

For foreign students in the UK - what you need to know

If you are reading this, chances are you are:  (a) planning to pursue an education in the UK or (b) you are currently studying as an international student and going through the whole anxiety and excitement of the whole chapter.

Here is a brief overview on international students in the UK, plus some helpful tips on how to survive as one.

First, let’s go through the numbers, shall we?


According to the UK International Students Affairs, 26% of the total student population comprises of international students coming from 180 different countries. There is an estimated 430,000 international students studying in the country every year, most of them coming from countries like China, India, Nigeria and the USA. Chinese students make up the biggest percentage of the total international student population at almost 20%, followed far behind by India at 5.3 % and Nigeria at 4.1%.

OECD statistics show that UK is the second most popular destination for international students. It comes as no surprise since UK is home to many respected universities and colleges in the world - four of the top ten universities in the world stand on UK soil as per QS World University Rankings.

As well as first-class academic reputation and being home of English, many students also choose to study in the UK for its rich cultural heritage and vibrant social environment. Moreover, courses in the UK are shorter compared to other countries, thus saving students more precious time and money. 

What’s in it for UK

Although debatable, and at times, controversial, attracting foreign students offers UK economic benefits that cannot be entirely discounted. According to a 2011/2012 report by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), international students paid £3.9bn in tuition fees and £6.3bn in living expenses. Also a very interesting benefit is the positive link between international graduate students and innovation (Chellaraj, Maskus and Mattoo,2005). Other pros include desirable effects on tourism, prospective influence abroad, familiarity with British products and subsequent exports (Oxford Economics, 2013). These are at least a few of the good reasons UK is keen on having international students like you.

What do local students feel about studying alongside people from other countries?

A survey conducted among 500 university applicants by YouthSight and the Higher Education Policy Institute in February reveals an overall positive response from the student body. Here's what they have to say:

  • 87% believes that foreign students will help them gain a better world view
  • 85% says that it would prepare them for working in a global environment
  • 76% says that it could help them build a global network
  • 68% says it could help them practise foreign language skills
  • 67% does not anticipate foreign students to lower the quality of academic discussions, only 11% thinks they would

How much money will I need if I want to study in the UK?

A 2014 study conducted by HSBC and IPSOS Mori shows that UK is ranked second most affordable study destination among the big four English-speaking destination countries. The average annual cost of tuition fees and living costs for 2014 in the top four English-speaking host countries are as follow:

  • Australia – US$42,093 ( £28,332)
  • US – US$36,564 (£24,610)
  • UK – US$35,045 (£23,590)
  • Canada – US$29,947(£20,156)

The Imperial College of London provides a conservative estimate of expenses for a reasonably comfortable lifestyle as an undergraduate student in the UK for the current school year.  It is needless to say that to some extent, your living cost will be up to you and may vary depending on your lifestyle and location.  Use this guide with your own discretion.  


5 Survival Tips for Foreign Students in the UK


As an international student, you are bound to be outside your comfort zone. These are a few pointers on how to make your studying and transition in UK easier and more enjoyable.

1) Get your facts

Settling to a new country to study, adapting to a new culture, all while getting around all the information you need could be pretty intimidating. Be sure to get your facts right. We have listed some useful websites which provide resources for international students:

  • UK Council for International Students Affairs <> - thorough information on studying in the UK
  • International Student Identity Card <> - for benefits, discounts, services that you can avail nationwide
  • British Council <> - educational opportunities and cultural relations
  • Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) <> - info on undergraduate student for international students
  • ForeignStudents <> - for overseas students considering studying in the UK
  • The Complete University Guide <> - useful resource on where you can study in the UK 

2) Budget sensibly - make your money last

It goes without saying that you have to budget sensibly so you will have enough money to meet your living costs. There are many good articles and helpful tips on our blog that offer practical tips on how to save and earn extra money while studying. Keep posted on Survey Bee for more tips on productivity and how to earn extra income while you are studying. We also recommend checking out a cool interactive website: International Student Calculator which could help you work out your budget.

3) Stay Connected

Homesickness is a common issue for students who are living away from their countries. Every now and then, call, message and video chat with your family, friends and loved ones that you miss the most from home. Thankfully, we have all the technologies possible to stay connected miles away.

4) Be social


To ease feelings of loneliness and homesickness, it is also important to make an effort to be happy and build new connections. Joining an international club is a good starting point at being acquainted with other students who share the same experience as you do. There are many clubs, meetups and university groups across the country that can cater to your specific interests and hobbies. The website is something we highly recommend.

4) Study!

Don’t forget what you came here for: you came here to study, so study and make the most of the opportunity! Try to find a balance between your studies and social life. Study and party, if you must, responsibly.