Will your children pay higher university fees because they are expats?


As a British citizen living abroad, I had assumed that children, who are British citizens even though they were born outside the UK, choose to attend a UK university, that they would pay the same fees as those who were born in the UK and have always lived there. A little research revealed that this is categorically not so.


British universities are undoubtedly feeling the pinch and face funding gaps. The vice-chancellor of Oxford University claims that the tuition fees of £9,000 per year paid by domestic undergraduates are not sufficient to cover the cost of teaching which comes in at around £16,000. He is calling for the government to increase the fee cap and it seems inevitable that fees will increase at some point.


And while fees for UK students have been rising fast, they have been soaring even faster for international students, which is one reason why universities are keen to attract students from abroad. A survey carried out by The Times has calculated the average university fees for international undergraduates taking classroom-based subjects is £11,289. Laboratory and clinical-based subjects are more expensive, as are the top universities. Foreign undergraduates looking to study at Oxford, for example, are looking at fees of £14,000 per annum upwards, with the most expensive degrees topping £21,000 per year.


My research has revealed that a British passport is not sufficient for a student to qualify for domestic fees. In addition to meeting citizenship requirements, undergraduates must have been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK, another EEA state or Switzerland for three years. That means that if your children were born in Asia and have never lived in the UK, you are likely to pay the same fees as a Singaporean, Thai or Chinese parent who desire a British university education for their child.


And let’s not forget that there are living costs to add on top of the fees. Rent, food, and course materials can easily add up to an additional £10,000 per year, and expats should also take into account the added cost of flights to and from the UK from wherever you live, not only for your child but also for parents if you wish to see them from one year to the next.


When you add up these costs over the course of a three or four year degree it all starts to sound a little bit frightening, which is why I’m glad I’ve found this out early. When children are still young, it gives ample time to plan for their future. I have been looking into regular savings plans which will enable clients to fulfill their long-term objective of a British university education. It can seem like a long way off but by starting now, you can make affordable payments into the plan and watch as compound interest works its magic and turns those modest payments into a sizeable nest egg to ease the financial strain when the time comes to wave your children off on their higher education adventures.


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