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The Cost of a Masters - Making Sense of Postgraduate Fees and Other Expenses

What will a Masters degree actually cost you? The answer may not be as obvious as you think.

The price of a postgraduate course can vary greatly between different subject areas, universities and countries.

There’s also more to the cost of a Masters than tuition fees. Wherever you study, you’ll need to cover living costs and other study expenses.

We’ve put this page together to help you, with detailed information on the cost of postgraduate study in the UK and Europe. We've also summarised some of the other expenses you may have to budget for during a Masters.

Knowing how much you’ll have to pay for postgraduate study will make your search for funding more effective – and help you budget during your course.

Masters fees in the UK

Postgraduate courses in the UK are normally cheaper, per year, than undergraduate courses.

Whereas a typical UK Bachelors degree can cost up to £9,000 (rising to £9,250 in 2017), average fees for a UK Masters are currently £6,486.

That’s the average for a UK or EU student on a taught course. However, the full range of UK Masters fees is quite broad.

Understanding UK Masters fees

Course fees for UK Masters programmes are set by individual universities (unlike undergraduate degrees, postgraduate degrees aren’t subject to a fee cap). This means that fees vary between universities and courses. They can also change, year-on-year.

UK universities also offer a wide variety of Masters degrees, including taught and research qualifications in different subjects. Some tend to cost more than others. These differences reflect the facilities and resources required for a course and how expensive it is for the university to deliver.

Finally, it’s important to remember that international students (from outside the EU) usually pay more to study in the UK.

Fees for different types of Masters

The following table displays representative fees for different types of postgraduate course in the UK.

It doesn’t reflect the actual cost of any specific degree, but it can give you some idea of what your fees might be for a particular UK qualification.


UK Postgraduate Fees
Degree Type UK / EU Fees International Fees
Taught (MA, MSc) £6,486 £13,442
Research (MPhil, PhD) £4,000-5,000 £10,000-20,000
MBA £16,443-18,226 £10,000-20,000

The information in this table based on the most recent survey of UK postgraduate fees, published by the Times Higher Education magazine, as well as additional research carried out by FindAMasters.

Fees for other postgraduate courses

Not all Masters-level courses award a full Masters degree. UK universities also offer shorter courses leading to a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) or Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip).

Most involve studying select modules or other parts of a taught Masters, without a dissertation.

This makes them an ideal option if you’re seeking to gain postgraduate skills and experience without committing to a full Masters degree.

They’re also cheaper. But, as with full Masters degrees, the cost of a PGCert or PGDip can vary.

You can generally expect fees for a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) to be around a third to a half of those for an equivalent Masters. Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) courses will be more expensive, but still cheaper than a full Masters.

Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas

A PGCert or PGDip can be a great option if you want to access Masters-level training without committing to a full year of study - perfect for people seeking new skills and professional development. See our guide for more information.

International fees

University fees in the UK are higher for international students (from outside the EU). This applies to postgraduate courses as well as undergraduate degrees.

Students from other EU countries don’t pay higher fees to study a Masters in the UK. Instead you will pay the same rate as a ‘domestic’ or ‘home’ student.

This remains the case regardless of the result of the UK’s EU Referendum. EU students beginning a Masters (or PhD) in the UK in 2017 are covered by fee and funding guarantees. These will apply for the duration of your degree, regardless of Brexit.

Brexit and postgraduate study

All parts of the UK have introduced guarantees for EU students beginning a degree in 2017. These entitle you to pay 'domestic' fees and access public funding (such as postgraduate loans) for the duration of your course.

Masters funding in the UK

The cost of a UK Masters may vary, but most students are eligible for a wide variety of funding options.

These range from Government loans to charitable grants and bursaries. You can find out more in our guides to UK Masters funding.

Postgraduate living costs in the UK

Your postgraduate fees will account for a large proportion of the cost of your Masters degree. They won’t be all you have to pay, however.

You’ll need to cover accommodation expenses as well as food, drink, entertainment and other living costs – just as you did during your undergraduate degree.

After all, your lifestyle may change slightly as a Masters student, but you’ll still need to put food on the table and a roof over your head (the university library doesn’t count).

Accommodation

You’ll need somewhere to live whilst you study your Masters. The cost of this will depend on your existing arrangements and your preferences.

Thankfully, many UK universities now offer halls of residence specifically for postgraduates. The cost of this will normally be £100-150 a week, depending on what’s included. Check with your university for more information and advice.

If university accommodation isn’t available (or desirable) you’ll need to rent privately. The following table gives a (very) rough estimate of accommodation costs in major UK university cities:


Average Rent in UK University Cities - 2017 (£)
City Monthly Rent City Monthly Rent
Aberdeen 665 Hull 400
Aberystwyth 310 Inverness 500
Bath 725 Lancaster 530
Belfast 530 Leeds 655
Birmingham 665 Leicester 505
Bolton 470 Lincoln 410
Bournemouth 700 Liverpool 620
Bradford 475 London 1,680
Brighton 860 Luton 695
Bristol 855 Manchester 700
Buckingham 1,170 Middlesbrough 400
Cambridge 1,020 Newcastle 590
Canterbury 845 Northampton 600
Cardiff 620 Norwich 590
Carlisle 475 Nottingham 590
Chelmsford 775 Oxford 1,090
Cheltenham 615 Plymouth 515
Chester 555 Portsmouth 625
Colchester 565 Preston 500
Coventry 615 Reading 905
Derby 460 Sheffield 580
Dundee 415 Southampton 685
Durham 800 St Andrews 875
Edinburgh 700 Sunderland 475
Exeter 710 Swansea 460
Glasgow 605 Wolverhampton 470
Guildford 975 Worcester 650
Huddersfield 550 York 705

The figures in this table are based on crowd-sourced data collected by Numbeo. They reflect the monthly rent real people have reported for a city-centre apartment in each location.

This information can be a useful rough guide to accommodation prices in popular UK university cities.

However, it shouldn’t be taken as an accurate indicator of actual rental rates – or used to produce conclusive comparisons between individual locations.

Living costs

Wherever you live, you’ll also need to eat, drink and pay bills. Unfortunately, these costs are a lot harder to pin down.

For one thing, they may well be included in your rent: if your accommodation is catered and includes utilities.

If they aren’t, you’ll need to pay them separately. The good news, however, is that living costs during a Masters shouldn’t be any higher than living costs during an undergraduate degree.

Calculating typical student living costs for each UK university is much harder than getting an average for accommodation rates. There are far more variables to consider and many of them are dependent on your own lifestyle.

This means that trying to provide average figures here would be fairly pointless. So we haven’t.

What we can do instead is refer to the UK Government’s general guidelines for student living costs. These are the amounts the Government expects an international student to have in order to qualify for a Tier 4 Student Visa.

At present these are:

  • £1,015 per month for students living outside London.
  • £1,265 per month for students living in London.

These are the minimum amounts the Government estimates a student will require for living costs whilst studying (including accommodation).

Your actual costs may be higher (or lower) depending on your lifestyle and requirements.

Getting a better sense of living costs

The best source of accurate information on living costs for your Masters may actually be your university. They'll be able to provide advice on accommodation and student expenses in their local area. Some may also be able to recommend local landlords and other resources.

Masters fees in Europe

You’d think that the cost of a Masters would vary quite extensively across individual European countries. And you’d be right.

It’s not quite as complicated as you that though.

For one thing, postgraduate fee caps are much more common in Europe than they are in the UK. For another, it’s actually possible to study a Masters courses in some European countries for free.

Postgraduate fees in Europe

The following table compares typical Masters fees in Europe, by country:


Masters Fees in Europe - 2017 (€)
Country EU Fees International Fees
Austria None* 727
Belgium (Flanders) 890 Variable
Belgium (Wallonia) 836 1,984
Czech Republic None** None**
Denmark None*** Variable
Finland None 1,500
France 256 256
Germany None None
Greece 3,625 (avg) Variable
Hungary 2,589 (avg) Variable
Iceland 569-6,042 569-6,042
Ireland 6,000 (avg) Variable
Italy 1,262 (avg) 1,262 (avg)
Netherlands 1,984 Variable
Norway None None
Poland None None
Portugal 1,063 (avg) Variable
Romania 1,849 (avg) Variable
Spain 1,991 (avg) Variable
Sweden None Variable
Switzerland 1,552 1,552
Turkey 464 (avg) Variable
United Kingdom 7,465 (avg) 15,471 (avg)
*Austrian universities will charge additional fees to students who exceed the maximum study duration for their courses.
**Czech universities will charge additional fees for foreign language programmes.
***Danish universities will charge additional fees for part-time programmes.

With the exception of the UK, fees given here are based on figures collected by the European Commission. (They give the typical price for one year of study on a full-time Masters degree. Note that many European Masters programmes last for two years).

For more detailed information see our individual guides to Masters study in Europe.

Postgraduate living costs in Europe

If fees vary across European countries, it stands to reason that the cost of student life in different cities within those countries varies even more.

The following table compares the cost of accommodation, travel, utilities and groceries across European countries:


Postgraduate Living Costs in Europe - 2017 (€)
Country Rent Utilities Travel Total
Austria 650 180 45 875
Belgium 760 130 50 940
Czech Republic 420 145 20 585
Denmark 940 155 50 1,145
Finland 720 100 50 870
France 665 140 60 865
Germany 645 220 70 935
Greece 255 140 30 425
Hungary 350 150 30 530
Iceland 1,400 95 95 1,590
Ireland 1,085 150 100 1,335
Italy 560 150 35 745
Netherlands 895 150 75 1,120
Norway 1,065 165 75 1,305
Poland 390 150 25 565
Portugal 465 85 35 585
Romania 260 90 15 365
Spain 550 115 45 710
Sweden 765 65 80 910
Switzerland 1,415 165 70 1,650
Turkey 325 70 45 440
United Kingdom 935 165 70 1,170
Figures are calculated based on crowdsourced prices for monthly rent (one-bedroom city-centre apartment), utilities (electricity, heating, water and waste disposal) and an urban travel pass. Original data published by Numbeo.

As with the other tables in this guide, you'll need to use the above information carefully. Actual prices will vary significantly across cities and according to your lifestyle. Note that food and other groceries are not included here.

Postgraduate costs in other countries

It's difficult to produce an accurate comparison of tuition fees and living costs in every study abroad destination, however, our guides to international postgraduate study provide useful information for popular countries outside Europe.

Other postgraduate study costs

Tuition fees and living costs will account for most of the cost of your Masters. But you may also need to budget for other postgraduate expenses.

We’ve picked a few to be aware of, below.

Health insurance

You won’t normally need extra health insurance to study a Masters in your home country. Instead you’ll be covered by any existing public or private healthcare. Or you may not need a policy at all.

The situation is likely to be different if you’re studying abroad though.

Unless you’re part of a reciprocal scheme such as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) you’ll probably need to purchase insurance to cover you during your Masters.

Basic insurance won’t usually be too expensive. Your university may provide extra details, or even be able to sell you a suitable policy.

Visa fees

Most countries charge a fee for processing your visa application and issuing the required documents.

Needless to say, you’ll only need to pay visa fees if you’re studying abroad. But studying abroad won’t necessarily mean that you have to pay visa fees. Some groups of countries (such as the European Union) don’t require student visas for their members’ citizens.

Our guides to postgraduate study abroad provide information on student visa requirements and costs in different countries, including popular destinations like the UK and USA.

Application fees

Some universities charge a small amount to process Masters applications. Others accept students through postgraduate application portals that charge their own administrative fees.

This won’t always be the case. In the UK, for example, there is no centralised system for postgraduate admissions and most universities don’t charge application fees for Masters degrees.

Your university will be able to provide detailed information about any administrative fees it charges. Our guides to Masters study abroad also explain postgraduate application fees in specific countries.

Admissions tests

Some courses require students to complete graduate admissions tests in order to gain a place on their Masters programmes.

These are separate to standard admissions fees: they cover the cost of sitting the test and receiving a score, not the cost of processing your overall application. Fees vary depending on the test you’re taking.

The most widely accepted admissions tests for Masters study are the GRE (Graduate Records Examination) and the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test).

Both are more common in the USA than elsewhere, but universities in other countries may use them. The GMAT, in particular, is popular with prestigious business schools assessing applicants to their MBA programmes.

Language tests

If you’re studying abroad in a second language, you may need to submit a score from a recognised language test.

This won’t always be the case: existing experience studying in a language will usually suffice instead of a test score. So will other relevant evidence of your language skills (such as having lived and worked abroad).

However, studying at postgraduate level may sometimes require a more advanced test or higher score than would be requested for an undergraduate degree. Check with your university if in doubt.

Different countries have their own preferred language tests, though many universities will accept more than one. See our guides to international language tests for postgraduate study, for more information.

Travel

Travel costs are easy to overlook, but they can add up quickly. Unless you’re living in university accommodation you’ll need a way of getting to and from your postgraduate classes.

It’s a good idea to look at typical costs for busses, trams or trains in your university city and factor these expenses into your budgeting.

And remember: if you’re studying abroad you’ll also need to travel to your destination country – and be able to get home once you’ve finished your Masters.

The next step: funding

Once you know how much a Masters is likely to cost, the next thing to do is work out how you'll meet that cost! Our guides to postgraduate funding can help.

Last updated - 20/03/2017

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