Living in the UK – A Guide for Masters Students
Written by Mark Bennett
With its renowned universities, vibrant cities and beautiful countryside, it’s no wonder that the UK is currently the world’s third most popular study-abroad destination, attracting more than 550,000 international students per year.
This page is a guide to the essentials you need to know as an international student in the UK, covering everything from cuisine and culture to living costs and accommodation.
What’s it like to study abroad in the UK?
As the Europe’s top destination for international students, the UK has a reputation for diversity, tolerance and world-class higher education institutions. Overseas students will find that the UK is a welcoming place that is filled with plenty of exciting cultural opportunities.
Whether your interests lie in nature, literature, science or history (or something else entirely!), the student life in the UK has something to offer everyone. From the stunning scenery of national parks like the Lake District and the Cairngorms to the home of William Shakespeare and UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Stonehenge, you’ll never be stuck for things to do when you need a break from the library.
As the birthplace of football, rugby, cricket and tennis, the UK also has a proud sporting heritage. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland enjoy fierce rivalries with each other, while the UK is a frequent host of major sporting occasions such as Wimbledon, the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, as well as international and continental football matches.
Food and drink
Food and drink from all parts of the world is widely available in the UK. Most big supermarkets stock food from many different countries, and there are also shops which cater specifically for certain cuisines (Chinese, Indian and Caribbean supermarkets, for example). Contrary to popular belief, British people do not only eat fish and chips!
Eating out is a popular activity and most towns will offer an excellent range of restaurants to choose from. Prices vary but many restaurants offer special deals for students – always check this when you book.
Masters students in the UK have a wide range of housing options to choose from, and you should be able to find something to suit your budget and taste without too much trouble.
Most universities offer dedicated halls of residence – usually on or near the main university campus. Every university is different, but a typical student bedroom consists of a bed, study desk, storage cupboards and often a private bathroom. Most students in these types of rooms then share a communal kitchen / living area with between 5 and 10 other students.
Students coming to the UK with their family can usually request special family accommodation, which includes a private bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living space. You should apply for this as early as you can as places are often limited.
University accommodation costs vary, but normally include utilities (electricity, water, gas), internet and council tax in the rent.
If you do not wish to stay in university accommodation, most cities offer a good range of private accommodation. You can either book this through a letting agency or through an independent landlord. It is important that you check the reputation of your chosen agency or landlord before signing a contract - most universities will have a list of approved agencies and landlords which you can use.
Private accommodation rates can be cheaper than university accommodation, but they often do not include utilities, internet or council tax. It is important to allow for these additional costs when you are working out your accommodation budget!
Living costs in the UK are generally comparable to those of other Western European countries, although London can be significantly more expensive than elsewhere in the UK.
If you’re applying for a Student Route, you’ll need to have funds of £1,023 per month of study (or £1,334 if you’re studying in London), which should give you a rough idea of monthly living costs.
The UK Government is currently reviweing the maintenance requirements for students. We will keep this page up-to-date with any new information. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get the latest updates straight to your inbox.
If you are in the UK on a Student Route visa, you can work for a maximum of 20 hours a week during term-time. If you work more than this then you will be breaching the conditions of your visa and you may be requested to leave the UK.
Rates of pay for part-time work vary, but the national minimum wage for those between 21 and 22 is currently £9.18 per hour, rising to £9.50 for 23-year-olds and above.
Find out more about working in the UK as a Masters student.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a useful overview of what to expect as an international student in the UK, but there are a few other areas you should familiarise yourself with! We’ve included a quick introduction to banking, transport, and healthcare below.
You should start looking for a UK bank before you leave your home country. Bank accounts typically take 7-10 working days to set up, and you can usually apply online. Make sure that you have enough cash to last you for your first few weeks in the UK.
Most UK universities will not allow you to complete your registration without a UK bank account (unless you have a banker’s draft for the full amount of your fees).
In most UK banks, you should be eligible for a 'basic bank account'. A basic bank account will give you a cash machine card and facilities to transfer money into your account. If you need other services such as a cheque book, debit card or access to credit then you will need a current account or an account specifically designed for international students.
To open a UK bank account you will require the following documentation:
- Your passport and a valid visa – EU citizens can use their National Identity Card instead of a passport
- An acceptance letter from your university in the UK – This must be an unconditional offer of a place on your course
- Proof of your address in the UK (and perhaps of your home country address) – Proof of your UK address will probably be your accommodation contract, but check with the bank beforehand
You should choose one which has a local branch near your university campus or accommodation, as most banks are only open from 9am-5pm during the week, with reduced hours on Saturdays.
The UK has a comprehensive public transport network that makes it easy to visit destinations across the country, as well as providing an efficient way to get around the city or town you live in.
Most of the country is covered by an over ground rail network. You can check train times and ticket prices on the National Rail website. It’s generally cheaper to book train tickets in advance rather than on the day. If you plan on taking the train often, it’s worth getting a railcard, which will entitle you to a third off the price of rail fares. Depending on your age, you can buy a 16-25 Railcard or a 26-30 Railcard. For more information, visit the Railcard website.
Buses are one of the most common ways to travel with UK cities. Some urban centres also have their own tram network, while London is home to the Tube – the oldest underground railway in the world. Most major cities in the UK also have their own airport, allowing you to reach a range of destinations across Europe and further afield.
Most major cities in the UK also have their own airport, allowing you to reach a range of destinations across Europe and further afield.
If you wish to drive a car in the UK then you must ensure that you have a driving licence valid for use in the UK. You can check whether your driving license is valid in the UK by visiting the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency website.
Public healthcare services in the UK are provided by the National Health Service (NHS). You’ll need to pay a healthcare surcharge as part of your Student Visa application. This will entitle you to access the NHS at no additional cost in the same way as a UK resident. You may still need to pay for dental and optical treatment, as well as prescriptions.
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Ready to begin your search for a Masters in the UK? Browse the thousands of UK postgraduate programmes listed on our website.
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