Many students heading to university want to study abroad, but are unsure as to whether they can afford the cost of tuition. Tuition is the money paid to universities and colleges for instruction and it is charged by the semester or quarter. Tuition fees vary between schools and also between majors.

In this article, SchoolApply breaks down tuition fees (by far, the biggest cost you will encounter while studying abroad) by location, focusing on the US, UK and Canada. Here’s how much you can expect to spend…

United States

The United States is the most popular destination of choice for international students to receive their higher education. It is also, however, one of the most expensive countries to complete your college degree.

The overall average annual undergraduate college tuition in the United States is approximately USD 24,000. If you look at just the top-tier US universities (most of which are private universities), tuition is substantially higher and can run you around USD 60,000 per year. According to U.S. News & World Report, the average tuition and fees for a private university in the US in 2015 was about USD 38,700.

If you are looking for more affordable university options in the United States, it would be wise to explore the idea of studying at a public or state university. The cost of studying at public institutions for international students is considerably lower than at private; the average tuition for overseas students in 2015 was approximately USD 24,000.

Here is the silver lining though one of the most expensive destinations to obtain a higher academic degree, the United States offers plenty of financial aid options to all students. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that as of 2013-14, 85% of full-time undergraduate students at 4-year universities in the United States received financial assistance. In the same timeframe, the percentage of students receiving financial aid at 4-year public universities was 83% and it was 89% at 4-year private non-profit institutions.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom college tuition fees are generally lower than those in the United States. The average annual cost to study as an international undergraduate student in the UK is approximately GBP 12,000 (USD 15,872). Though there is a cap of GBP 9,000 on home student (UK/EU citizens) tuition in the UK, keep in mind there is none on international student fees.

The United Kingdom offers merit and need-based financial assistance to international students, though there are fewer options in the UK as compared to the United States, especially for undergraduate programs. It is still prudent, however, to search for and apply to the scholarships, grants and other financial aid options available to you in the UK and from your own home country.

Having said this, it is important to factor in that the duration of study in the UK is shorter than in most other countries. A typical undergraduate degree in the UK will run for 3 years as opposed to 4 years in the US and other countries. A Master’s degree program is usually for only one year in the UK while other countries offer 2-year programs. With shorter programs on offer, studying in the UK can definitely have financial advantages.   


Canada is another popular destination for international students who aspire to earn their academic degrees abroad. Canada’s college tuition fees are typically less expensive than in the United States and the United Kingdom. International undergraduate students in Canada can expect to pay an average annual tuition of CAD 14,000 (USD 10,622). Canadian university fees vary by province, and as in most countries according to the type of program you are studying. According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate students studying dentistry, medicine, pharmacy and law in Canada pay the highest average tuition.  

International students hoping to study in Canada can apply for many financial aid options such as scholarships, grants and bursaries offered by each university, the Canadian government and other public and private organisations.   

Keep in mind that there are costs other than tuition – such as housing, travel, food and books – that should be included in your total estimated expenditure. To find out more about these additional expenses, read this informative SchoolApply article, The Cost of Studying Abroad and Ways to Minimise It.