Baffled by UK university fee status and not sure how it applies to you? Get to grips with the basics with our two-part blog on fee status.
This blog post answers the questions:
- What is a fee status assessment?
- What are the different fee statuses?
- What are the tuition fee and funding options for the different fee statuses?
See our blog UK University Fee Status – A Guide for Expats (Part 2), to answer the question:
- Who is eligible for Home fees?
What is a fee status assessment?
The fee status assessment is part of the Admissions process of all UK universities which aims to establish what fees a student should pay based on where the student is from. They need to make this distinction because they receive funding (tax-payer money) for Home students but not for Overseas students and therefore, Overseas students will pay more for their degree than Home students. The process of assessing a student’s fee status is to determine if they are eligible for that funding or not.
In order to do this, universities apply a set of rules and regulations published by UKCISA to a range of different student backgrounds and circumstances. UKCISA do not write the rules, they simply publish them to help universities understand the relevant government legislation which can be quite complicated.
For the most part, this assessment is quite straight forward but for some ‘borderline’ students it may be harder to assign a fee status. Such students might be British citizens living overseas (expats), refugees, asylum seekers or leave to remainers, for example. Here universities use their discretion and interpretation of the rules to determine fee status.
In these instances, universities may automatically assign an Overseas status and leave it to the student to contest it or they may require students to submit further information to assist with the assessment of their fee status. Because each university is using their discretion in these instances (and therefore, applying a slightly different policy), it’s often the case that a student will receive some Home offers and some Overseas.
What are the different fee statuses?
There are two factors that determine the different fee statuses; firstly, where in the UK (i.e. which UK country) is the university that the student is applying to. Secondly, where is the student themselves from.
Fee statuses differ depending on whether the university is in England and Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. At the moment, they are categorised in the following way, however, once Brexit takes effect, the EU fee status is likely to change but as of yet, we are not sure how. Universities have fixed their fees until 2020 for EU students.
Universities in England and Wales have two fee statuses; Home (which applies to students from all UK countries and the Common Travel Area) and Overseas.
In Scotland, Universities have three fee statuses; Home (which applies to Scottish students), Rest of UK (which applies to students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and Overseas.
In Northern Ireland, Universities also have three fee statuses: Home (which applies to Northern Irish students), GB (which applies to students from England, Scotland and Wales) and Overseas.
All UK countries follow the same government legislation but may differ slightly in their assessment criteria and processes.
What are the tuition fees and funding options for the different fee statuses?
Tuition fees differ depending on where in the UK the student is applying to university. For universities in England, Home fees are currently set at £9,250 per year for any course. In Wales, they may be a little lower at £9,000 per year. Overseas fees range from £14,950 to £58,600 per year depending on the course and university. Generally speaking, the more competitive the course or university, the higher the Overseas fees.
For universities in Scotland, Home students currently pay £1,820 per year for any course. These Home places are capped so they can be very difficult to obtain by people with borderline eligibility. RUK students pay £9,250 per year for any course. Overseas fees range from £14,600 to £49,900. Scottish undergraduate degrees are usually 4 years (at other UK universities they are typically 3 years depending on the course) – it’s important to factor this in when budgeting for university.
For universities in Northern Ireland, Home students pay £4,275 per year for any course. Students from England, Wales and Scotland pay £9,250 per year for any course. Overseas students can expect to pay between £16,000 and £38,000. 
In any of the four countries, most students who are eligible for Home fees are also eligible for a student loan (and sometimes a grant) to cover or part-cover their tuition and maintenance costs. Depending upon where the student lives, applications for student loans have to be made via the relevant student loans company such as Student Finance England http://www.sfengland.slc.co.uk, Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) www.saas.gov.uk, Student Finance Wales www.studentfinancewales.co.uk or Student Finance Northern Ireland www.studentfinanceni.co.uk. Student loan companies will make their own fee assessment of each student who applies for a loan, they do not always concur with the fee status concluded by the university. It is not uncommon for a university to categorise a student as Home but the student loans company to categorise them as Overseas and therefore, reject their application for a loan.
Overseas students may have to pay additional fees, such as college fees at Oxford or Cambridge, that can be around £10,000 per year on top of tuition fees. Maintenance (or living) costs for all students are around £10,000+ per year of study.
Overseas students cannot apply for student loans to cover their tuition or maintenance costs, so their funding options are very limited. They also may be required to pay more of their tuition fees upfront and/or pay an interest fee if they wish to pay in instalments.
An additional factor to consider is that some courses, such as Medicine, cap the number of places available to Overseas students and therefore, the competition to get in is much higher. Some Medical degrees have as few as 4 places for Overseas students but will still receive hundreds of exceptional applications.
 Reddin Survey of University Tuition Fees 2020-21
 Reddin Survey of University Tuition Fees 2020-21
 Queen’s University Belfast 2020