A year studying or working abroad as part of your degree can be a great way to experience travel and living somewhere else while still completing your studies. ✈️

But you’re often not told how you’re supposed to finance your year abroad - or what financial support you’re eligible for.

We’re here to break down:

  • Reasons you might choose to do a year abroad
  • Tuition fees for a year abroad
  • Support you can get for tuition fees and living costs (by country)
  • Year abroad government schemes
  • Other ways to fund a year abroad
  • Tips for managing your money while you’re away

 

Should I do a year abroad?

If you have the chance and are able to finance it, we definitely recommend doing a year abroad as part of your uni course.

There are so many great benefits to studying or working abroad. You’ll:

  • Expose yourself to and learn about a new culture
  • Meet people you wouldn’t otherwise come across
  • Improve your skills in a foreign language
  • Experience study or work life somewhere completely different
  • Visit places you’ve long since wanted to see
  • Have once-in-a-lifetime experiences
  • Get comfortable being uncomfortable in a new place
  • Be able to stand out when it comes to applying for jobs

 

So whether you have a year abroad included in your degree, or you can do an optional year abroad, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

 

Can I get student finance if I’m studying or working abroad?

If you choose to study a full course outside the UK, you won’t be able to get student finance help.

For example, if you’re from Cardiff and decide you want to study a whole degree in Madrid, you won’t get funding from Student Finance Wales. Instead, you’ll have to check with the host university and country you’re planning to go to and see what funding options they have for international students.

However, if you’re just studying one year of your course outside the UK, but the rest of your course is in a UK country, you can get student finance loans and funding for that year too.

 

Tuition fees when studying abroad

You probably won’t completely get away with not paying tuition fees for a year abroad.

However, you’ll usually be charged lower tuition fees by your home uni for your year studying or working abroad vs. your standard yearly tuition fees, since you won’t be on campus or using any university resources that year.

You also won’t have to pay tuition fees to the university you study at, if you choose to study abroad.

How much less you pay to your university depends on a few factors:

  • Which UK country you’re from
  • Which UK country you normally study in
  • The type of study abroad programme you do
  • How much of the year you’re away for - if you’re abroad for less than the whole academic year, you might end up paying more and might even end up paying the usual full amount

 

You’ll often pay around 15% of your usual tuition fees to your uni for a year abroad. But in some cases, especially if your tuition fees are usually free (e.g. for Scottish students who normally study in Scotland), you might not have to pay anything.

For any tuition fees you do have to pay, you should be able to get a tuition fee loan, as you would for a normal year.

Exact fees will differ by university so you’ll have to check your university’s specific guidance.

 

What living cost support can I get for a year studying/working abroad?

Students from England

You should be able to get a maintenance loan from Student Finance England.

As long as you’ll be away for over half of any of the academic terms, you’ll get a different abroad rate of maintenance loan for those terms. This will be higher for most students (except for those who normally live away from their parents and in London).

For 2024/25, the maximum you could get for a whole year studying abroad would be £11,713.

As always, this maintenance loan is means-tested: the higher your household income, the less you’ll get. But even if you’ve not been eligible for a maintenance loan in previous years, you might be able to get one for your year abroad.

The amount you get can also depend on whether you’re doing a work placement or studying abroad, the country you go to live in and other personal circumstances.

Check out our ultimate guide to student maintenance loans to learn more about them.

 

Students from Scotland

The funding you can get as a Scottish student is the same you’d usually get if you were studying at your home uni for the year.

This will be a mix of a bursary and a loan that are both means-tested. The higher your household income, the less total funding you’re likely to get, but also the less of the funding that’ll be made up of a bursary.

The maximum you could get for the year would be £11,400 (£9,400 loan, £2,000 bursary). The minimum would be £8,400 (all loan).

Find more information about living cost support for Scottish students here.

 

Students from Wales

Living cost support for Welsh students is made up of a loan and a grant from Student Finance Wales.

The amount you get will be the same as what Welsh students who live away from their parents’ home but study outside of London get in a normal year. So if you already do this (e.g. if you’re a Welsh student who lives away from home and studies at Cardiff Uni or the Uni of Bath), you’re likely to get a very similar amount of funding as in previous years, if not the exact same amount.

All students studying or working abroad will get the same amount of funding - for 2024/25, this will be £12,150. But the amount you get in the form of a grant vs. loan differs depending on household income.

 

Students from Northern Ireland

You’ll be able to get help with living costs from Student Finance Northern Ireland. This could be made up of a maintenance loan and a maintenance grant (the grant is only available if your household income is below a certain amount).

Regardless, the amount you can get is based on household income and the maximum loan you could get for a study abroad year would be £8,078.

If you’re eligible for a maintenance grant, some of this will be made up of a grant instead - so you won’t have to pay it back.

 

Help with travel costs when studying or working abroad

Students from all UK countries can get access to a travel grant to help with the costs of travelling abroad as part of their studies.

Since it’s a grant, it doesn’t have to be paid back.

Note: if you’re getting Turing Scheme or Taith Funding for travel expenses (we’ll come onto these schemes later), you can’t get a travel grant to cover the same costs - so you’ll have to choose one or the other.

 

Students from England

Student Finance England offers a travel grant that covers:

  • A maximum of three return journeys between your home and place of study or work abroad
  • Essential expenses including health insurance and travel visas
  • Vaccinations
  • Medical tests
  • Daily travel costs while abroad (for example, travelling to your host university from your accommodation)
  • Your children’s travel costs (if you’re a single parent)

 

The grants are means-tested, so the amount you can claim will depend on your household income - the higher your income, the less travel grant you’ll be given. Regardless, you’ll have to pay the first £303 of any of your travel costs.

 

Eligibility

  • Your permanent home address is in England
  • You attend an overseas organisation for at least half of each academic term in the year
  • You’re on a study abroad placement or an Erasmus, Turing or Taith study or work placement
  • You can’t claim this grant for any other type of work placement

 

You’ll pay the travel costs upfront and get reimbursed later. So you’ll need to keep copies of any receipts as evidence when you send off your claim.

One thing to note is that you’ll be expected to keep travel costs to a minimum. If you decide to splash out on luxury first-class tickets to your year abroad destination, for example, these won’t be covered by the grant.

Learn more about travel grants for English students.

 

Students from Wales

The grant for Welsh students is pretty much the same as the travel grant available to English students, except that it’s provided by Student Finance Wales.

You can claim for the same costs as the English grant and this grant has the same eligibility criteria. One key difference, though, is how much of the costs you might have to cover yourself.

For many, you’ll still have to pay the first £303 of your costs, as with the English travel grant. But if your household income is over £59,200, or you’re not receiving means-tested student finance, you’ll have to pay the first £1,000 of travel costs from your own pocket.

Learn more about the Welsh travel grant.

 

Students from Northern Ireland

Student Finance Northern Ireland also provides a travel grant for Northern Irish students. It has the same eligibility criteria and you can claim for the same costs as the English and Welsh ones.

You’ll have to pay the first £309 of any travel-related costs yourself.

Learn more here.

 

Students from Scotland

You’re eligible for the grant if:

  • Your study abroad is compulsory for your course
  • You’re not on a paid placement

 

Some of your travel costs can be covered by the Student Awards Agency Scotland, regardless of your household income.

However, you can’t claim it if you choose to study or work abroad by choice.

You can claim for:

  • Return flights to your host country (2x return flights if you study in two different countries because you study two languages)
  • Baggage (up to 23kg)
  • Standard student visa
  • Mandatory vaccinations
  • Health checks (if you’ve got a health condition so need these)
  • Travel insurance

 

Get more information here.

 

Other schemes to fund your studies abroad

There are some great schemes that could help fund your year abroad.

 

Erasmus+

The Erasmus+ programme offers opportunities to study or work in Europe as part of your studies. With this scheme, you could get an Erasmus+ grant from the European Commission.

Since the UK left the EU, the UK doesn’t fully participate in Erasmus+ programmes. However, UK students can still participate in some projects for which funding was approved between 2014 and 2020, so it’s still worth a look - but this is gradually being phased out.

 

Turing Scheme

Created to replace the Erasmus+ programme, the Turing Scheme (named after mathematician Alan Turing who broke the Enigma code in WWII) supports UK students who want to study or work abroad. 💼

You can apply for some incredible experiences to work or study abroad on placements lasting between 28 days and 12 months.

 

Eligibility

  • Open to students studying at organisations in the UK or British overseas territories - you don’t need to be a UK national
  • You’re registered at a higher education provider or you’ve recently graduated

 

How it works

Your uni has to apply for the Turing scheme themselves. Whether you can apply for the scheme will depend on whether your uni has been successful in receiving funding for that academic year.

Once your uni has been approved for funding, you’ll then be able to apply for the projects they’ve got and the funding available. Meaning, you won’t get complete choice of what your project will be or where you’ll get to go. Your uni will also have its own criteria for who can apply for their funded projects.

 

What funding can you get?

Funding varies based on:

  • The type of project
  • The country you visit
  • How long the placement will last
  • Whether you’re part of an underrepresented group

 

You can get funding to cover:

  • Travel costs of a return journey to the host country
  • Contributions to daily living costs
  • Passport and visa costs
  • Vaccinations, medical certificates and travel insurance
  • Language learning costs
  • Specialist support (for students with special educational needs)

 

Additional funding might be available for students from disadvantaged and underrepresented backgrounds, or those with special educational needs, including additional living cost contributions.

Look on your uni’s website or reach out to them to see if they have any projects available as part of the Turing Scheme.

 

Taith

Taith is Wales’ international learning exchange programme to create amazing opportunities for students in many parts of the world, open to students at Welsh universities only (again, you don’t have to be a UK national).

This can include studying, volunteering or job shadowing opportunities lasting anywhere between three days and 12 months.

As with the Turing Scheme, your university or college will have to apply for Taith funding and, once they’ve received funding, you’ll apply to your university - you can’t apply to Taith directly.

 

What funding can you get?

  • A financial contribution for placements
  • Course/training fees might be covered
  • Contributions towards living costs - the amount you get depends on where you’re travelling to and how long the programme will last
  • A travel grant, which also depends on how far the country is from the UK
  • Funding to cover the costs of travelling to the airport
  • Additional support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with additional learning needs

 

Your uni can give you more info about the specific Taith opportunities and programmes available to you.

 

What other options are there to finance studying abroad?

Scholarships, bursaries and grants

Look to make the most of the free money that’s out there in the form of scholarships, bursaries and grants, whether you’re on a year abroad or not.

There are millions of pounds available to UK students that you could get your hands on, from your university, companies, charities and other organisations.

Some additional funding is only available to students studying in the UK that year, so you might not be eligible for them on your year abroad. However, lots will be eligible to students regardless of where you’ll be studying and there will be some that are specifically created for those studying or working abroad, so make the most of all of these.

Learn more about scholarships, bursaries and grants, then get some tips on successfully applying.

 

Funding based on personal circumstances

You may be eligible for additional funding from your country’s student finance body or your university, depending on your personal circumstances. This can include:

  • Disabled Students’ Allowance
  • Support for single parents
  • Support for students who have previously been in care

 

BUTEX scholarships

BUTEX offers scholarships for undergraduate students who choose to study abroad or do an overseas work placement or internship, valued at £500 each.

To be eligible, you’ll have to study at a BUTEX Full Member organisation - see the list here.

 

Paid overseas work placements

Some year abroad work placements are paid, so it might be worth looking for one of these to help support yourself financially while you’re on your year abroad.

It’ll allow you to earn money and not worry so much about the financial side of your year abroad, all while getting valuable work experience and exposing yourself to a new culture and customs.

 

Take on additional work

You could also look to take on other work. Or maybe you get a job alongside your studies in the years before your year abroad, or in the summer before you go away, so you’ve got money saved up for what’ll be a big year.

This can include hospitality jobs and tutoring, as well as jobs on campus, such as being a student ambassador.

See our guide on best tips for how to make money as a student.

 

Studying abroad: things to consider

Do I want to miss such a great opportunity?

There aren’t many times in your life when you’ll be able to get an opportunity like the one a year abroad represents, where you can be funded to go and study or work abroad in a country of your dreams. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It can be more expensive and you might end up with a bit more student debt because of the extra year. But most students who’ve done a year abroad will tell you it was the best year of their degree, so it could definitely be worth it.

For some, the financial aspect of going abroad may not be worth the experience. Which is why you can also look into other forms of travel to satisfy that itch. You need to weigh your options and decide what's best for you.

 

Will the language be an issue?

If you want to go to a non-English speaking country, you’ll need to determine if language will be an issue. Colombia, for example, will be a lot cheaper than the USA - but you might struggle if you don’t speak much Spanish.

If you’re studying languages, that’s kind of the point, of course: you’ll be out of your comfort zone and hopefully will improve your language skills in the process! But if not, this will be a big factor determining where you travel to.

Some unis, even in non-English speaking countries, will have lectures in English - so you could look for these if you’re not comfortable with any other languages.

 

Can I afford a year abroad?

Before you commit to a year abroad, make sure you run the numbers.

Work out how much you’ve got saved up, how much support your family might be able to provide, the student loans you’d expect to get and any other sources of income, then roughly how much you expect things to cost. Lots of countries will have average living cost data, or your uni might be able to help with this.

It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to budgeting in general, but especially for a year abroad. Having money problems in your own country is one thing, but having them in a country you’re not familiar with will be a lot more stressful.

Always underestimate your income and overestimate your costs, to make sure you’ll be comfortable.

You might think about travelling to a different country instead if you think the country of your dreams might cost you too much.

 

Tips for managing your money on a year abroad

Budget, budget, budget

As with most things money, budgeting will go a long way to helping you manage your money on a year abroad.

Check out our ultimate guide to student budgeting for some help.

 

Use a bank account that doesn’t charge overseas fees

Many bank accounts will charge you fees for making transactions and withdrawing money in other countries. You might also get a bad exchange rate, meaning your money won’t go as far.

So use a bank account that doesn’t charge fees to save you from lots of costs.

You’ll have to look at the bank’s specific details to make sure your country is on their fee-free list and if there are any limits (the bank might limit how much cash you can withdraw without fees, for example).

  

 

A year abroad could be an incredible, life-changing experience for you. Definitely look into all your options to see whether a year abroad is possible.

And if you do end up spending a year studying or working in another country, make the most of all the funding options out there to fund your year abroad and help you have the most amazing, worry-free time possible.

Get Money Smart today

Unlimited access to 100s of articles, videos, and funding options.

Register for free

Latest blog posts

View all
  • How does university clearing work?

  • Student wellbeing 101: how to stay healthy and manage stress while you study

  • University textbooks - your guide to buying, selling and donating