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Funding and Scholarships for International Students

If you are planning to study abroad as an international student, you will need to make sure that you can afford the tuition fees and living costs. In some countries your tuition fees can be considerably higher than those for home students. You might also be required to prove that you have sufficient funds in order to obtain a student visa to study in certain countries.

To understand what type of funding you need, as well as how much financial support you will require, it is useful to know what you would like to study and where. These are things that will impact the cost of your tuition fees and living costs. For instance, if you are looking to study for a medicine or veterinary degree, this will be more expensive than other courses. The length of your studies will also have an impact on costs, as will the country you wish to study in – certain European countries are less expensive for international students than the USA, for example.

Thinking about how you will finance your higher education can be a stressful process, but there are many options that could help you to fund your studies. 

Listed below we have identified some of the most common funding options available to you as an international student for your further research, this is for information purposes only and is not intended to be financial advice.

Main routes to funding

Self and family funding

Depending on their financial situation, your family may be able to help fund your studies. They might have been saving for your higher education, or be able to access a loan to make further study affordable and accessible to you. 

If you think that your family might be able offer financial assistance, have a conversation with them to see what your options are. If this is not a reality for you, there are other options and opportunities to gain financial help with your studies.

Government student loans

If self-funding is not an option for you, you could explore government student loans for international students. You may be able to access a loan from your home country’s government, or from the government of the country you are looking to study in. To gain a government loan you may have to meet certain criteria, such as language requirements or study level requirements, so it is worth checking these before you apply for a place at university or for your loan.

It is important to remember that loans need to be repaid. Before you take a loan out, you should make sure that you will be able to repay the loan, as there are consequences to late or missed payments. However, government loans are usually more lenient than personal bank loans, and their repayment plans and stipulations tend to be set up with students in mind.

Personal student loans

Another option for international students who need to access financial assistance is to take out a personal student loan. Personal loans might be available from your bank, or from loan companies in your home country. Whilst taking out a personal loan might seem like the ideal answer to funding your studies, you need to understand the terms and conditions of your loan. The repayment plans for personal and non-study specific loans can be less forgiving, and the consequences of missing a payment can be harsher. It is not recommended that you take out a loan if you are not confident that you can repay the full amount, plus any interest that may also be added.

When you are looking at different student loans, you should compare them to see which works the best for you. Things to consider are repayment plans, the terms and conditions around repayments (what are the consequences for missing payments, will they offer help if your financial situation changes), and the interest that is added to your repayments.


If self-funding or loans are not an option for you, you may be eligible for a scholarship. Scholarships, also known as bursaries and grants, don’t normally need to be repaid, and are offered by a variety of different places. These can include governments, institutions, charities and businesses.

Scholarships come in different forms, some are full and some are partial. A full scholarship should cover all of your study costs, and some may also extend to your living expenses. Partial scholarships might cover only some of your tuition fees, or only include study material, for example.

Scholarships tend to have a tougher criteria than loans, so you should make sure that you thoroughly check your eligibility before you apply. You will find more information about the different types of scholarships below.

Types of Scholarships


Academic scholarships are normally awarded to students who have displayed academic excellence in their previous studies. They may be subject specific or generic. Academic excellence doesn’t always mean gaining the absolute highest or best grades, it can simply mean reaching a certain standard that shows that you are a committed student. Other things that may help you to gain a scholarship are extracurricular activities that you participate in, and your future plans related to your study area.


If you are from a background that may restrict your access to higher education, or come from an underrepresented population in higher education, you may be able to apply for a mobility scholarship. These scholarships can assist you with your tuition fees or living expenses, making higher education more accessible and affordable. Sometimes these scholarships can be based on how much your parents earn, or if you can afford to access higher education without financial assistance. If you are eligible for other types of financial aid, you may not be eligible for a mobility scholarship.


If you are a talented student athlete, an institution may offer you a scholarship to help you with tuition fees or living expenses. This is normally on the condition that you will continue to compete in your sport whilst studying at university. There may be more specific requirements at different institutions, for example competing at a certain level, gaining certain accolades, and maintaining an academic standard.

This type of scholarship can also apply to other extracurricular areas, such as music or performing arts. If you are talented and performing at a high level in one of these areas, you may also be eligible for a scholarship.

Equal Access

An increasing number of institutions and agencies are offering scholarships to refugees and asylum seekers who have fled their home country to avoid persecution. This increases the accessibility to higher education for students who may have no other way to further their education.

Eligibility usually depends on your immigration status, and you may not qualify if you have access to other forms of financial assistance.

Find out more about studying abroad and applying to universities as an international student by signing up to our newsletter.

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