The United Kingdom is a highly developed country located in western Europe famous for its extensive history as the center of what was once the largest empire to ever exist. As such, the UK was (and continues to be) a hotbed of discoveries and ideas whose multifaceted global influence persists in the modern day.
The UK is the origin of many important classical theories responsible for the technology and berth of knowledge we possess today. It has set itself on stone as an irreplaceable part of the world’s timeline, as a capital of scientific enlightenment and literature. Home to a wide variety of household names from Newton and Shakespeare to The Beatles, it would be hard to find anyone whose life hadn’t been touched by even the vaguest influence of Great Britain.
True to its love of academia, the UK is amongst the most generous countries when it comes to scholarships. With a vast sea of scholarships in the United Kingdom to choose from, this article aims to narrow down and recommend the best amongst these offers.
Living Costs in the UK for International students
Living costs in the UK vary extensively across the country and it is generally accepted that these costs spike at London and the south. International students spend anywhere between £635 £1,360 for living expenses, depending on where they live. Rent can go between £400 to £700+ while groceries cost around £250 on average.
Transportation costs vary per city but passes are usually between £30 and £60, while a one-way bus ticket starts at £1.50. International students are also subject to an immigration health surcharge to give them access to the NHS. This costs ~£470/year.
Can international students work in the UK?
International students can work in the UK after six months for 20 hours per week part-time work during the term and full-time on vacations; however, with all rules come exceptions. The allotted work hours are halved (10 hours/week) for students studying in courses such as foundation or pre-sessional English while exchange students (or those who hold short-term study visas) are not allowed to work during their stay at all.
Like most countries, the UK also prohibits international students from self-employment and working in the entertainment/sports industries during their stay.
Top Universities in the UK:
Education in the UK is devolved but if there’s one thing consistent about it, it’s the overall quality you can find in every university of the UK. As a matter of fact, the UK is second only to the US when it comes to the number of universities ranking within the top 100 in the world.
Among these include the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, the Imperial College of London, and the University College London (UCL); all of which rank within the top 1-20 in the 2024 QS University World Rankings and have produced many notable alumni who went on to make some of the greatest contributions in their respective disciplines.
Best Scholarships in the UK
1. Chevening Scholarship
The Chevening Scholarship is a government-sponsored program open to prospective foreign graduate students who wish to pursue a master’s degree in the UK with the aim of helping them make positive changes as future leaders in their respective countries. This lasts one year and mandates that all scholars return to their country for 2 years at the end of their programs.
This scholarship in the United Kingdom mainly covers tuition (capped at £22,000 for MBA students) and processing fees such as TB testing, visa clearance, or travel to-and-from each scholar’s home country. It also includes a monthly stipend to help cover living expenses and lodging, which depends on the city the recipients of this award will be studying in.
2. Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships
The Commonwealth Master’s Scholarships is one of the seven scholarship and fellowship programs offered by the UK’s Commonwealth Scholarships Commission (CSC). This scholarship is open to citizens of low-mid income commonwealth countries, with the goal of enabling academic mobility for stellar international students from these countries who would otherwise not be able to afford studying in the UK.
Applicants are judged based on academic merit, the quality of their proposed studies, and the impact the commission believes they will bring towards their home country’s development.
Included in this United Kingdom scholarship is round-trip airfare to and from the UK, a tuition fee bursary, a monthly living allowance from £1,116 – £1,360, a clothing allowance, and a study travel/thesis grant. Widowed, divorced, and single-parent scholars are also eligible to apply for family allowances should they wish to bring and live with their children during their stay.
3. British Council Scholarships for Women in STEM
The British Council awards STEM scholarships to women from select countries in Asia and the Americas each year. This program was created with the goal of diversifying STEM and increasing opportunities for women in these fields, specifically aiming to boost female representation in ICT, the natural sciences, and engineering. This scholarship particularly stands out because of its 19 partnered universities, which include a handful of the best universities both in the UK and on an international scale.
This United Kingdom scholarship will cover tuition fees, a stipend amounting to at least £1,116/month, travel costs, visa fees, and the NHS surcharge. This scholarship also includes special support for mothers and English language lessons where needed. Like the Commonwealth Master’s Scholarship, recipients of this scholarship are expected to return and give back to their home countries at the end of their respective programs.
4. Clarendon Scholarship
The Clarendon is a fully-funded scholarship offered by the University of Oxford open to all upcoming graduate students who prove to be remarkable and have shown promise in their respective research fields. Unlike most scholarships, the Clarendon does not require a separate application.
All applicants who manage to apply to their respective courses by their stipulated deadlines are automatically considered for this scholarship. The chosen 130 students will be part of the Clarendon Scholars’ Association, which will then open them up to many educational and/or personal opportunities.
This scholarship comes in two types: full-time and part-time, with the differences mainly being on the type of grants they send out. Full-time scholars will be given an annual grant to subsidize living costs. As of 2024, the expected minimum amount for this scholarship in the United Kingdom is £15,609. On the other hand, part-time scholars will be given study grants which vary depending on the nature of their selected programs.
5. Rhodes Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship is another program that offers support for stellar graduates who wish to study in the University of Oxford. This scholarship in the United Kingdom is also the oldest and most prestigious international graduate scholarship in the world. This scholarship is funded by the Rhodes Trust, an organization established to provide the Rhodes Scholarships enacted through the will of Cecil John Rhodes and in partnership with many other benefactors thereafter.
This program aims to enable opportunities for meritable and well-rounded individuals by covering university fees, airfare, visa/NHS surcharges, and living expenses. The stipend for living expenses may vary but is stated to be around £17,310 for the 2024-2025 cycle.
6. Gates Cambridge Scholarship
Cambridge University offers 80 fully-funded scholarships (25 from the US, 55 from other countries) through the Gates Cambridge program every year. This program was established with the goal of fostering a lively academic community of future global leaders committed to service and excellence in mind.
The main benefits of this scholarship include the full cost of studying at Cambridge, a maintenance allowance of £17,848 per annum (as of 2024), airfare to and from the UK, as well as support for visa and NHS fees. Depending on their circumstances, scholars may also apply for family allowances, study-related funds, and emergency funds through the trust.
7. Imperial College London President’s PhD Scholarships
Standing as one of Britain’s top universities, the ICL will not lose when it comes to its efforts on bringing in some of the world’s greatest talents. Every year, the ICL opens up 50 slots for their highly competitive President’s PhD Scholarships to financially support the studies of promising researchers all over the world for up to three and a half years.
This scholarship in the United Kingdom is inclusive of a full tuition bursary, a stipend worth £21,600 per year, a maintenance fund worth £2,000, and participation in exclusive opportunities/events that come with being a President’s Scholar.