The information below refers to overseas students from areas outside the European Economic Area. The cost of studying in the UK is very high and only possible for most international students if they obtain funding from their home country government or employer before they begin their studies.
It is extremely difficult to secure funding for overseas students who are already studying in the UK. The vast majority of trusts and charities will only be able to offer help in cases of exceptional circumstances and usually towards the end of a course.
EGAS does not provide an advice service to overseas students who are making contact from their country of origin.
Information on funding
Perspective students should initially contact their own Ministry of Education who will have details of any scholarship schemes which may be available and will also be able to advise on their government's own conditions for studying abroad.
Most scholarships for overseas students studying in the UK are funded by the British Government for postgraduate study and are paid to another government for its students, either directly or indirectly through organisations such as the British Council. The British Council office in the student's home country should have details of scholarship schemes and be able to give advice about course availability. If there is no British Council office, students can contact the nearest British Embassy or High Commission. Please note that students are only eligible to apply for scholarships whilst still in their own country. Students already in the UK are rarely considered.
Scholarships are highly sought after, and students will need to apply up to one year in advance of the start of the course. It is important that the scholarship meets the student's needs, as it is unlikely that they will be able to change course or extend the scholarship once it has started. The student will also need to check the terms of the scholarship as some of them are only 'partial' and will not meet the full costs of living in Britain, especially if the student intends to bring their family with them.
Students should check with the British Council on the current cost of living and with the intended institution on local costs, such as travel and accommodation. Once in the UK, additional funding is very difficult to find. Most charities and trusts are unable to assist overseas students and full-time students who are not eligible for state benefits.
The Immigration and Nationality Department will only agree to grant visas to overseas students if the student is able to show that they are able to support themselves financially throughout their period of study without recourse to public funds.
Currently, "public funds" include: Income Support, Housing Benefit, Working Families Tax Credit, Council Tax Benefit, Attendance Allowance, Severe Disability Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Disability Living Allowance, Child Benefit, Jobseeker's Allowance, Invalid Care Allowance, Disabled Person’s Tax Credit, Council Housing or Housing for Homeless People. It is important that overseas students do not apply for any of the above as it could place in jeopardy their status in Britain.
In emergencies, however, overseas students can claim short-term help, usually for a maximum period of 42 days, by way of urgent cases payment from the local Benefits Agency.
Urgent cases payment
These are payments of income support/jobseeker’s allowance at a reduced rate. The claim will only be possible if the student has previously supported themselves without recourse to public funds and the reason they have no money is temporary, for instance because remittances from abroad have been disrupted and the student expects funds from abroad to resume. While having recourse to ‘public funds’ could jeopardise an overseas student’s status, claiming income support or jobseeker’s allowance urgent cases payments, however, would not necessarily do so.
Working in Britain
There are two types of overseas student visas. One places a ‘prohibition’ on employment, and students with such visas are not allowed to work during their stay. The other places a ‘restriction’ on employment. A full-time overseas student on a course of more than six months with an employment prohibition could however apply to the Immigration and Nationality Department to have the prohibition changed to a restriction.
Overseas students with employment restriction are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during term-time and any number of hours during vacations.
While generally an overseas student cannot refer to earnings from part-time or vacation work here in the UK as a source of financial support in respect of an immigration application, this can be taken into account when assessing whether the student can meet their expenses in the UK if the student is studying at a publicly funded institution and the students’ institution provides and guarantee the employment and has provided details of how much the student will earn.
Although an overseas student is not legally required to have a national insurance (NI) number before starting work, a student will need to have found a job before they will be able to apply for an NI number. Application for this has to be made at the local Benefits Agency office and the student would be required to produce a letter from their employer confirming the job, their passport and perhaps some other form of identification. It can take up to 16 weeks before the student receives their NI number. In the interim period a letter confirming that the student has applied for an NI number can be shown to the employer.
Overseas students and their Dependants
A student can bring a spouse or children if under the age of 18 with them to the UK on the same student visa. The spouse may arrive at a later date than the student, but in any case can only remain in the UK so long as the student remains as an overseas student.
Where a spouse or dependant under the age of 18 joins a student in the UK they will be free to work if the student has been granted leave to enter/remain for one year or more.
On financial support: Department for Education and Skills (DfES), European Team, Student Support Division, 2F Area B, Mowden Hall, Darlington DL3 9BG Tel.: 01325 391 199.
For advice to asylum seekers, those with exceptional leave to remain or those with full refugee status: World University Service (UK), 14 Dufferin Street, London EC1Y 8PD Tel.: 020 7426 5801
The Refugee Council, 3 Bondway, London SW8 1SJ Tel.: 020 7820 3000.
For general advice on scholarships: British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN Tel.: 020 7930 8466.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office FCO Cultural Relations Department, King Charles Street, WH537, London SW1A 2AH Tel.: 020 7270 1500.
For further general advice on study in Britain: UKCOSA: The Council for International Education, 9-17 St. Albans Place, London N1 ONX