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What your tuition fees won’t cover

Paying up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees might seem like a lot of money, but there’s more than just the cost of teaching, lectures and seminars you’ll need to cover.

Here’s a rundown of what else you’ll need to pay for. Plus, take a look at what will be covered by your tuition fees and 10 other things you'll need to remember to budget for.


There will be core texts for all courses which you will be expected to have. The costs can vary widely from a classic novel for an English literature course which should be relatively cheap through to hefty textbooks for subjects such as law or physics.

Elena, a law student, believes she has spent over £250 on text books during her degree and Paul who studied politics and history thinks he spent around £100 a year on books.

You may be able to get some of the books second-hand from former students who don’t need them anymore but remember to check the edition (second-hand copies may no longer be up to date). Lots of unis and colleges also run buy-back schemes so can sell old books you no longer need.

Books should also be available in the library to borrow but around essay deadlines or exams, these books will be in demand.

Don't buy every book on your reading list as you definitely won't have time to read all of them! Be selective, choose the core texts and see which ones interest you the most. Emma | English Student

Course-specific equipment

Beyond basic stationery, it’s likely there will be other things you will need to buy for your course. Expenses vary from course to course – here are a few examples.


I probably easily spent more than £1,000 on material and other expenses during my degree. This paid for fabric, thread, sketchbooks, photo-shoots and other equipment. I also clubbed together with some course mates to put on a fashion show - although it wasn’t part of my final grade, it was a great opportunity to showcase my work and cost around £60 each. Claire | Fashion Graduate

Medical kit...
The four essential bits of kit I’d say medical students need to buy are: a stethoscope, which will cost around £50 (I still use this at work now!); a lab coat which will cost around £20 as well as a watch and maybe your own goggles. I probably spent over two hundred pounds on specialist textbooks for topics such as anatomy and clinical skills Lucy | Medicine Graduate

Professional tech...
Other than a few recommended texts there weren’t too many extra expenses. But in my final year I chose to specialise in radio journalism, which meant I had to buy professional recording equipment which cost over £200. It was a good investment, though – I’ve continued to use it since graduating. Simon | Journalism Graduate

Cost of printing

Universities will usually provide you with some printer credit to get you started, but once this runs out you will need to pay for your own printing and photocopying. This is usually around 5p per page to print/photocopy in black and white and 25p to print/photocopy in colour – the costs do add up.

Many students end up buying their own printer for convenience and to save money. You can get hold of a reasonable printer for about £50 but remember to factor in the often pricey cost of printer ink.

Field trips

These may or may not be covered by your tuition fees, so check if you’ll need to contribute towards any compulsory trips away. Some universities and colleges will cover more than others.

Bournemouth University, for instance, says: 'Tuition fees cover everything you need on your course, including tuition, materials, access to facilities and field trips.'

The University of Newcastle offers financial support on a sliding scale to students – from paying in full for short day trips through to paying up to £80 per night towards the cost of a longer overseas trip.


All universities and colleges will provide IT facilities so it’s possible to get by without one of your own for research, internet access and word processing. If a high spec computer is essential for your degree (if you’re studying graphic design or an IT-related degree) then it is likely you will need to spend £600+ on more specialist kit.

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    Work experience and placements

    A number of courses such as medical and teaching degrees will involve compulsory placements where you will learn on the job. Although you may have some say in where you are placed there is no guarantee it will be nearby and the cost of daily travel can add up quickly even if you can get there by bus or train (especially for medical students working shifts, where you might need your own transport). And remember you’re likely to still pay tuition fees during your placement year.

    Placements aren’t compulsory on other courses, but employers look favourably on students with some experience in their chosen field so many students choose to do work experience during holidays. Some employers pay; others will cover reasonable expenses such as travel from within the local area and lunch.

    Other ‘hidden’ costs

    There are many other costs not included in your fees that you may be surprised at. Research from the National Union of Students (NUS) shows that some university and college courses won’t include extras such as membership of specialist associations, entrance into professionally accredited exams, taking resists and CRB checks in their fees.

    And everything else…

    Then of course there are all the other day-to-day living costs that make up your expenses - including accommodation, food, toiletries, clothing, day-to-day travel and entertainment. While your tuition fee loan will cover your fees, the maintenance element of your student loan is designed to help you cover other costs.


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