After paying the second half of my tuition fees, it’s fair to say that money has been on my mind a lot this week. One of the reasons that I chose to come to the UK for grad school was the cost. Higher education in the US is infamously expensive and, unlike my undergrad degree, I would be taking on the price of grad school entirely myself. Even factoring in the exchange rates, the cost of a UK MSc was still far less than one from back home. Pretty much a no-brainer to study here, right? However, as an international student, choosing to pursue a master’s degree at Imperial rather than another UK university has been its own financial challenge. Warning: strong financial feelings ahead.
How does Imperial stack up?
There’s no way to get around it: Imperial is expensive. My roommate, an international MSc student studying at another London university, paid around £16,000 in tuition. Admittedly, her subject area is different than mine. On the other hand, programs in my desired field of climate change policy at UCL and King’s, cost around the same: £16,000. At Imperial however, the international tuition for my chosen program was £26,500. Obviously the fact that I am writing this blog is proof enough of my decision, but I had to do some serious cost-benefit analysis to determine if attending Imperial would be worth it.
If only not eating avocados could solve this
While I was able to afford the cost of attending Imperial, my financial frustrations have been compounded by the dubiously helpful advice on display. If you visit any university website you will be faced with pages with cheery titles such as “How to Manage Your Money” or “Tips for Saving as a Student!!” and Imperial is no different. Don’t get me wrong, managing money is an invaluable life skill and I am always keen to see tips from other students about things such as where to see cheap performances or get discounted travel.
However, this type of peppy budgeting advice rings utterly false in the face of such a large tuition difference as the one between Imperial and its peer institutions. No matter how well you budget, preparing meals at home, shopping at discount stores, or even passing on nights out with friends can simply not make up £10,000. Adding insult to injury, even paying tuition in instalments cost money, since Imperial adds a charge for the ‘privilege’ (many other schools, for the record, do not do this).
What’s another 10k?
For the record, I have greatly enjoyed my time at Imperial so far. My classes have been truly broadened my perspective on environmental problem-solving and I deeply value the relationships I’ve built with my fellow students (shoutouts to Aaliya and Payal if for some reason you’re reading this). But I am concerned to hear that Imperial is considering raising tuition for international students to £35,000. This amounts to a staggering increase from an already-high sum. If this ends up being the case, I would be hesitant to recommend Imperial as a reasonable option for international postgraduate students. Of course, every perspective student must consider their individual situation; however, in my view, while prestige is all well and good, tuition talks quite loudly indeed.