Fee Status and UK applications: why do you need to be aware of it?

Often when I am speaking with international students looking at the UK for university, I ask them if they know what their fee status is. Often I am met with blank looks in reply. Why is this important?

Your fee status is the code you put on your UCAS application, which tells the universities if you are student from the UK, EU or outside the EU. This changes whether you have access to UK student loans, and the overall fee that you would pay.

This matters, because at some universities the grades you need to enter a university can be different depending on the amount of money you will be paying, or indeed depending on the legal situation for that course.

One great example of this is medicine, where on most courses only 7.5% of the places can go to international students, making it even more competitive for international students than it is for those from the UK or the EU.

More widely, a great reason why students need to be aware of this difference is how university funding in Scotland differs from the rest of the UK. Students resident in Scotland pay no fees when studying at a Scottish university. At the time of writing, this also applies to students from the EU (but not those in England, Wales or Northern Ireland). As a result, Scottish universities now receive vast numbers of applications from students in the EU who, along with Scottish students, do not bring with them a significant amount of funding. To compensate for this, many Scottish universities have sought to attract ever-increasing numbers of international fee-paying students.

To flesh this out, let’s look at the fee differences at one Scottish university, the University of Glasgow. A student from Poland (in the EU) studying Engineering at Glasgow would have zero fees to pay, while one from India would pay £21,020 (for 2019-20), quite a significant difference.

This can be seen when one compares the different grades asked for by the universities for the same course.

Using Glasgow as an example, we can see that for all courses students studying the United States AP exams would be asked to 4s (out of 5) in three AP exams, something which UCAS equates to 72 UCAS points. In contrast, an A Level student (assumed to be in the UK) would need AAB, a total of 136 UCAS points. The same situation can be seen for other international qualifications: the desire to admit international fee-paying students can see lower grade equivalencies requested.

The nuances of UK fee status can therefore make a big difference in the overall strategy students can consider when applying to the UK.

UKDavid Hawkins