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UK: upfront costs ‘too high’ as NHS surcharge rises

The Immigration Health Surcharge for students applying to study in the UK is set to rise by 66% when it increases from £470 to £776 for students on February 6.

The Immigration Health Surcharge for students applying to study in the UK will increase from 6 February 2024. Image: Pexels

Total upfront immigration costs in the UK were higher than those in many other countries

The increase will affect all visa routes where the IHS fee is charged. The IHS cost when progressing from the Graduate Route to Skilled Worker visa will be the full adult fee of £1,035.

The increase follows a further 20% rise in the cost of priority visas, study visas and certificates of sponsorship that came into force in October 2023.

The PIE spoke to recent graduates about the NHS surcharge and the rising cost of application for students wanting to access the UK.

Yash Nag, who graduated from Loughborough University in 2022 and operates a mentoring service, College Grads, alongside his full-time employment, explained how international students pay a high price for services they may never use.

“I appreciate that there [have been] political statements about the NHS being overburdened because of the legal migration, with all the students that have come [to the UK],” he said.

“But I think [people] are forgetting that international students who have come to the UK, now pay a grand almost in NHS fees and most of them don’t even use these NHS services. I know quite a few people haven’t even registered with the NHS, which I think people forget.”

Nag goes on to highlight his feeling that the government is “blaming everything on [international] students” in order to justify policy changes and fee increases.

This sense of injustice comes from the high price of accessing education compared to domestic peers. “The domestic students only pay £9,250 a year because we, the international students, are paying thrice the fees,” he pointed out.

International students also pay taxes while working, IHS, visa and even biometric permit fees, while domestic students on the other hand, can access public funds for tuition and maintenance – “and there is no check on that”, said Nag.

Vicky Fernandes, another recent graduate who spoke to The PIE, said that the fee increases were “too high” especially for students planning to progress quickly from the Graduate Route visa to the Skilled Worker route with a sponsoring company.

The hidden costs of studying in the UK, namely those beyond the advertised tuition fees, are stacking up with many students suffering from fluctuating exchange rates from their home currency.

Even the cost of IELTS language testing increased significantly in 2023. The test’s owner IDP Education reported a record number of test-takers along with record revenue that year although testing revenue fell by 5% in India.

Also the possibility of visa rejections, sometimes relating to simple administrative errors, can result in lost fees that are required at the point of sale of making an application.

Nag explained that while students are willing to absorb the high cost of application to access the quality of education in the UK, the current uncertainty around the review of the Graduate Route and salary thresholds, has meant that the financial commitment is too risky at this moment.

“Now we are a bit reluctant, what if the [post study work] rule changes?”

“I don’t even have to look that far,” explained Nag. “My brother graduates with his bachelor’s degree in India this summer and we have been applying for British universities for September 2024 start.

“Now we are a bit reluctant, what if the [post study work] rule changes? There are few policies that might change and I think it is now a very big risk for any student, especially if the rules change once they’ve landed in the UK, because they won’t be able to get their fees back or even return home straight away.”

According to a 2021 report by Fragomen LLP that was commissioned by the Royal Society, total upfront immigration costs in the UK were higher than those in many other countries, including Canada, Germany, France and the US, even at pre-pandemic levels.

Some British universities have been reporting sharp falls in international student numbers from key source markets, with former universities minister Jo Johnson saying some markets are now in “negative growth”.

Speaking to The PIE about changes in policy such as the IHS increase he said, “All of the changes are having a big effect. I think the sector needs to make a very clear case to the government that further changes should wait until we can see the full impact of the next round of recruitment.”

How much do students pay in total administrative costs to access UK education? Do you think this is fair and is it contributing to a decline in interest for the UK? Have your say in the comments below or by emailing

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One Response to UK: upfront costs ‘too high’ as NHS surcharge rises

  1. When was the last time any of us in the UK had face to face access to a doctor? be it at GP level or hospital? how long is your wait ? or has everybody been put on the triage systme in the country like me where the receptionist decides whether your issue is worth ‘wasting’ the doctors time over.

    it would have been worth defending as an international agent if the service we get corresponded. But, after a 6 hour wait at the AE following a hip pain during the recent studyworld event in london, I was sent home with a letter to gp and some painkillers! This increase is really tragic considering you can get a pack of paracetamols for 1.99 from your local petrol station any time of the day and save yourself hours of agro! I always recommend my students to opt for privatei nsuracne where they can as NHS is totally meaningless for them. It should be optional, where the students buys a ocmprehensive coverage he/she should be allowed to be exempt.

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