There is a wide range of online Master’s degree programmes available from an ever-increasing number of UK universities. However, the tuition fees charged by different institutions can vary considerably. Even within the same university, the difference in tuition fees between two courses can be thousands of pounds.
Unlike undergraduate degrees, which must follow rigid government rules on student fees, universities have much more freedom to set the cost of tuition fees and the admission criteria for postgraduate qualifications. This freedom is the reason why you will find such a wide range of fees charged by higher education providers.
Having realistic expectations of the costs involved can help you plan your finances accordingly. As well as the information below, we have a range of guides outlining your options to fund your online Master’s degree.
What you should budget for when planning to take an Online Master’s
In addition to the university course fees, which make up most of the costs of obtaining an online postgraduate qualification, you should also be aware of other items and activities you need to account for when planning your budget.
Generally, you do not need to purchase any books for the required reading on an online course. Accessing all the required reading is standard via the university’s online digital library and is included in the fees. But, if you prefer to study from a book and cannot access the university’s on-campus library, you can apply for a SCONUL card to access a university library near you. Nearly all UK universities are part of the SCONUL scheme.
Courses that require specific programmes usually provide a licence as part of the course or recommend open-source options. For essays, you will need a word processing tool, and again you can easily manage with open-source options, or google docs is free when you set up a Gmail account. Once you have enrolled and have access to your university email address, you are likely to be able to get access to Microsoft office for free.
Computer and Internet
You can get a decent laptop that will be powerful enough for taking an online course from £300 to £500. If you are on a tight budget, a refurbished laptop can cost as little as £100.
You will want to have a good internet connection when you are studying. We recommend enough to handle video calls. Depending on your location, a 5G mobile phone signal, used as an internet connection for your laptop, is enough to participate and complete an online degree successfully.
Some courses have in-person components. They can be compulsory or optional, from a weekend to a week or more. Sometimes it is possible to use the university’s student accommodation if it takes place in the summer. At other times, you will need to source your own accommodation. Always check when you are applying about any in-person commitment required.
There can be an additional charge on courses with graded exams if you sit the exam at an external testing centre rather than at the university. For example, you can sit your exams locally at the Nigerian British Council centre in Lagos if you are based in Nigeria.
The fee for this exam invigilation and securely sending your finished back to the university for grading is paid directly to the exam centre by the student.
Online students attend the same graduation ceremony as their fellow on-campus counterparts. Attendance is not compulsory, but if you do attend, you will need to budget for travel, food, accommodation and hiring a gown. The costs of gown hire can vary from £25 to £75.
If you take a course with no compulsory in-person attendance and skip graduation, you can easily budget less than £1,000 to cover your laptop and materials if you do not have these already. As you can see, the tuition fee is the most significant outlay in your investment in yourself.
The average cost of a UK Master’s degree
As long as you are not planning on taking an MBA, a Fiance MSc or similar from a top-ranked business school, you can expect to come across fees of between £8,000 and £13,000 for an online master’s degree at most UK universities.
For UK residents, Student Finance England provides a master’s loan that will cover the fees for most online Master’s degrees but be aware that the total amount available is capped at £11,836.
Cheapest Online Master’s degree in the UK
While the average cost of an Online master’s degree in the UK is around the maximum amount that Student Finance England will fund, many universities offer more cost-effective tuition fees. For example, the Open University offer a wide range of Master’s degree starting at £6,750
UK universities with low online fees for the academic year 2023/24
These universities have fees starting significantly below the UK average. Students taking these affordable online courses could still apply for the maximum student loans and be able to use the funding to help with living costs whilst they study.
Teesside University £4,860
Wrexham Glyndŵr University £6,000
The Open University £6,750
Queen Margaret University £7,500
Most Expensive Online Master’s degree in the UK
At the other end of the cost spectrum are top-ranked business schools that charge tens of thousands for their online Master’s programmes. In addition to the tuition fees, some of these courses have a compulsory face-to-face component. They are generally a week or two, but the travel, accommodation, and day-to-day expenses also need to be considered, especially for international students.
UK Universities with Highest online Fees 2023/24*
Imperial University Business School Global £45,700
Alliance Manchester Business School £40,500
Bayes Business School £32,000
Warwick Business School £34,150
*These costs are for their most expensive online Master’s degrees, not the cost of all their online postgraduate courses.
What do the university’s fees cover for an online master’s degree?
The tuition fees for an online postgraduate course typically cover all teaching materials and assessments, including live sessions, lectures, dedicated one-to-one time with the tutors, and non-academic support from student services. Additionally, many universities open their career support services to their online postgraduate students.
Are online Master’s degrees cheaper?
Yes, an online master’s degree is typically more affordable than an equivalent on-campus master’s degree. Once a course has been developed and created, the ongoing running costs are much lower, and universities pass these cost saving on to their students.
Cost of Master’s degree in the UK for international students
Unlike on-campus courses, most universities have a flat fee for their online Master’s degrees. This means that there is no premium added for international students, and they pay the same fees as home students. In fact, some universities offer tuition fees reflecting purchasing price parity, Brunel University London, for example.