The cost of boarding schools in England vs everywhere else

boarding schools in england
Eton College is considered one of the best boarding schools in England. Source: diamond geezer / Flickr

It’s no secret: boarding schools in England are expensive. 

Despite this, sending their children to a UK boarding school is a goal for many forward-looking parents. Much of this has to do with the UK’s quality of education, being a thought leader in the industry for decades. 

This can help students develop invaluable skills during their schooling years — ones that could set them apart at university and beyond. 

Boarding schools in England: An overview

At the moment, there are more than 500 boarding schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Maintaining a high quality of teaching, facilities and student care is regulated according to strict government standards, promising parents the best schooling experience for their child. 

More than that, boarding schools in England are known for their traditional, centuries-old architecture that represents the grandeur of a British education. Many international students dreams of attending a Hogwarts-esque boarding school — and most English institutions offer exactly that

However, what sets boarding schools in England apart from those in other countries? How much do they cost to attend? Do their fees justify the quality of education and future prospects for students?

We answer all of these questions and more.


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How much does a boarding school cost in England? 

Boarding schools in England are definitely on the more expensive end. Most boarding schools will charge between 20,000 to 30,000 British pounds per year. However, this figure will depend on your status as either a local or international student. 

For example, CATS Cambridge is a trusted boarding school with over 35 years of experience. Its’ location in Cambridge makes it attractive to international students, especially those who are seeking out educational enrichment in one of the UK’s most advanced academic hubs. 

According to its website, CATS Cambridge is charging international students £31,485 per year for tuition. 

That’s excluding the fees for accommodation. The lowest charge is £13,485 for an en-suite room in a self-catered hall. Students who want a premium en-suite room in a catered hall will be required to pay £20,460 per year. 

In this, boarding schools in England cost about as much as going to university. The British Council states that undergraduate programmes tuition fees cost around £11,400 to £38,000 per year. On average, students will have to pay around £22,200 per year. 

Accommodation fees will vary according to where the university is located. 

Wycombe Abbey is ranked the top boarding school in England. Source: Wycombe Abbey/Facebook

What is the number one boarding school in the UK?

The number one boarding school in the UK is Wycombe Abbey

Ranked first according to their A-Level results, Wycombe Abbey is an all-girls boarding school in Buckinghamshire. It’s been renowned for its academic excellence, with a curriculum that offers GSCE and A-Level examinations. Younger students are treated to a comprehensive education tackling a wide range of academic, creative and technical disciplines. 

Its boarding experience is just as well-regarded. Wycombe Abbey students live in a schooling environment that’s quaint and peaceful — perfect for their continued academic development. 

In between, they enjoy a range of co-curricular activities, benefit from a supportive and diverse community, and have plenty of opportunities for fun and relaxation. 

At the moment, fees at Wycombe Abbey are £14,700 per term for boarding students. This may differ according to the home or away status of the student. 

For boys, the number one boarding school in England is Westminster School. This institution is located in the heart of London. It prides itself on its commitment to educating students to have a love for learning and enquiry alongside their academic achievements. 

Approximately 180 students board at Westminster School every year. They take full advantage of the many programmes available outside of school — from concerts and plays to sports and lectures. Being situated in London gives students the chance to enjoy a broad array of restaurants, shops, cinemas and events in one of the greatest cultural hubs in the world. 

It costs around £45,432 per year for boarding students to attend Westminster School. Boarding students over the age of 16 will have to pay £46,341 per year. 

Westminster School is located in the heart of London. Source: Joanna Zduńczyk/Pexels

What is the most popular boarding school in the UK?

Boarding schools in England are famous for a vast number of reasons. These could be due to their academic reputation, performance in ranking tables or — most commonly — the popularity of their alumni. 

Many consider Eton College to be the most popular boarding school in the UK. To date, it has educated 20 of the UK’s 55 prime ministers, including Boris Johnson and David Cameron. Notable royals such as Prince William and Harry have also walked the halls of Eton College. 

What sets Eton College apart? Eton College prides itself on tradition, educating boys to uphold the best of British values and customs. 

Its prestigious reputation comes from a dedication to excellence across all boards. 

This includes an award-winning flagship embedded research facility, The Tony Little Centre for Innovation and Research in Learning. Here, cutting-edge research is carried out that informs the college’s teaching and learning. 

This ensures that students have access to facilities and methods of learning that they might have only encountered at university-level and onwards. It’s a great help in preparing them for life beyond school — and exposing them to best practices in their desired industries. 

Choosing the right boarding school for your child is extremely important. Source: cottonbro studio/Pexels

Are British boarding schools worth it?

British boarding schools are worth it to parents for a number of reasons. We go through this below:

1. It helps students master the English language

All boarding schools in England are primarily taught in English, with a few secondary languages offered in between. For international students who are looking to improve their language abilities, this offers a great opportunity.  

This is because English is the most widely spoken language worldwide — with 1.5 billion speakers. To succeed at university and the working world, mastering the English language is critical.

2. It increases students’ chances of getting into top universities

British boarding schools are renowned worldwide for their academic standards and quality of teaching. Most universities will recognise this — and offer top spots to graduates of these schools in response. 

According to British United Education Services, this is even more true as many boarding schools in England have a close to 100% progression rate to university. Students are often able to pursue a broad range of programmes due to the variety of subject choices available at top UK boarding schools, too.

3. Students develop self-discipline

Boarding schools in England are known for upholding tradition and structure. This is heavily reflected in the way boarding life is conducted. 

Students below the age of 18 must usually adhere to a strict schedule, where they wake up at certain times, do their own laundry, manage their extra-curricular pursuits and balance their academics with other responsibilities. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits a boarding school in British Columbia, where a makeshift memorial erected in honor of 215 deceased indigenous children. Source: Dave Chan / AFP

Boarding schools in England vs other countries

Of course, the UK is not the only option for boarding school — many countries worldwide offer excellent programmes for international students. 

How do UK boarding schools compare to those in other countries? We detail this below. 

US boarding schools: An overview

US boarding schools are rising in rank and reputation. Compared to UK boarding schools, they place less emphasis on tradition and more on modernity, allowing students to explore a wealth of opportunities and activities while they advance in their academic pursuits. 

Here’s a look into US boarding schools and how they compare to those in the UK.

How much does boarding school cost in the US?

US boarding schools are generally more expensive compared to institutions in England. 

They differ according to a range of factors, such as if they’re available to a gender, have specialised interests or are specific college prep institutions. Fees at US boarding schools will also vary as a result. 

The Army and Navy Academy, for example, is a unique military school for boys. It specifically focuses on how boys learn — providing activities and teaching approaches that are informed by how boys best absorb information. 

International and local students pay the same fees. Those in grades seven to nine are charged USD $52,800 per year, while older students in grades 10 to 12 pay $55,200. This translates to £43,114.37 and £45,074.11 respectively. 

Another popular US boarding school is Phillips Academy – Andover. As a coeducational secondary and boarding school, the institution is best known for educating some of the best and brightest in the US. 

This includes former US President George H. W. Bush, award-winning writer Julia Alvarez and Emmy-winning actress Dana Delaney. 

To attend Phillips Academy, students will be charged $69,600 for tuition — which amounts to £56,813.09. However, there are many options for financial assistance. For example, 45% of students receive financial aid. 

Comparing UK and US boarding schools to other countries

While UK and US boarding schools are among the best across the globe, they are not the only options for students. Many excellent boarding schools exist across the world. 

We compare the costs of well-ranked boarding schools in four different countries: