The United Kingdom is a popular choice of students from around the world looking for high-quality educational experiences. From ancient institutions such as Oxford University and the University of St Andrews to cutting-edge, modern universities like the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester – the UK has options for every preference and interest.
Choosing to study at university is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life, so you will want to carefully research and consider the available options. This article will outline common questions and concerns from international student applicants.
Why should I study in the UK?
The UK has some of the top-ranked, oldest, and most prestigious universities in the world. A British university degree will be well-regarded by potential future employers, provide extensive networking opportunities, and help your career take off successfully. Studying in the UK will provide you with a cost-effective, world-class education combined with the chance to make lifelong friends and connections from around the world.
How do I choose a British university?
Each British university has its individual strengths and weaknesses, depending on your desired course and personal preferences. Your choice of a British university could be influenced by many factors such as university ranking, course curriculum, cost of living and tuition fees, preferences over big cities versus small towns and more rural locations, and much more.
To start this process, you should first consider what you would like to study at university. Certain universities have strengths in specific courses, whereas others have strengths overall in all subjects. Consulting ranking tables including the Times Higher Education or QS World University Rankings can provide vital insight into areas of importance such as course quality, student satisfaction, and international reputation.
Alternatively, you may have a certain location in mind such as bustling cities like London or Glasgow, or a small university town like St Andrews or Durham. You may seek to apply to universities based on these qualities, as the location of a university and your personal preferences will drastically impact your experience as an international student.
Finally, you should keep in mind important factors such as the cost of living and the percentage of international students at a given university. Large cities will prove more expensive for prices such as rent, groceries, and entertainment, whereas small towns will cost considerably less but have fewer options. Some universities are renowned for diverse populations of international students where you may be able to get involved in student groups to speak your own language or celebrate cultural festivals. However, other universities may have fewer numbers of international students and allow you to more fully integrate into the domestic student population. These are all key factors that you should consider when choosing the right British university for your preferences, interests, and financial situation.
Will my qualifications from a British university transfer anywhere in the world?
The UK is a globally desirable destination for a university degree due to the broad applicability of its degrees around the world. A degree in most subjects from any British university will be a selling point if you choose to return to your native country after your studies or to move to another country after graduation. There are some specialist degrees such as Law or Medicine that have strict requirements regarding qualification in individual jurisdictions or healthcare systems, so you will want to research whether or not your specific British university degree would transfer to anywhere in the world.
How much does a British degree cost?
The fees for a degree at a British university will vary drastically depending on the level of study, the length of the course, and the university of your choice. Depending on your country of nationality, a British degree could be more or less expensive than studying domestically.
Undergraduate degrees in the UK are generally three or four years in length, with the exception of medical degrees. International students could pay between £10,000 and £26,000 per year for tuition fees. Medical degrees generally cost most than this amount per year. You will additionally need to factor in the cost of living when considering these tuition fees.
Postgraduate Master’s degrees in the UK are generally one year long, and PhD degrees can be between three and four years in length. International students will pay widely varying amounts for these degrees and may be able to find scholarships to assist with costs. You will additionally need to factor in the cost of living when considering these tuition fees.
You should consult the websites of individual British universities to find specific information on tuition fee prices for international students. You may also consider contacting the international student offices at individual universities with specific questions about international tuition fee status. Finally, consult with your university of choice to discuss potential scholarship and bursary opportunities available to international students.
Will I need a visa?
For students on courses longer than 6 months, you will need to successfully apply for and be granted a Student Visa. This visa must be accepted in order to study in the UK. After accepting an offer for a course, your university will issue an electronic document known as a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This CAS document is required to lodge a Student Visa application with the Home Office. Your university will advise you on how to apply for your Student Visa.
Can I stay in the UK after graduating from a British university?
As of July 2021, the UK will reinstate a post-study work visa known as the Graduate Route. This visa route will permit international students who have successfully completed an undergraduate degree or above to work or seek work for a two year period. This period is extended to three years for Doctoral students.
The Graduate Route will not require visa sponsorship, minimum salary requirements, or the necessity to stay with a single job within the two year period. While this visa route does not lead to permanent residence, visa holders can switch to a different visa route such as the Skilled Worker visa at the end of the two year period if able to gain sponsored work with a UK employer. As the Graduate Route has not yet entered into force, updates are likely to arise. You should be sure to check the most recent government guidance if this option proves of interest to you during your studies in the UK.
What is the culture like in the UK?
The UK has an ancient, diverse, rich culture dating back thousands of years. Cultural influences from the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland make up the culture of the UK, as well as the rich contributions brought to the country by the Commonwealth of Nations immigrant communities, and cultural exchanges from around the world. British culture is influenced by areas such as language, religion, politics, sport, the arts, and much more.
English is the predominant language in the UK both spoken and written, though cities are full of dozens of languages in communities and universities. Seven additional languages are recognised by the British Government – Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Cornish, Irish, Ulster-Scots, and British Sign Language. Native minority languages including Welsh and Scottish Gaelic are actively taught in schools and encouraged to be used as part of cultural revival movements.
The UK is an officially Protestant Christian nation, dating back to the 16th century. The current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, serves as the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
However, religious diversity and tolerance are societally important and taught in schools from a young age. There are large Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, and Hindu communities throughout the UK, with religious celebrations and holy days represented in university groups.
The British political system is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch. Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned as monarch and Head of State since 1952, has a primarily ceremonial yet highly involved role in the British government. In addition to the executive Central Government and Parliament headquartered in the London area of Westminster, there are devolved governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland with their own executives, parliaments, and judiciaries. British politics are a common topic of discussion in newspapers, on the radio, and in daily life.
Globally enjoyed sports such as football, golf, and tennis were all created in the UK. Football is enjoyed on a weekly basis in pubs and living rooms alike throughout the country, and it is common for favourite football teams to be celebrated in local cities and regions. Golf was invented in Scotland and courses throughout the country are considered pilgrimages to devotees of the sport from around the world. Tennis is a more recent, 19th-century British invention from the city of Birmingham. The prestigious Championships matches are held annually at the grass courts in Wimbledon, bringing together fans of the sport for the past 144 years.
The arts hold great importance in British culture. Some of the most celebrated English language writers such as William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens wrote their finest works in the UK. Musicians and bands such as The Beatles, Adele, and The Rolling Stones hail from Britain and have heavily influenced popular music. Musical events such as the BBC Proms and Glastonbury Festival are enshrined in the annual arts diary.
The UK is truly one of the great cultural capitals of the world. If you choose to undertake a degree at a British university, there will be unlimited opportunities to experience the unique and rich culture present in the country.
What is the food like in the UK?
Contrary to popular opinion, food in the UK is more diverse than ever before. Options will vary drastically throughout the country and depending upon the demographics of each location. Traditional British cuisine broadly includes famous dishes such as fish and chips, full breakfasts, Sunday roast dinners, bangers and mash, and home-baked goods. British cuisine also differs amongst the nations of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland and can offer regional delicacies such as Cornish pasties, Cullen skink soup, Welsh rarebit, and boxty. It has been highly influenced by immigrant communities and cultural exchanges, with Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Italian, and French foods and recipes common on daily menus.
In cities and towns, you will have your pick amongst supermarkets, independent food shops, restaurants, and takeaways of all cuisines and cultures. The UK additionally has excellent options for those with special dietary needs such as vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free options. Shops carry and clearly mark food items that meet these dietary requirements and commonly carry products that adhere to Islamic and Jewish dietary laws. If you choose to study in the UK, you will have no lack of choice for food, restaurants, and cuisine options throughout the country.
How can I access healthcare in the UK as an international student?
Healthcare in the UK is free at the point of use through the National Health Service (NHS) for permanent residents and citizens in the UK. All international students in the UK on a course that lasts longer than 6 months will be required to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee to access the NHS.
As part of your Student Visa application, you will be required to pay the IHS fee – for Student Visas, this currently costs £470 per year. You must pay the full fee upfront for your degree. If your course includes part of a year that is less than 6 months, you will need to pay £235 for the partial year. If your course includes part of a year that is more than 6 months, you will need to pay £470 for the full year. Please note that the IHS fee can be refunded if your Student Visa application is refused.
By paying the IHS fee, you will have access to 24/7 emergency healthcare and can register with a GP to access non-emergency care and request prescription medications. In England, you will have to pay £9.35 per item for some prescriptions. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free.
If you want more options for healthcare providers or want to undertake elective procedures without long waitlists, you can choose to pay for private health insurance. However, you would need to pay for this private health insurance in addition to the IHS fee – you cannot avoid paying the IHS fee due to possessing alternative healthcare coverage.
What is travel and transport like in the UK?
The UK has an excellent system of public transport and travel options throughout the country. Many international students choose to take advantage of their time in the UK by travelling to cities, towns, and locations of natural beauty.
The UK has long maintained an extensive passenger rail transport system for public use. Train travel is a comfortable and exciting way to explore the UK. There are 2,563 train stations throughout the UK, making it possible to take a train from cities to more remote locations with ease. As a student, you can purchase an annual railcard to defray the costs of train travel.
Public transit is additionally a popular method of travel in the UK throughout local regional areas. There are rapid transit systems (also known as subways or metros) in the large cities of London, Newcastle upon Tyne, Glasgow, and Liverpool. These public transit systems are fast and relatively inexpensive options, as compared to taxis or driving in a busy city. Additionally, buses are a cost-effective and sustainable option to travel throughout the country or in your own local city or town.
Finally, car culture is important in the UK, with many individuals choosing to own or rent cars as a method of transport. The national motorway system allows you to rapidly drive across the country in any direction you want to travel. Unlike many countries in the world, please note that the UK drives on the left side of the road. As a student at a British university, you may be able to obtain a UK driving licence or to use your own national driving licence for a limited period of time without penalty.
What is the weather like in the UK?
The weather in the UK is generally mild and temperate, though the conditions can change multiple times in a day. You will experience the full four seasons in the UK as a student. Cities and towns on the west coast are rainier, whereas in-land locations are generally drier. Though the UK is known for being rainy and cold, it frequently experiences warm and sunny weather, particularly in the spring and summer months.
Why study in the UK? FAQs
What is student life like in the UK?
Student life in the UK is generally focused on a healthy balance between academics, extracurriculars, and personal growth opportunities. You will be encouraged to study hard and experience fun opportunities that come your way in order to blossom into a well-rounded individual. Overall, your student experience will depend on your choice of university so it is important to choose your degree carefully and wisely.
What are the living costs in the UK for a student?
The living costs in the UK for students range broadly depending upon the location of your university. Large cities such as London have some of the most expensive costs of living in the world, whereas smaller cities and towns can be fairly standard as compared to other countries. Your individual university will provide information on how to budget and plan for financial costs such as accommodation, clothing, food, transportation, and entertainment.
Is the UK good for international students?
The UK is a top destination for international students from around the globe due to the prestige of its universities, the global recognition of its degree programmes, and countless cultural opportunities available to students. If you are considering undertaking educational opportunities outside of your native country, you should consider applying to a British university.