There are over 100 universities in the UK, four of which (Cambridge, Oxford, UCL and Imperial) were ranked in the world’s top ten in the QS World University Rankings 2017/18. No wonder then that the UK is the second most popular destination for international students. We’ve put together a list of important considerations that international students need to think about when planning their study in the UK.
Types of degree
In the UK, degrees are divided into two categories undergraduate (Bachelors) and postgraduate (Master and PhDs). Undergraduate degrees can be either Bachelor of Arts (BA); Bachelor of Science (BSc); Bachelor of Education (BEd); or Bachelor of engineering (BEng). Masters degrees usually last a year, but can sometimes take longer depending on the course and institution. They are divided into two types: taught courses are delivered as lectures, seminars and practical work; whereas research courses are based around independent study with less input from academics. PhDs, or doctorates, are the highest level of qualification attainable and take three years to complete if studied full time.
For undergraduate and the majority of postgraduate courses, the academic year runs from September to June. However, there are some postgraduate courses that operate under different time frames. Most institutions have three holiday periods: Christmas, Easter and summer, with the summer vacation by far the longest of the three. Some also have reading weeks throughout the year.
Choosing a university
When choosing a university there are many factors to consider. It can be useful to browse university rankings. For example, the Guardian ranks both universities and their individual departments based on different areas, such as student satisfaction, student to staff ratio, spend per student and student career prospects.
Additionally, location can also be very important. For example, cost of living is higher in London and South-East England than the rest of the country, also some areas have better transport links and are easier to access. You need to consider whether you would prefer a campus university (where the bulk of buildings are in one area) or a city university (where buildings are spread out throughout the city). Nonetheless, by far the most important factor is what the location is like to live in. Is it a big, bustling city? Or a smaller, quieter town? This will be your home while you are studying, therefore, it is vital that you choose the right place for you.
Undergraduate applications are submitted by filling out an application form and writing a personal statement using UCAS. The deadline for the majority of undergraduate courses is 15 January, however courses at Oxford, Cambridge as well as courses in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science must be applied for by 15 October.
Postgraduate applications rarely have an official deadline and it is best to apply as early as possible. Postgraduate applications are submitted directly to the university in question, more details can be found on the specific course website. The exception is teacher training courses which are applied for using UCAS Teacher Training.
Most undergraduate courses require you to have at least 3 passes at A-level or equivalent, although the exact grades required depend on the course. Postgraduate courses require an undergraduate degree. Nevertheless, the exact requirements vary greatly and if in any doubt it is best to contact the institution directly. Advice on how to meet requirements set by UK institutions can be found at UK NARIC (National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom).
As all courses in the UK are taught in English you will be required to prove your proficiency. The most widely used test is the IELTS (International English Language Testing Systems) but other tests you may come across include the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) and the Cambridge ESOL.
Fees can vary depending on institution and course, so it is important to check with the department you are applying to before you submit your application. When budgeting, you must also consider cost of living, accommodation and course materials. The majority of UK universities offer some university provided accommodation and this can be found on their respective websites. This being considered, many students choose to live in privately rented accommodation, especially after the first year of undergraduate study. As such, it may be necessary to do more extensive research into accommodation costs at your chosen institution.
There are a variety of scholarships and grants that may be available to help fund your study. Though, there are often disparities depending on institution and course, and eligibility will depend on your personal circumstances and your academic ability. Contact the international office of the institution you are applying to in order to find out more about what funding you may be eligible for.