What makes it an ideal choice for many international students is its vibrant and multicultural society. Different world religions and diverse ethnic and cultural groups are already represented. As so, the population is highly cosmopolitan and accepting of new cultures. At the same time, international students will easily find communities with ties to their home countries.
As of the 2018-19 school year, 485,645 international students call the UK home. Two-thirds of this are from outside the European Union.
Despite its many draws, the number one reason why the UK is the first choice for international students is still academic excellence. The top-notch reputation of its universities and colleges are recognized worldwide. In the 2019 World University Rankings for Times Higher Education, three of the top 10 universities are British.
With that in mind, international students rest assured that their UK education will open up a multitude of career opportunities and will give them a leg up in reaching their dream.
Countries that Make Up the UK
- Northern Ireland
The UK is not one country, but a union of four: England, Wales, and Scotland, which make up the landmass of Great Britain, and, last to be added into the union and geographically separated by the North Channel, Northern Ireland. Thus, the country’s formal name is “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Perhaps the most popular place in the whole of the UK is London. It is the capital city and the cultural seat of power. Aside from London, England’s other major cities are Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham. Cardiff and Swansea are located in Wales. Scotland’s major cities are Edinburgh and Glasglow, while Belfast and Londonderry are found in Northern Ireland.
Why Study in the UK?
Climate and Weather
Much has been said about the supposedly “gloomy” London weather, but the UK actually has a lovely temperate climate, thanks to its great geographical location. Cool, wet winters or warm, wet summers – the same scenario plays out in different parts of the country. The southeast part of the UK also experiences warm, dry summers and cold, dry winters.
The UK enjoys four seasons. A lovely spring runs from March to May. Summer starts in June until August. It is generally warm and sunny, with some thunderstorms spread out in the central, eastern, and southern parts of England. This also holds true for Scotland and Wales. .
The hottest summer temperatures are mostly experienced in London and other parts of southeast England. Autumn in the UK is from September to November. The climate during this time is very unpredictable. It can be warm or cold, then stormy next.
Winters are from December to February. Rain is a more common occurrence than snow in most parts of the UK. The Pennine Hills in England and the Scottish Highlands experience the most significant amount of snowfall.
Quality of Life
International students will find the UK convenient, safe, and enjoyable. It ranks above average in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Better Life Index in comparison with all other countries. The UK does well in the following factors of consideration:
- Environmental quality
- Health status
- Income and wealth
- Personal security
- Social connections
- Overall wellbeing
The UK also ranked fifth among European countries on the quality of life (Uswitch study).
The cost of living in the UK is rather high. London, in particular, ranks 19th worldwide for the most expensive cities for expatriates. This is based on the 2020 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. Nevertheless, the cost of living across the UK varies greatly. International students will find less costly alternatives outside London.
Academic Excellence Ranking
The UK is regarded as one of the best study destinations for higher education. Every year, nearly 500 thousand international students choose to matriculate in British universities and colleges, many of which are considered the best in the world.
These are the UK institutions that made it into the Top 50 2021 QS World University Rankings.
- University of Oxford (5th)
- University of Cambridge (7th)
- Imperial College London (8th)
- UCL, formerly University College London (10th)
- University of Edinburgh (20th)
- University of Manchester 27th)
- King’s College London (31st)
- London School of Economics and Political Science (49th)
Below are the top higher learning institutions per city:
- London – UCL (formerly University College London), Imperial College London, King’s College London, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Queen Mary University of London
- Oxford – University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes University
- Manchester – University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University
- Liverpool – University of Liverpool
- Warwick – University of Warwick
- Brighton – University of Sussex
- Exeter – University of Exeter
- Leeds – University of Leeds
- Cambridge – University of Cambridge
- Bristol – University of Bristol
- Coventry – Coventry University
- Nottingham – University of Nottingham
- Sheffield – University of Sheffield
- Birmingham – University of Birmingham
- Southampton – University of Southampton
- Edinburgh – University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt University, SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College)
- Glasgow – University of Glasgow, Glasgow Caledonian University
- Belfast – Queen’s University
- Swansea – Swansea University
- Cardiff – Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Safety and Security
With a relatively low crime rate, the United Kingdom is a safe and secure place to live in. Most universities in the UK also have 24-hour on-campus security. International students will feel protected with its high-rated and trusted police force.
Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea for expats to observe caution and to be mindful of their surroundings. Be sure to have your identification with you wherever you go and to have copies of important documents on hand while storing the original in a secure place.
The UK is steeped in history and tradition, but it’s also a melting-pot of world cultures. International students will enjoy the energy and the excitement of living in a progressive society where they can mingle and express themselves freely.
The main religion in the UK is Christianity. It makes up half of the nation’s religious population. There are also different practising members of other religions such as:
- Islam: 2.5 per cent
- Hindu: 0.7 per cent
- Judaism: 0.6 per cent
- Sikh: 0.3 per cent
- Buddhism: 0.6 per cent
- Other non-Christian religions: 1.5 per cent
The main language and medium of instruction in all institutions in the UK is English, specifically Oxford English and also known as the Queen’s English or Received Pronunciation. Nonetheless, in Wales, the Welsh language is still heavily spoken.
It’s interesting to note that the UK has almost 40 English dialects spread out in different areas. Popular dialects spoken are Cockney, Brummy, Scouser, Mancunian, and West Country.
- The UK ranks 5th in Europe in the Uswitch study for quality of life
- The UK ranks 4th in the top 10 countries for international students, according to the Best Colleges website.
- The University of Oxford ranks 5th in the 2021 World University Rankings
- The UK ranks 6th in the top 10 countries with the most well-developed public health care systems
- The UK is home to the top universities that offer Politics and International Studies
- Aircraft pilots and flight engineers are top paid jobs in the UK with an average of £92,330
- Students can choose to start their school year in January, instead of waiting for September
- Boxing, golf, cricket, soccer, and rugby all came from the UK
Work While Studying
One of the top benefits of an international student in the UK compared to other countries is that they’re allowed to work for up to 20 a week during term. Most countries’ student visas do not allow for any sort of formal employment.
On holiday breaks, there’s no cap to the working hours allowed for international students. They can work full time. In bigger cities such as London, international students find it convenient to secure part-time jobs. There is also an option to work in-campus depending on the university or college a student is enrolled in.
There are limitations and restrictions on the type of work international students can take on. They cannot be hired as a sports coach or a professional athlete. It is also not allowed for them to be self-employed or to put up a business.
After completing a course or program, international students may stay and work in the UK for up to two years. PhD graduates can work for up to three years.
The UK is an exciting place, with no shortage of things to do and places to visit. International students will have a wide variety of options for recreation.
Some examples are watching sports events, attending music festivals, nature tripping, cinema watching, going to museums, attending art shows, reading in public libraries, and having picnics in any of the UK’s numerous parks.
Football is also very popular in the UK. International students can also try out cricket, rugby, and tennis. For those who love water sports, there is sailing and rowing. In winter, skiing and snowboarding spots are easily accessible.
Applying to study in the UK is a straightforward and painless process, so long as you meet all the prerequisites and submit all the requirements.
This is why before going through the process of applying to schools in the UK, an aspiring international student must ascertain that they meet the prerequisites.
The most basic of all requirements is competency in the English language. The aspiring student must take an IELTS exam in their home country and meet the specific score required by the program of their choice.
In some circumstances, an IELTS exam may be waived. This is a case to case basis and will largely depend on the school one is applying to.
Another prerequisite for higher education in the UK is that they must have completed at least 13 years of education in their home country.
Once all these requirements are met, narrow down the schools and the programs you wish to apply to. It’s always a good idea to have “safety schools” just in case your first choice doesn’t pan out.
Get in touch with these schools and submit all the necessary document and application forms. If all goes well, you will be given a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which you will need when applying for a student visa.
Student Visa Application
The first step to applying for a student visa is ascertaining if you are eligible and providing the necessary supporting documents to prove eligibility.
You need to be more than 15 years old to apply for a student visa. Additionally, you must provide proof by way of official bank statements that you are financially capable of shouldering the education and cost of living expenses.
Aside from the age and financial requirement, you will need to present a valid passport and your CAS. Bear in mind that you must apply for your student visa within six months of receiving your CAS. The reference number in your CAS will be inputted on your visa application. Prepare proof of your IELTS result just in case.
The entire visa application process can be done online. Visit the official UK government website to begin. After you’ve completed the process, expect to receive a letter or an email with the results usually within a month from your application. For those who get approved, you will receive a UK visa vignette and access to view your immigration status online.
One of the most crucial things to prepare for when studying abroad is the tuition fees. Once accepted by your UK school of choice, they should be able to provide you with a detailed breakdown of your school fees.
For reference, here is the average cost of higher education in the UK for the school year 2019-2020 based on the Reddin survey.
International undergraduate degrees
- Non-medical degrees: £9,250.00 to £39,475.00
- Medical degrees: up to £61,435.00
International postgraduate degrees:
- Non-medical degrees: £5,000.00 to £35,750.00
- Medical degrees: up to £47,100.00
- MBAs: up to £57,200.00
Annual tuition fees for:
Housing and Accommodation
Apart from tuition and other school fees, you will need to prepare for housing and living expenses. As mentioned, the cost of living is not uniform throughout the UK. But below is a good example of the usual breakdown of expenses for a student in the UK.
These figures are averaged. They may be higher or lower in the average expenses to help you guide in your preparation for your life in the UK. Actual numbers may be higher or lower depending on where in the UK you will stay.
|Type of Expense||Type of Expense Cost GBP (£) per month|
|Accommodation in self-catered halls||590|
|Laundry (depends on usage)||18|
|Travel (buses, trains within London)||110|
|Books, supplies, stationery||70|
|Personal expenses (includes toiletries)||35|
|Miscellaneous (includes entertainment)||70|
The UK government and other UK-based organisations offer hundreds of scholarships and financial support every year to deserving international students. You’ll find scholarships and fellowships that are country-specific, program-specific, or global and open to everyone outside the UK. Many institutions also offer their own scholarships and bursaries.
Take full advantage of available opportunities. Be sure to check out what’s on offer and what it takes to qualify. Even a partial scholarship will be a huge help.