The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also known as the UK or Britain, is regarded as the world’s second most popular international study destination. The UK welcomes almost 460,000 international students from around the world each year. Having built a world-class education system, higher education in the UK is a model for many countries around the globe.
With around 162 higher education institutions and a generous range of degree types, Britain is a popular destination in international education. The education system varies depending on where in the UK you choose to study, with some subtle differences. Regardless of where you choose to study, you receive high-quality teaching from leading professionals. Any qualification gained in the UK is highly regarded internationally.
Many of the UK universities and colleges have made their way to the leading education ranking tables. According to the QS World University Rankings, 2019, 4 UK institutions rank among the top 10. There are also 18 UK institutions in the top 100. The highest ranked is the University of Oxford, which occupies 5th place. It is followed by the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, occupying the 6th and 8th place respectively.
An island nation, the UK is surrounded by 4 different oceans or seas and is made up of four countries, namely England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Britain is one of the few countries to still be ruled by a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II currently standing as the longest-serving monarch in recorded history. Home to 66 million people, the UK is the 78th most populous country in the world.
The terrain and climate in the UK can vary, but the difference is not very significant. The UK is known for having relatively cold winters, and warm summers, with 4 obvious seasons.
The UK’s university systems is sometimes referred-to in groups or categories. These include:
Ancient Universities – refers to institutions founded before the year 1600. E.g., Oxford University, Cambridge University, St. Andrews University, etc.
Red Brick Universities – refers to institutions founded in UK industrial cities. The term ‘red brick’ is due to the Victorian architectural style of the buildings. E.g., the University of Birmingham, the University of Manchester, and the University of Leeds.
Plate Glass Universities – refers to institutions established or granted university status in the 1960s. The term ‘plate glass’ is due to the modern architectural buildings. Some examples are: the University of York, the University of Warwick, and the University of Lancaster.
Russell Group Universities – refers to a group of 24 public research universities. These universities endeavour to maintain the best research, teaching and leading standards. Some examples are: the University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh and Durham University.
The currency used in the UK is the Pound Sterling (GBP/£).
Tuition fees for international students is not fixed or governed in the UK. This means that they can vary greatly from institution to institution, and each university enjoys the freedom to decide what they wish to charge. The tuition fees you are charged will be highly dependent on your home country. If you are coming from an EU country, you are likely to be charged the same as a UK student. If you are from any other country, you will pay international student fees.
If you are a student coming from outside of the EU, your tuition fees could be much higher. For undergraduate and postgraduate level, you can typically expect to pay between £5,000 and £40,000 per annum. If you choose to study an executive education course such as an MBA, or a competitive course such as medicine, your fees will be on the higher end of the scale. In terms of living costs, it is recommended that you have at least £14,000 per year. This will cover your rent, groceries, travel, and any other necessary expenses. If you choose to live in London, you should budget for higher living costs, as it is significantly more expensive than the rest of the UK. Many retailers offer generous student discounts as long as you can prove that you are a student by showing your student card. Students should definitely take advantage of this in order to save some money. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be able to get a part-time job to supplement your funds. This is normally dictated by your visa, and can sometimes have restrictions.
You may be able to apply for a scholarship to help fund your studies. This could be awarded by your institution, or a separate funding body.
Depending on your home country, you may need to obtain a visa in order to study in the UK. If you are from an EU country, you do not currently need a visa to come and study in the UK. This is subject to change once the UK leaves the EU. If you are from any other country, you are required to be granted a visa before you can enter the UK. Before you can apply for a visa, you will need to be accepted onto a course, be able to prove that your English language skills meet the required standard, prove that you have sufficient funds for living and studying. The UK government website will provide you with more information about eligibility and restrictions.
The official and national language of the United Kingdom is English. There are other recognised languages also spoken across the country. These include Welsh, Irish, Cornish, Scots, Ulster Scots, and Scottish Gaelic.
Courses at UK universities are delivered in English. If your first language is not English, it is likely that you will have to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application. If you do not meet the required standards, it is common for institutions to offer English language courses to help you improve.
If your native language is not English, you should make the most of your opportunity to learn a language as you study. Communicating with locals and other students is the perfect way to practice. Having advanced ability in English is a great skill to add to your CV/resume.