When one even thinks of a foreign education, UK is often the first country to come in mind. UK is where the history was made, industrial revolution took place, East India Company came from UK and so on and so forth. It has some of the world’s best universities and colleges and some of the most famous authors in poets of all times.
Combining varied countryside and cosmopolitan cities, the UK has plenty to please both nature lovers and culture vultures. British filmmakers, actors, musicians, designers and writers are known and respected across the globe, and this is reflected in strong arts and cultural scenes across the country, with a huge range of galleries, museums and venues to match. At the more relaxed end of the culture spectrum, you can embrace the national passion for sport (especially football/soccer) or the classic British pastime of going to the pub.
Universities in the UK are also microcosms of entertainment in themselves, full of opportunities for getting involved in sports, theater, volunteering, and just having a good night out. Most major UK cities and universities are highly multicultural, providing opportunities to get to know both UK nationals and students from around the world. The UK’s capital city was ranked as the number one student city in the QS Best Student Cities index for the first time in 2018, and has an impressive 17 universities featured in the QS World University Rankings®
Some of the UK’s top universities are legendary, and have inspired countless works of film and literature. In particular, many people around the world are familiar with the iconic image of the ‘dreaming spires’ of the University of Oxford (the oldest university in the English-speaking world) and the (only very slightly younger) University of Cambridge. The UK’s other two entries in the global top 10 can both be found in the UK capital. University College London (UCL) ranks 7th in the world, and Imperial College London 9th. In total, London is home to 47 universities, a significant portion of the country’s total of 109. This high density of universities, combined with the city’s historic and current role as a global center for finance, business and culture, makes it a highly popular place to study. Beyond London, the UK is home to many other world-leading institutions and attractive locations. In the post-industrial Midlands and Northern England you’ll find many of the country’s slightly younger, so-called “redbrick” universities. Many of these are now among the country’s most illustrious, including the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Sheffield, and University of Liverpool. Further north still, Scotland has its “ancient four” – the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews and Aberdeen. All founded before the year 1600, they all feature high-up in the QS World University Rankings. Scotland is also home to many younger universities, such as the Universities of Stirling and Strathclyde and Heriot-Watt University, as well as specialist schools such as the Glasgow School of Art, resulting in a varied academic offering to rival that of its southern neighbor. Past England’s western border, Wales is known for its rugged landscapes, friendly people, and a group of celebrated universities that includes Cardiff University and Swansea University. Several Welsh universities offer bilingual programs, taught in both Welsh and English, in recognition of demand for the native language to be cherished and preserved. Finally, the UK’s fourth constituent nation, Northern Ireland, continues to tempt international students across the Irish Sea with its idyllic drumlins (rolling green hills shaped during the last ice age), vibrant folk culture and a good selection of universities, including Ulster University and Queen’s University Belfast.
As in most countries, the cost of living in the UK varies by region, with city life often proving more expensive. According to figures from the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS), the average annual cost of living in England (outside of London) for students is £12,056 (~US$14,850). For those studying in London, the estimate is £15,180 (~US$18,700) per year. If you’re applying for a student visa, you’ll need to prove you have enough money to cover living costs for each month of your course, up to a maximum of nine months. This is currently deemed to be £9,135 (~US$11,250) for a nine-month period outside of London, and £11,385 (~US$14,000) within London. The biggest difference in the cost of living in London compared to the rest of England is in rent, with University College London (UCL) estimating accommodation expenses of £8,034 (~US$9,900) per academic year (nine months). University-owned student halls are likely to provide the most cost-effective option.
If you think student halls are not for you, you can opt for shared living accommodation; whereby you may have a bedroom to yourself, often with an en-suite bathroom.
Most UK universities offer places for new students in their halls of residence. Halls can vary from single rooms with shared kitchen and living areas, to self-contained studios. You can often choose from catered halls (with a dining room where you can buy cheap meals) or self-catered halls (with kitchens where you can cook your own food), depending on your preference. Halls provide a safe and comfortable home-away-from-home that is good value for money, with services like wifi and contents insurance included in the cost of your rent. Most halls welcome both female and male students, but there are usually single sex halls available too.
A homestay - where you live with a UK family in their home - can be a great opportunity to experience UK culture first-hand. Your university may be able to help you arrange this, or you can contact one of the homestay agencies once you reach there.
Studying in the UK is good value for money – costs here are lower than in both the USA and Australia. According to research by HSBC, the average annual costs for international students were:
Additionally, since this research was published exchange rate fluctuations have made the UK even better value for many international students.
The smart thing to do when you are in UK is to sign up for The National Union of Students card and the International Student Identity Card which offer great student discounts in many shops, restaurants and businesses. You can also sign up for BritRail which is an absolute must for international students. It is exclusively only for overseas visitors and offers some of the most affordable and flexible tickets in the UK. The UK’s NHS (National Health Service) is one of the world’s best healthcare systems, offering safe and modern treatment. So even if you get sick, don’t worry, your health care will be provided for in the UK. It costs just £150 per year to gain access to the NHS. You pay this fee during your visa application and it covers free medical treatment (including emergency or hospital care, should you need it) and reduced price dental care at an NHS dentist.
You should apply for your visa at least three months before you’re due to travel, and will need to have received an unconditional offer of a place to study at a UK university on your chosen course. Other requirements for a student visa include: • Passport details • A recent photograph • Proof of adequate English language skills, demonstrated by passing one of the secure English language tests (SELT). You will not need to provide this if you’re from an English-speaking country such as the US, or have completed a qualification equivalent to a UK degree in an English-speaking country. Depending on your country of origin, you may also be required to have certain medical vaccinations or undertake a tuberculosis test.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) also requires international students to prove they have secured the necessary funds to live and study in the country. When applying for a visa, students planning to study in London must demonstrate that they will have access to UK£1,265 (~US$1,560) for each month of stay in the UK. For the rest of the UK, this figure is slightly lower, at UK£1,015 (~US$1,250).
The cost of applying for the visa is £328 (approx. US$400). The Short Term Study Visa costs £89 (~US$110) for the six-month option and £170 (~US$210) for the 11-month visa. You’ll also need to pay a healthcare surcharge of £150 per year (~US$180) in order to access the National Health Service (NHS) during your stay.