The UK’s universities have their origins in the ancient seats of learning at Oxford (1096), Cambridge (1209) and St Andrews (1411). There are now in excess of 140 universities and other higher education providers that share a world-wide reputation for the quality of their courses, teaching and research. Responsibility for managing the higher education sector within overall government policies is shared by two independent bodies: Higher Education Funding Councils; Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
- The appointment of external examiners at each university also guarantees good standards.
- These, in turn, are reflected in high entry requirements, short and intensive courses of study, and high completion rates, the latter resulting from an infrastructure that offers strong student support.
- A degree from a British university is a well-respected qualification throughout the world, not least because of an increasing emphasis on employability alongside knowledge and skills.
Students receive free medical and subsidised dental and optical treatment under the National Health Service.
- Also, full access to a professional counselling service.
- A university careers service network – with an enviable reputation throughout the world – to help with the decision on what to do on completion of your studies.
The fact that degree courses here are more intensive, and thus shorter, than those in many other countries has an obvious financial advantage, not only in study and living costs, but also in the opportunity to enter, or re-enter, the employment market sooner.
More than 60 million people live in the UK, creating a multicultural society with people from all over the world.
Migrants from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa and the West Indies mingle with mainland Europeans, especially those who have arrived since 2004 from the 12 countries (mainly in eastern Europe) who then joined the EU.
- The British have a reputation for tolerance and fair play. The media are independent and frequently critical and outspoken, and there is a strong belief in justice, law and order. Generally, the British are polite and deferential.
- The British sense of humour is subtle and sometimes difficult to understand. Being on time for an appointment is expected. Being late for a lecture or a doctor's appointment is considered rude.
- Aim to get involved in sport, voluntary work or one of the many student societies on campus or perhaps act as a mentor or a student representative. This is a great way to improve language skills and offer a good insight into British culture.
- One of the many benefits of living and studying in another country is to experience other ways of doing things, so take advantage of every opportunity to meet people.
Students from your own country and culture may provide help, information and support, either before deciding whether to study in the UK or after arrival.
Many national student societies organise at university level but there are a number of UK-wide organisations that may be helpful:
- The Bangladeshi Students Association (UK) was established by students living in the UK to help each other, to share knowledge and experiences.
- Brazilian Association of Postgraduate Students and Researchers in the UK
- The Chinese Students and Scholars Association UK organises, sponsors, and supports various social and cultural activities among Chinese students and scholars in the UK.
- The Anglo-German Student Association (Austria, Germany, Switzerland)
- Union of Greek Students in London (SEFL)
- The United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council of Malaysian Students is an umbrella body for Malaysian student societies across Britain and Ireland.
- Mexican Students Society in the United Kingdom.
- The Nigerian Students Society–UK (NSS–UK) is a collective group of societies, encompassing all Nigerians students in the United Kingdom.
- The National Union of Pakistani Students and Alumni (NUPSA) is an umbrella body for Pakistani students and alumni spread across the United Kingdom, Pakistan and Canada.
- Samaggi Samagom – the Thai student association in the UK.
This list is not exhaustive and The Complete University Guide does not endorse any of the organisations named.
Because of the way the weather dominates conversation in Britain, people who have not lived here could be forgiven for thinking that the climate is extreme. In fact, the UK’s temperate climate is exactly the opposite and needs little effort to adjust to.
- Given its position west of the European mainland, Britain tends to have low humidity, warm summers and mild winters.
- Days are long and bright in June but short and grey in December.
- Average maximum daily temperatures range from 6°C in January to 19°C in July, while rain can fall at any time of the year, mainly in and close to the hilly regions in the north and west where over 1,200 mm a year is typical. Southern and eastern Britain is drier. Snowfalls occur most during most winters (but rarely accumulate in the south).
- From sunshine and heat-waves to rain showers and snowfall – the UK gets it all.
- Many websites offer daily, even hourly, weather forecasts, and the Met Office and the BBC are good places to start.
To make your time in the UK more enjoyable – and to ensure you're well prepared – The Complete University Guide recommends that you budget for the following items in preparation for your stay.
- Winter coat, hat, scarf and gloves for use from late November to March.
- Shorts, t-shirts, sunhat, flip-flops and sunscreen for those hot summer days.
- Suitable shoes for walking through the British countryside.
Next page: Applying to a British University