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Choosing where to study

Applying and studying in the UK

What it’s like to study in the UK as an international student, and how to apply to a UK university.

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CONTENTS

  1. Studying in the UK

  2. Applying to a UK university

  3. Entry requirements

  4. International student accommodation

  5. What’s it like to study in the UK?

Studying in the UK

The UK is one of the world's most popular destinations for international students. More than 400,000 non-EU international students enrol in the UK each year.

You have a choice of over 100 universities and other higher education institutions. Each offers a range of tertiary qualifications recognised around the world.

Tuition fees vary between institutions. You’ll need to be aware of visa conditions, English language requirements and work permit restrictions.

Use this guide as well as other information and advice found across our website. Our UK university rankings are a good place to start.

Applying to a UK university

Applications to UK universities are made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Make sure you get your application in well before the deadline, particularly if you want to study at one of the UK’s top universities. 

How to apply on UCAS

Register your details on the UCAS website. Make sure to inout all your information correctly.

Choose a course you’ll be happy to commit to for the next three or more years. Our advice on choosing a course takes you through the process, and you can use our course chooser to search through over 100,000 courses. Once you've found a course, take note of its unique UCAS code as you'll need this when you fill in the application form.

Find a university that’s right for you. Our advice on choosing a university can help you decide. Think about league table position, location, accommodation and facilities. Once you've made your shortlist of universities, make a note of their unique UCAS codes.

Fill in the application form. You only fill in one UCAS application, but with it you have five choices. You can apply to five different universities for the same course or five different courses at the same university  it's up to you. You only write one personal statement for all five choices.

Send and wait for replies. Once you've submitted your application, universities will take the time to consider and you'll receive either offers or rejections.

UCAS Cost 

A lot of students forget that a UCAS application costs a fee. For 2020 entry, the costs are £20 for a single course, or 25% for multiple course choices. 

As of 2021, the application cost will rise to £26 for multiple choices, with a single choice remaining £20. 

Non-EU international students

If you’re an international student from a non-EU country, you can submit an application to UCAS at any time between 1 September and 30 June in the year before the academic year your studies would begin.

Most students apply well before 30 June to make sure places are available. This also allows plenty of time to make immigration, travel and accommodation arrangements.

EU international students

If you’re from an EU country, you must ensure your application form is received by UCAS by 15 January, otherwise you’ll be treated as a late applicant. There are different application dates for Oxford and Cambridge, as well as for Medicine and Art & Design courses. Make sure to check when applications are due.

As well as the UCAS application, remember to check the eligibility requirements for any possible scholarships, loans and grants.

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Entry requirements

The UK welcomes international students from all around the world, but there’s a rigorous visa process to follow. It’s important you’re aware of the entry regulations that affect international students in the UK.

Passport

You'll need a valid and up-to-date passport for the duration of your planned stay in the UK.

Student visa

Students from certain countries will need to obtain a visa from the UK Border Agency before arrival. This could take several weeks to arrange so try and sort it out as soon as possible. 

The application is assessed on a Points Based System, Tier 4. Under this system, you’ll need 40 points from satisfying two criteria:

  • By obtaining a Visa Letter or Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the university you plan to study at (30 points)
  • By proving you have enough funds for you (and your family if applicable) to live in the UK (10 points)

You must prove your English language abilities when applying for a student visa. There are a number of centres that offer English Language tests. Many universities have specific language requirements, so check for details of what you need. Full information on student visas is available on the UK government website.

You should apply for your visa at least one month (but no more than six) before coming to the UK.

If you’re successful

You’ll be expected to study at the institution that has accepted you, not at another one. The university will be responsible for keeping your personal details up to date and reporting students who don't arrive, don't have a satisfactory attendance record or who leave before completing their course.

Extending your stay

You may be able to stay longer in the UK than your visa currently allows. This could be because it's taken longer than expected for your programme to finish or for you to search for a job in the UK after you’ve graduated. You can apply through Tier 1 to extend your stay for up to two years after graduating in any UK country.

The process may take a while, so prepare and apply in advance. You should be able to get help from your university to do this.

International student accommodation

A range of accommodation options are available to international students. It’s important your accommodation is right for you as it'll be difficult to change partway through your stay.

If you’re living away from home for the first time, university halls of residence are a good way to meet other students. If you want greater independence, you could choose private accommodation such as a studio, one-bedroom flat or flatshare.

To get to know what family life is like in the UK, you can board with a host family. This makes it easier to interact with locals and is a great way for non-native speakers to improve their English skills.

Our guide to student accommodation has more information, and UKCISA also offers plenty of advice to help you find the right student accommodation.

Support at university

Studying abroad can be a little scary, especially if it’s your first time away from home. It’s common to experience culture shock and homesickness. Universities have counselling services and international student support officers who can help you adjust to UK student life.

What’s it like to study in the UK?

UK universities

The UK’s universities date back to the ancient universities of Oxford (1096), Cambridge (1209) and St Andrews (1411). There are now over 140 universities and other higher education providers in the UK.

They share a worldwide reputation for the quality of their courses, teaching and research. A degree from a UK university is a well-respected qualification throughout the world, partly because of the increasing emphasis on employability alongside knowledge and skills.

External examiners are at each university to ensure good standards. These are reflected in high entry requirements, short and intensive courses of study, and good completion rates (which suggests strong student support).

Students receive free medical and subsidised dental and optical treatment and advice from the NHS. Universities have careers service networks to help with deciding what to do after graduating.

UK degree courses are intensive and shorter than in many other countries. This has a strong financial advantage, not only in study and living costs, but also because students can enter the employment market sooner.

UK culture

The UK is made up of four countries – England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – where more than 60 million people live. Around 15% of the population were born overseas. This has created a diverse and multicultural society that represents countries from all over the world.

People from the UK are known for being very polite. Being on time for an appointment is expected, and being late for a lecture or a doctor's appointment is considered rude. The British sense of humour is subtle and sarcastic, so can be difficult to understand.

The UK has a reputation for tolerance and there's a strong belief in justice, law and order. The media is independent and frequently critical and outspoken.

National holidays are typically:

  • New Year’s Day: 1 January     
  • January Bank Holiday (Scotland only): 2 January 
  • St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland only): 17 March       
  • Good Friday: March or April
  • Easter Monday: March or April
  • May Day: Early May
  • Spring Bank Holiday: Late May
  • Summer Bank Holiday: Late August
  • Christmas Day: 25 December
  • Boxing Day: 26 December

If a bank holiday is on a weekend, a ‘substitute’ weekday becomes a bank holiday, normally the following Monday.

Weather

The UK’s climate is fairly easy to adjust to. It tends to have low humidity, warm summers and mild winters. Days are long and bright in June but short and grey in December.

From sunshine and heat waves to rain showers and snowfall – the UK gets it all. Many websites offer daily and hourly weather forecasts such as the Met Office and the BBC.

It’s good to 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 sun cream for hot summer days
  • Suitable shoes for walking through the UK countryside
  • Appropriate clothing for wet weather

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