The United Kingdom is a preferred destination for overseas studies amongst students because it has something for everyone. Whether it is a traditional Sunday roast or Premier League matches, the United Kingdom caters to just about every interest. But, the greatest advantage of studying in the UK is the short length of the courses. For instance, several bachelor’s degrees in Britain take only 3 years to complete, while a master’s degree in the UK can be as short as 1 year. As a student, you can choose from 1,50,000 courses at universities and colleges across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Options include traditional courses such as mechanical engineering, as well as niche studies such as taxidermy.
UK is indeed a hub for students from all over the world, and around 16,000 Indian students are studying here as of 2017. The diversity is sure to offer a wholesome education experience, in combination with the strong support infrastructure. Every institute that invites international students has facilities to make the transition of studying in a different environment smooth and enjoyable. Support is available for course-related issues, language, communication, and mental and emotional health as well.
So, if you’re considering studying overseas, here’s all that you need to know about choosing UK as your home for the next few years.
Universities to choose from
The United Kingdom is home to some of the top universities in the world. Some illustrious institutes include the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Bath, and University of Bristol. Here is a list of the most sought after and recognised universities in the UK.
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE):
The university currently ranks 35th in the world. Its focus is largely towards social sciences and has a diverse student body with more than 7,500 international students.
University of Bristol:
The university ranks 44th in the world and is so expansive that it is the largest employer in the city of Bristol, and educates over 22,300 students.
University of Edinburgh:
This university is certainly the best one in Scotland and the 5th best in the UK. It is widely known for its excellent research facilities.
University of Sheffield:
Based in South Yorkshire, the university has had six Nobel Prize winners among its staff and is currently ranked 82nd in the world.
Level of education you can opt for
UK is the second most sought after destination to study after the US and offers a variety of options for you to choose from. You can apply to an undergraduate degree, postgraduate degree, or PhD/doctorate in a range of subjects. UK offers you a variety of options such as universities, institutes, university colleges or colleges of higher education (similar to community colleges in the US) to study at. There are various regional university associations and mission groups too. The latter comprises The Russell Group, The University Alliance and Million.
It is important to remember that most colleges in the UK offer undergraduate programmes while universities offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. If obtaining a PhD or master’s degree is your goal, then it is best to apply to a university. Community colleges offer the degree that a college would in a shorter time frame, or an associate degree, and are usually less focused.
Popular courses in the UK
Most undergraduate courses in the UK take 3 years to complete while postgraduate courses take around 1–2 years depending on the amount of research work involved. The most popular subjects include business and administrative studies, engineering and technology, social studies, creative arts and design followed by law and biological studies.
University application process
This section simplifies the steps that you must take when applying to university in the UK.
Register with UCAS:
Each application goes through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. So, register with them first.
Choose a course:
This is simple. Make a selection based on the course you have decided upon.
Make a decision based not just on the university’s rank and faculty, but also after looking at the diversity, accessibility, campus culture and job opportunities that are on offer.
Fill the application form:
Apply to the university and send the requested documentation with a strong statement of purpose. While you can apply for more than one course at a university, you may only send in one statement of purpose, so keep this in mind.
Follow these points and apply to at least 3–4 universities latest by 30th June, as courses fill up quickly and the term generally starts in September.
Entrance exams you need to clear to study in UK
India is not considered to be a country where English is the first language, and so, you have to take certain tests to prove your proficiency. These tests, primarily IELTS and TOEFL, measure your aptitude when it comes to communicating and understanding English. It is strongly suggested that you enquire with the specific college that you are considering to check whether taking these tests is enough, or you must take other tests too.
As far as IELTS and TOEFL go, here’s what to expect.
Since 1989, the International English Language Testing System gauges the proficiency of those who plan to study or work in place where the primary language of communication is English, such as the UK. The test comprises 4 sections where your ability to read, write, speak and listen to English will be examined. You can take the test at 1,000 official test centres across 140 countries in the world.
TOEFL aims to get students ready to function in an English-speaking environment. While most universities prefer IELTS, TOEFL is also accepted by a few. You can take the test physically, or at a computer. This test too comprises 4 sections that evaluate your ability to read, write, listen and speak in English within an academic environment.
If you think you need assistance to ace these exams, hire a coach or enrol for classes. You can make use of feedback, tips and advice to grasp the more complex nuances of the English language. Also, remember that both IELTS and TOEFL scores are valid for two years from the date of the examination result.
Living on campus in the UK
Most universities will give you the option of shared or independent living on campus, along with shared or individual facilities such as a restroom. In addition, rooms are furnished with a bed, desk, cupboard and small storage area. You may also have access to a communal kitchen and living areas, typically shared between 4–10 students. The fee varies quite a bit, but usually covers utility bills, internet and council tax. You can also opt to stay in a self-catered hall where you can cook your own food.
Alternatively, you can stay in an independent apartment or room. You can book accommodation through an agency or independently. Be sure to perform a background check and ask your university if they have an approved list of landlords that you can use. Staying privately gives you the option of choosing whom you share your space with. In most cases, private lettings work out to be cheaper than university accommodation too. However, you should note that utility bills such as water, electricity, gas and council tax usually are payable over and above your rent.
The cost of living in the UK comes to around Rs.48,000 per month, which works out to approximately Rs.10.90 lakh per annum, depending on the area you choose to study in. At the end of a 3-year undergraduate programme, this totals to around Rs.13.31 lakh.
There are a variety of sports facilities that you can avail as a student for a fixed fee. You can make use of university grounds, gymnasiums, sports equipment, etc. Along with this, you can try out for various teams and play at competitively at the college level. If you’re proficient in sports, why not apply to study sports or sports medicine? UK houses some of the best and oldest universities in the field such as University of Durham.
As a student in the UK, you will gain exposure to a multitude of communities and societies such a book club, toastmasters club, LGBT awareness club, music and dance society, campus journalism society, etc. The scope for interaction and learning beyond the classroom is truly limitless. You can also get involved with student unions and become involved in planning and executing all student events that happen on campus. Who knows, you could be running for student elections one day!
Healthcare in the UK
Healthcare in the UK is quite expensive, but it will not be feasible for you to return to India for treatment, should the need arise. So after enrolling for a full-time course that lasts longer than 6 months, you are entitled to avail the services of the NHS (National Health Service). Registering with the NHS is free, and gives you access to free consultations with an NHS doctor (GP) or nurse. However, seeking dental treatment is difficult, due to the limited availability and high expenses. As a precaution, it is best to have a full check-up in India before you leave for your course, or each time you come back for vacations.
Volunteering, internships and part-time jobs
Volunteer work will strengthen your CV, as prospective employers consider volunteering experience valuable. It provides you a chance to polish your skills, learn new ones and above all, serve the community. In fact, many universities reward volunteering by awarding credits.
You could help in the cafeteria, serve snacks during events or sign up as a guide for international students. Many universities offer paid-volunteering work too. For a fee you can go to another country and be part of a project for 1–3 weeks. The most popular destinations include India, Cambodia and Brazil. Alternatively, you could scout for opportunities that let you teach English to children in non-English speaking countries. Not only will this earn you extra credit, but will also offer exposure to life-changing experiences.
Similarly, internships are a great option if you want experience prior to full-time employment. Since the rupee isn’t on par with the pound, you may find living expenses to be costly. Here, working part-time jobs will help you ease the financial stress. Typically, you can take up a job on your tier-4 student visa status as long as you meet the specifications, and work for 20 hours each week. You can also look into campus jobs to help the administration in exchange for decent pay.
Usually, you can choose from one of the two types of internships: unpaid and stipend-based. Unpaid internships offer you only the experience of a real job while stipend-based internships offer a small sum as remuneration. Additionally, you can choose to take up a work-experience internship or a research internship. If you would like to study further, a research internship proves to be more useful whereas if working a full-time job is your aim, then a work-experience internship is apt.
Applying for a visa
If you have decided to study in the UK, you can begin the UK student visa application process at least 3 months before the start date of the course. Take a look at this checklist to understand the criteria you must match.
• The tier-4 student visa application costs around Rs.32,283, and you must be at least 16 years of age to apply. • Offer proof that you have been accepted to a course. • Pass the IELTS or TOEFL examination and submit the score. • Show proof of adequate funds to support yourself while in the UK which includes course fees as well. • Hold an overseas degree that is equivalent to the UK’s higher education school course.
If the course you plan to study will last for six months or less, you can apply for a short-term visa that costs approximately Rs.8,800. If you need an 11-month visa, you will have to pay approximately Rs.16,900.
Cost of programmes and acquiring financial support
When evaluating countries where you can study, a lot depends on the cost. As far as studying in the UK goes, student finance is undoubtedly an important consideration. However, you do not have to worry because there are a number of provisions that you can make use of to lighten the load.
The fees for an undergraduate course in the UK start at Rs.9.15 lakh and can go up to Rs.34.60 lakh. Social and humanity studies tend to cost the least while subjects that require laboratory facilities and offer a clinical degree cost the most. Similarly, postgraduate degrees are more expensive too.
So, ensure you’re thrifty and make the most of student discounts and offers that public transport systems, as well as private restaurants and stores provide. For instance, investing in the Oyster Card will help you save a large sum over time.
Besides, you can apply for external financing to meet tuition expenses. For instance, you can avail student financing in the form of education loans. Banks sanction loans of up to Rs.20 lakh to students wanting to study overseas, and usually do not charge a processing fee on these loans. Alternatively, apply for a scholarship. The British Council has announced educational scholarships worth Rs.40 crore for Indian students who want to study in the UK. Some of the other scholarships you can apply for are as follows.
- Chevening UK Government Scholarships
- Tata Scholarship (Cornell University)
- Fulbright-Nehru Master’s Fellowships
- Fulbright Fellowships
- Erasmus Scholarships
- Royal Society Grants
- Hubert-Humphrey Scholarships
- The Mahatma Gandhi Scholarship Programme
- Commonwealth Split-Site Doctoral Scholarship
In addition to this list, there are a range of private scholarships available to students who show consistent performance and aptitude.
Things to do during your summer break When studying halfway across the planet, it is a crime to not explore your surroundings. As a student, trips during your summer break can be a great time to do so, and are inexpensive too, as long as you plan in advance. You should consider looking for hostels to stay in rather than hotels to keep costs low, and travel with like-minded friends to split costs. You can look into visiting the following destinations.
- Exploring the castles of Edinburgh
- Exploring TV and movie attractions in Manchester
- Driving to visit the scenic spots through Inverness
- Signing up for the Harry Potter tour
- Watching a Premier League football match
- Visiting Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park
- Cycling through Haldon Forest Park
- Visiting the German market in Leeds during Christmas
If you plan on travelling in your city, then it is a good idea to buy a weekly or monthly pass that offers unlimited access to local transport.
Need more convincing? Here are some unique facts about the United Kingdom that are sure to pique your interest.
- The number of international students studying in the UK in 2016–17 was 4,42,375.
- The accent within UK changes noticeably every 40km.
- Almost 25% of all women in the UK were named Mary in 1811.
- Over 6,000 people get injured or die in Britain each year for tripping over their trousers or falling downstairs while putting them on. You’ve been warned!
- London has around a total of 300 languages that fall on its ears, which is higher than any other country in the world.
- In the UK, the Queen sends personalised birthday cards to those celebrating their 100th birthday every year.
- Around 42% of students studying at the postgraduate level in the UK are from outside the European Union.
Armed with this information (and a few entertaining facts), you can get started on exploring courses and universities in UK that match your area of interest. To see the top universities in UK ranked according to area of study, click here or visit our student resources tab and click on ‘Top Universities’. When you zero in on UK as your destination, be sure to contact Edisol for comprehensive, in-depth assistance to help you ace your study abroad application.