Home to more than 442,000 international students, the UK is currently the world’s second leading study abroad destination (after the US), thanks primarily to the strong global reputation of UK universities. A record number of 76 UK universities featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2019 (again, only the US has more), and about four universities rank within the global top 10.
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Despite deep concerns following the country’s referendum on EU membership in June 2016, UK universities have united in their efforts to attract students from across the EU and across the world. Indeed, the country is home to many of the world’s most internationally diverse campuses and communities – and this, for many, is a large part of the appeal of studying in the UK. Above all, tuition fees are low and cheap for international students.
Applying to universities in the UK
The UK employees a centralized university admissions service which takes care of all undergraduate applications – the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). This medium is used by both domestic and international students to apply for programs across all universities in the UK.
You’ll will be expected to register on the UCAS website before completing and sending your application. The website has all the details on how to apply, what to submit, how to track your application and how to respond to your chosen universities. It also has a guide for international students, including important information about visas, student finance and more.
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Once you’ve sent your application, UCAS will forward it to the institutions you’ve pre-selected, and then email or mail you back their response. If you’re accepted by a university, you’ll receive an official ‘offer’. This can take the shape of a ‘conditional offer’ which implies the place is yours if you can satisfy the required admissions criteria, or an ‘unconditional offer’ which implies you’ve already met their criteria.
Say you’re unlucky, you’ll receive either a ‘withdrawn application’ response, which means either you or the university has removed your course choice, or an ‘unsuccessful application’ response, which means the university will not offer you a place. You might be able to add another choice if you’ve received decisions from all five universities or colleges and were not accepted, or if you declined the offers you received.
For schools, English language centers, most further education courses and some postgraduate courses, there is no centralized application system, so you’ll need to apply directly to the institution providing the course. You can usually find application forms on the website.
UK university application requirements
All applicants are expected to pen a ‘personal statement’ detailing their reasons for wanting to study their chosen course. Say you are applying to more than one institution (as is the case), make sure you do not mention any by name, as they will all receive the same personal statement you wrote.
The UCAS website contains a lot of tailored advice and content for writing personal statements, but it is worth remembering the importance of mentioning why you want to study in the UK rather than your home country, how the studies will shape their future, and describe their English language proficiency (perhaps by mentioning any English courses or tests they have taken).
In addition to completing the coveted UCAS process, international students may be asked to send copies of their academic transcripts to their university. This can happen because UCAS only sends results from awarding institutions (such as the International Baccalaureate) directly to your universities. For additional international qualifications, the universities will ask that the results are sent directly to them.
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There are a bunch of application forms and deadlines based on the type of program you’re applying for. The UCAS website is very clear on deadlines, make sure you don’t miss these, as most universities may not consider late applications.
Although UCAS reviews the applications, decisions about admission are made solely by individual institutions. So, if you have any questions that are not about the technicalities of the application, do well to direct them to the university involved.
Before putting together an application, make sure you read up on the admission requirements, tuition fee costs and course requirements, emailing the institution if you need additional information. Please be reminded that requirements may vary depending on your country of residence.
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UK tuition fees & living costs
Please note that tuition fees vary and depend largely on your home country. EU students pay the same as students who hail from the UK, while those who come from outside the EU typically pay higher tuition. Undergraduate tuition fees at public in the UK also vary depending on the region: in England, universities can charge up to £9,250 (~US$12,400) per year, and in Wales up to £9,000 (~US$12,050).
It is interesting that Scotland does not charge tuition fees at the undergraduate level for both domestic or EU students (except those who hail from the other three parts of the UK, who would have to pay up to £9,000 a year). In Northern Ireland, for example Northern Irish students and those who come from EU countries are required to pay up to £4,160 (~US$5,600) per year, while those from the other parts of the UK will pay up to £9,250.
International applicants who come from outside the EU can expect significantly higher tuition fees, usually between about £7,000 (~US$9,400) and £35,000 (~US$46,800) per year based on the program. At postgraduate level, there’s no set maximum amount, and for all students (UK/EU/international), tuition fees tend to be higher than at undergraduate level. Again, this varies depending on the degree and university
Living costs in the UK
You’ll require roughly £12,000 per year to take care of living expenses in the UK (~US$16,050) and would have to budget more in order to live in London, where rent and other expenses are reasonably higher than in the other parts of the UK.
When applying for a student visa, you’ll be required to meet the financial requirements as determined by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). One clever way to save cash while studying in the UK is to take advantage of the student discounts made available by retailers – all you have to do is flash your student card and save money!
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