32 (127) 2017
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Why study in the UK?

By Dorota Kraśniewska, partnerships and projects manager, British Council
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Each year almost 450,000 students from across 200 nations come to the UK to study at its colleges and universities.

A third of that number come from the EU. The UK is one of the most multicultural countries in the world, so students have an opportunity to learn about Britain and its culture, and also to study and live alongside people from many other countries.

More than 3,000 educational institutions welcome international students; the UK offers a wealth of educational possibilities, so that students can choose a course to meet their interests, career and learning needs. There are courses and qualifications at all levels, from schools through vocational qualifications, pre-university and pathway programmes, undergraduate, postgraduate and professional qualifications. Many UK courses are ‘modular’, which means students can build a personalised course by choosing modules or units of study from different areas of the subject. A bachelor’s degree in English literature may allow students to choose from several different selective modules, for example, one module on science fiction, one module on children’s literature, one module on short stories. Students interested in more than one subject area may be able to study a ‘combined’ degree. Many institutions offer combined courses, for example IT and Business Studies or Tourism with French.

Teaching and learning methods may be very different from those of the international student’s experiences of education in their own country. They must be prepared to read widely and be ready to question, analyse and discuss their own ideas in seminars and tutorials. They will be encouraged to do this, particularly at degree and postgraduate level. The UK education style is characterised by a personalised approach to help students to develop the intellectual skills and personal qualities they will need in their future life and career. Teaching methods are designed to develop independent critical thinking. Creative and analytical ability is essential to progress to problem-solving. These skills are actively encouraged and developed in UK institutions. Students also develop confidence and original thought through learning how to express themselves through essays, presentations and projects.

In most UK institutions, students are assigned tutors whose role is to provide academic advice, guidance on support services and personal counselling when needed. In this way, students can be sure that there will be one person who has official concern for them while studying away from home. Most programmes will include an individual link tutor who is there to help, guide and support the student. The university or college international office will usually meet and greet international students and arrange orientation events. Induction will include a preparation programme and it is important for students to arrive and take part in this. A highly developed network of international student support helps international students to feel welcome and to settle in so they are able to benefit fully from their education experience and complete their studies. Many universities have ‘buddy’ schemes. More experienced students volunteer to befriend new students, especially international students, to help them settle in. Support staff are available to help with any other problems like transport, private accommodation, opening a bank account, where to buy specific items, health matters. There are hundreds of student societies available to cater for every interest. Students are encouraged to get involved.

Courses and fees

Many courses can be studied full-time or part-time. There are also many shorter courses for students who want to gain an undergraduate qualification in just one or two years. Students can enter UK education at any age and level. If they don’t yet have the qualifications or English language skills needed to apply for their chosen course, there are preparatory courses and qualifications, such as foundation or pathways to prepare them to meet the entry requirements for university.

The UCAS website is an essential tool to search for courses and find comprehensive information on both the programmes of study and the institutions which offer them. Details of course fees are shown, and links are provided to the institutions' websites, as well as resources to help make the right choice. Another good search tools are www.unistats.direct.gov.uk and www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk.

Many UK higher education courses are shorter than in other countries. Shorter UK degree are more intensive, which means students will save a great deal on both tuition fees and living costs, as well as being able to start working and earn money sooner. Most full-time undergraduate courses take three years to complete, while full-time postgraduate courses take one year or more (for more information see Study UK - courses and qualifications) This helps to keep tuition fees and living expenses down.

Undergraduate students from the EU pay ‘home fees’ – the same fees as UK students pay. These are the maximum tuition fees (many institutions charge less):

  • in England and Wales up to £9,000 per year

  • in Northern Ireland up to £3,575 per year

  • in Scotland tuition is free.

Students from EU can still apply for loans to cover the tuition fee and living costs in 2018 academic year. More information can be found here: www.gov.uk/student-finance

In the UK, the standard academic year starts in September or October and runs until June or July. Students applying from the UK or the EU, whatever their nationality, must send their applications to UCAS between 1 September of the year before that in which the course will begin and 15 January of the following year. Oxford and Cambridge and courses in medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science or medicine, for which all students must apply to UCAS by 15 October of the year before that in which the course begins. Art and design courses, for which students must apply to UCAS between 1 January and 24 March of the year in which the course starts; it is recommended that students apply by 7 March if possible to avoid the last-minute rush.

Postgraduate study is very intense. It challenges the student's intellect, academic ability, time and self-management. It is also a considerable financial and time investment, so getting the right institution and the right course is very important.

UK education is an investment for life and the future. Students are offered excellent teaching and learning facilities in institutions which are at the forefront of scientific and creative innovation. They can learn alongside some of the world’s top scientists, gain contacts and a network beyond their qualification into their future life and career, develop the inter-cultural skills and understanding sought by employers.

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