Did you know that the UK is the second top choice of international students in the world? It’s easy to see why. It’s an exciting, multicultural hub, and London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. What’s more, the UK is known for its extremely high quality of higher education. Do you want to improve your English language skills and meet other international students? Then study in the UK is for you. This can be done while studying at a top institution in a culturally-rich and fascinating country. Here’s a guide on how you can get there.
Through an exchange
The first question you need to ask yourself is which category of international students you fall into. This will affect the process you need to go through to be able to study in the UK. The easiest way to study in the UK as an international student is through an exchange programme. If you are a student from the EU, the EEA (European Economic Area), or Switzerland, you can apply to study at a UK university through the Erasmus Programme.
First of all, you should research different universities in the UK that is part of the Erasmus programme. You need to make sure that they have modules that correspond to your programme of study at your home institution (this is a requirement of Erasmus). You should then get in contact with the international office of your university who should be able to help you through the application process.
Each university in the UK has its own particular requirements for the admission of Erasmus students, but basically, you’ll need to fill out an application form. This form will usually include the following supporting documents:
- A motivation letter
- A copy of your transcript with your modules and grades from your previous years of study (at least one year)
- The letter of nomination from your home university
- Proof of English language proficiency (e.g. certificate)
- A copy of your passport
Once the application is submitted, you just have to sit tight and wait for the decision! Remember that places for exchanges to the UK are competitive, so it is essential that you leave enough time to properly prepare and provide all the correct information.
If you are a student outside of the EU/EEA zone, unfortunately, you are not eligible for the Erasmus programme. However, many UK universities also have various worldwide partner universities which enable exchanges for students who are from further overseas. The application process is pretty similar – first, you need to make sure that you find a UK university which is partnered with your home institution. Once nominated by your university, you can apply through the same process and wait to see if you are accepted!
Students accepted onto an exchange programme, whether it be Erasmus or International, are exempt from paying tuition fees at their host institution in the UK. They usually just have to continue paying the fees at their home university. This makes studying in the UK as an exchange student much more affordable – fees for international students outside of an exchange programme can reach up to £20,000 per year depending on the course and the institution!
Furthermore, as part of the Erasmus programme, you will receive a grant of up to €350 per month to help you towards living costs in the UK (or more if you are eligible for extra financial support). This can be different for international exchanges, where you may be asked to prove you have the financial means to support yourself for the duration of the course. Check how to survive in London in a low budget here!
Students from the EU/EEA do not require a visa to study in the UK. For other international students, you only need to apply for a visa if your stay in the UK will be longer than 6 months. If you are unsure if you will need a visa, you can check here.
The standard UK student visa for courses lasting longer than 6 months is the Tier 4 (General) student visa. You can apply for this visa inside and outside the UK once you have been offered a place on a course. Your chosen university will send you a reference number (called a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS)). Once they’ve offered you a place, you’ll need to enter this on your visa application. You will also need to prove that you have the necessary English language proficiency and the ability to support yourself financially during your stay in the UK.
For your UK student visa application, you will need to provide the following:
- passport or travel ID
- proof that you can cover your course and living costs
- proof of acceptance onto your course
- proof of payment of healthcare surcharge
You can only apply for your visa three months before the start of your course, so it’s a good idea to start preparing sooner rather than later. You will also need to consider the cost of the Tier 4 (General) student visa, which is currently £328.
As a full-time student
If you wish to study in the UK as a full-time student, you need to apply in the same way as UK nationals, which is via the University and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS. On the UCAS website, you’ll find detailed information about applying as an international student. Once you’ve signed up, you can submit online applications to up to five universities and courses. The application requires you to provide information about your personal details and your education history. You also need to include a detailed personal statement about why you are a suitable student for the course.
Due to EU regulations, fees for EU students are equal to those of UK nationals: £9,250 per year. For other international students, there are no such regulations on fees, so these will depend on the university and the course you have chosen. For detailed information about overseas fees, you can go to this link.
Once you have completed all these steps and you’ve secured your place at a UK university, all that’s left to do is find somewhere to live. If you’re looking for accommodation for your stay in the UK, Uniplaces can help!
Josephine is an undergraduate student currently studying in Porto, who has a passion for languages and cultural exchange which she loves to share through her writing. She is a keen traveller, so when she’s not on a plane, you’ll find her either learning a new language, in a yoga class, or cooking up an exotic dish in the kitchen.