Why choose the UK as a possible study destination?
- It’s the original home of the English language!
- The UK actually offers four countries in one: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – each with its own unique traditions and culture.
- It may be a small country, but it offers huge variety – just in travelling a small distance, you’ll see changes in the landscapes, the buildings and even the accents with which people speak.
- You’ll visit exciting world cities like London, historic smaller cities like Cambridge and York, and also beautiful small towns and villages across the whole country.
- You can also explore a long and fascinating history, with evidence of every period over the past thousand years, and more.
- The UK has a long tradition of democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity.
- The UK has for centuries been the native land of many famous writers, scientists, thinkers and artists.
- Both its schools and its universities have worldwide reputations and attract thousands of international students every year. Oxford, Cambridge and a number of the London universities consistently rank in the top 20 worldwide.
Population: 63 million
Main cities: England: Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds; Scotland: Edinburgh (capital), Glasgow; Wales: Cardiff (capital); Northern Ireland: Belfast (capital).
Divided into: England (53 million), Scotland (5 million), Wales (3 million), Northern Ireland (2 million)
The United Kingdom is different. With its monarchy, its special ways of doing things, its funny traditions, the curious manner in which it sees itself as part of Europe… and yet not really.
Actually, there are two sides to the UK. On the one hand, the old traditional culture is still very much alive and well, and when you visit you will certainly see quite a lot of that. But on the other hand, it’s also a surprisingly modern country, a leader in science and invention, a country which was the first to see an industrial revolution, but also one of the first to move on from the industries of the past towards a high-tech future.
The UK has long attracted international students to its prestigious schools and universities. And now, as in the past, a good-quality British education is still a badge of success and achievement.
KE offers a wide range of programmes in the UK. You’ll be staying at one of the famous colleges of the University of Cambridge. On all our scheduled programmes, you’ll also spend a week either at a college full of character literally next door to the magnificent Durham Cathedral or in a building resembling a small castle at St. Andrews in Scotland. And if you take a three-week programme, you’ll experience all three centres. You’ll visit London twice, but you’ll also have the chance to see a number of fascinating places away from the favoured tourist attractions in the London area.
The UK is not really famous for its great climate, but during mid-summer, when our programmes take place, the weather is generally warm, even hot at times. There is quite a lot of dry and sunny weather, but there can also be rainy days: some summers have very little rain, but others are quite wet – you never know. You can expect daytime temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees, sometimes more. Durham is a degree or two cooler than London and Cambridge. St. Andrews is generally fresher, perhaps two or three degrees cooler, but still pleasantly warm on a sunny day.
Especially if you come early in the summer season, you may be surprised how light it is! It’s only dark for a few short hours – and in Scotland it doesn’t seem to get totally dark all night.
Bring summer clothes, but also a jumper and a light jacket – and something for the rain, just in case. (Most buildings in the UK do not have air conditioning.)
The UK is generally regarded as a reasonably safe country. During the daytime, you can walk around quite comfortably in all the places we visit, including the big cities. After dark, a little more caution is sensible. We suggest that students of all ages go around in pairs or small groups at all times. Take care with possessions, and don’t leave wallets and purses in back pockets or other places where they can easily be seen. Leave valuables at the centre for safekeeping, and only take small amounts of cash with you.
Types of institution
The term ‘higher education’ is normally used to refer to universities; ‘further education’ covers a wide range of colleges and other organisations offering courses to students aged over 18 in many different vocational and general subjects. A generic term covering all education for students over the age of 18 is ‘tertiary education’.
Although the UK has many different opportunities for tertiary education, at KE we concentrate on preparing international students for universities, in particular, the higher-ranking universities.
Many international students start their university careers by taking a foundation programme, which generally lasts one academic year. A foundation programme combines introductions to specific academic programmes with higher-level English language courses and general work on study skills.
Students with a strong academic background and a good level of English may join an undergraduate programme. This means that they are starting a programme which will in most cases lead to a Bachelor’s Degree – possibly a BA (Bachelor of Arts), or BSc (Bachelor of Science). These degrees may be ‘Ordinary’ or ‘Honours’ – in some cases, the degree is automatically an Honours degree, in others it’s necessary to study for longer to achieve this. Most degree programmes last three or four years, but in some subjects, such as medicine, they are usually longer.
Students who have already graduated in their own country may be considered for a higher degree in the UK. This could be an MA (Master of Arts), or a PhD (Doctorate) – though there are a number of other postgraduate options such as MBA and MPhil. Very often an MA is obtained on the way to obtaining an even higher qualification. Most higher degrees involve a great deal of independent study, and a PhD is focused entirely on research in a new field.
Please note that universities decide themselves on the candidates they will accept. No qualification is an automatic passport to entry.
Domestic and international students
All British universities accept both domestic and international students.
Domestic students are those from the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, they pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year, with most of the better-known universities charging the full £9,000. In addition, they have to pay for their accommodation and meals. Generally, the government provides loans which students have to pay back once they start working.
International students come from outside the UK. They pay higher tuition fees, generally between £15,000 and £20,000 per year. And of course they have to pay for accommodation and meals. Students may apply to study from any country. They will need a student visa, which is relatively easy to obtain from most countries, but harder for some.
Students from the European Union (EU) may be regarded as domestic or international students – different universities have different views on this. But they only pay the domestic tuition fee.
In Scotland, university education is free for students from Scotland and the EU. But students from the rest of the UK and from countries outside the EU have to pay fees.
International students can generally apply to study any of the subjects on offer at universities. However, some are harder to get into than others. What the universities themselves tend to tell us is this:
- Very few places are available for medicine, which is highly competitive.
- Places are also limited for law. (And students should only consider law if they have a really high level of English.)
- They would welcome more applications for science and engineering, also for arts, languages and social studies.
- Most of the universities offer a huge range of courses, and it would be good to see more international students considering some of the newer and more innovative courses which are often more closely linked to the expected demands of the future.
- Business studies is over-subscribed. A number of universities have commented that they possibly have too many Chinese students taking business studies courses and would be delighted to see more Chinese students applying for other disciplines.
If universities are actively seeking applicants for particular subjects, they may be less demanding in their expectations.
What universities are looking for
Of course, they are looking for academic ability and good results in examinations. But most of them also look at the whole person. Students who devote themselves to academic study and do very little else may not do as well as they might imagine. The question might be asked: if they need to do so much study to achieve these grades, are they perhaps not as good as might seem, and will they actually cope with our course?
Universities really like to see a balanced person, someone who has a number of other interests as well. It doesn’t matter too much what these interests are, but there should be something. They will also be looking for an ability to think. University study in English-speaking countries is not just about remembering vast amounts of information: it’s also about knowing where to find information and using it creatively.
If you are not a native speaker of English, your university will want to see evidence of your English language skills. The most widely-used examination to provide evidence of English levels is known as IELTS – and most of our KE programmes offer practice for IELTS. However, most universities will also accept other qualifications which they see as the equivalent.