Deciding to move to a foreign country to live and study may not be an easy decision for most students. But for Blake Makuuchi of California, the UK was the perfect choice for his undergraduate education.
“I traveled to many countries and knew I wanted to study abroad for college. Choosing to go to college in the UK was easy,” says Makuuchi, who is studying for a Bachelor of Science degree. in Criminology at the University of Bristol.
The United Kingdom is the second largest host country for international higher education students after the United States, according to the British Council. In the 2019-2020 academic year, UK higher education institutions welcomed 574,890 students from outside the UK, according to Michael Peak, senior education adviser for the British Council.
“With over 160 universities to choose from and over 50,000 undergraduate courses, there is a lot to offer in the UK, from inner city universities to institutions in the Highlands of Scotland,” said Peak. “UK universities have strong links with their local communities, businesses and industry.”
For potential international students considering options abroad, here are five things to know about obtaining an undergraduate degree in the UK:
Students must apply to schools through UCAS
The UK uses an application system called Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS. However, some schools can apply through the Common App, which allows students to apply to US and UK schools together.
[READ: UCAS vs. Common App: What International Students Should Know.]
“UCAS is cheap,” says Gary Coulter, international market development manager for North America and Latin America at the University of Bristol. “It costs $ 36, depending on the exchange rate, for five program choices. In the UK you apply directly to a program and not to a university as a whole. “
He says UCAS has four main sections to complete and is fully self-declared, which means students don’t need to upload any documents as part of the application process.
An adult must be declared on departure
Unlike US universities which allow students to declare a major after two years, UK schools require students to choose their major immediately.
“Students should declare their specialty from the start and the application focuses on knowledge and interest in that subject, rather than being tailored to a particular university,” says Neil Green, International Student Recruitment Manager at University College London. “This makes the UK a great choice for those who know what they want to study and can demonstrate their academic motivation as part of the application.”
Green says there are thousands of study programs available at UK colleges, and UCL, for example, has over 450 programs. As part of the pre-application process, students should research the different options and identify the program to apply to, he says.
Bachelor degrees are generally shorter and more affordable
“A standard bachelor’s degree in the UK, with the exception of Scotland, takes only three years, which means students can graduate faster and start their careers,” says Green.
[READ: 3 Types of U.S. Students Who Should Consider Earning a Degree Abroad ]
American universities typically require four years to earn a bachelor’s degree, which can be more expensive.
Coulter says tuition fees at UK colleges are often cheaper than many private or out-of-state options in the US, and average tuition fees are $ 30,000 to $ 35,000 per year in the United States. UK. He says the cost of living may also be more affordable depending on the location, with an average cost of living ranging from $ 12,000 to $ 16,000 per year.
“Queen’s University Belfast is one of the oldest universities in the UK,” said Margaret Topping, the school’s pro-internationalization vice-chancellor. “Our beautiful campus, our university heritage and our contemporary philosophy blend well with the hustle and bustle of the city of Belfast which, above all, has the lowest cost of living in the UK”
Students can work while studying
International students in the UK can work on or off campus while they are full-time students.
“The student visa allows for up to 20 hours of work per week during the semester and an unlimited number of hours during vacation,” says Green. “In the UK, international students are not limited to working exclusively on campus, so employment in the wider economy is also an option.”
Being able to gain work experience while an international student has been an advantage for Vaania Kapoor Achuthan from India. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Politics and International Relations from University College London.
“Studying in London has been helpful to me as it has opened up a lot of internship opportunities for me in my field,” she says. “I was able to explore the vast political history of London and find bridges between what I learn in my class and real world situations.”
Students will gain a truly international experience
The UK location offers students a wealth of international experience and exposure, experts say.
[READ: What International Students Should Know About Jobs After U.K. University Degrees.]
“Undergraduate degrees from UK universities give international students the opportunity to focus on their chosen subject, work while studying and have a multicultural experience,” says Ivona Alizadeh, Founder and Director of EducAd Consulting in London.
Green says UK universities tend to have a much higher percentage of international students than other countries, especially in cosmopolitan areas such as central London. At UCL, he says, more than 50% of students come from outside the UK
“This, combined with a diverse mix of nationalities among our academic staff, makes for a rich learning experience,” he said.
Coulter says students can develop strong intercultural communication skills at UK universities, schools which, in competitive times, produce “multilingual graduates with a multicultural background – attractive to future employers.”
Now in his sophomore year, Makuuchi says studying abroad has greatly enriched his university experience. She strongly encourages students to step out of their comfort zone and study in the UK
“I meet students from all over the world and explore beautiful cities in England,” she says. “I wanted a challenge and an adventure, and my experience here so far has been just that!”