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University in the UK: Admission, Fees, Visa
Once you have decided which subject you would like to read at university, you have to make yet another important decision: Where would you like to take your degree?
Choosing a University: Specialties and League Tables
For lots of ambitious students in the UK, this pre-selection is heavily influenced by the League Tables. Several nationwide rankings of universities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland are published by major newspapers, such as The Guardian or The Sunday Times, every year. Cambridge, Oxford, St Andrews, the LSE, University College London, Imperial College London, Bath, Durham, and Warwick have recently dominated the top 10.
But whether you are aiming for one of these prestigious institutions or not, they are many ways of finding out more about the universities that have caught your interest.
- Browse this list of (most) universities in the UK and look up their websites.
- Attend the Conventions of Higher Education organized by the UCAS (the University and Colleges Admissions Service) and talk to the university staff at the marketing booths.
- Visit the university in person during an Open Day and have a look around campus.
Admission Requirements: A-levels and their Equivalents
In order to establish the exact entrance requirements for a particular course, you should read the relevant section of their website carefully, order a prospectus for the degree course of your choice, or contact the admissions office directly.
As an international student interested in a bachelor’s degree, you usually have to provide the admissions office with an official equivalent to the British A-level exams. The national secondary diploma from your previous country of residence may be considered sufficient, e.g. the French baccalauréat, the German Abitur, or the Austrian Matura. Depending on the place where you finished secondary school, you may also have to participate in a nationwide standardized test. If all else fails, you have to enroll in a so-called foundation program or preliminary year first.
Obviously, English is the primary language of instruction. Therefore you often have to show proof of your English language skills, e.g. by achieving certain minimum results in the TEOFL or IELTS exam. As mentioned on page one, a master’s degree usually requires a B.A., B.Sc., etc. from an officially recognized college or university. Of course, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, your grades, academic achievements, professional skills (if applicable), fields of interest, and personal motivation will play a decisive role in the success of your application.
Systems and Selection: The Application Process
Once you have made sure what the relevant requirements are, you can come up with a short list of universities according to:
- local cost of living and quality of life
- academic reputation
- tuition fees and scholarships / bursaries
As an undergrad, you have to handle all your applications via UCAS. However, there is no such central body for postgrad degrees in the UK. The postgraduate equivalent, UK Pass, includes only a few selected universities, so most graduates interested in a master’s degree, a Ph.D., or a year as a visiting student apply directly at their universities of choice. Postgrad teacher training courses are the only exception: GTTR (the Graduate Teacher Training Registry) will take care of your applications.
You should make sure to apply to several universities in order to have viable alternatives. Also apply well before your degree course is supposed to start – about 18 months in advance, or more.
Fees and Funding
Although universities in the UK are public institutions, this does not mean that they are free of charge. Both undergrads and postgraduates have to pay more or less substantial tuition fees.
- In 2016, undergrads from England, Wales, and the member states of the European Union pay as much as an annual 9,000 GBP for their degree.
- The fees in Northern Ireland are capped at 3,575 GBP per year for local and non-UK EU students.
- The standard fee in Scotland is 1,820 GBP for Scottish and non-UK EU undergrads, although with the help of Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS), studying at university is effectively free.
However, the average costs for international students are a good deal higher, ranging from a minimum of 8,000 GBP per year in the humanities to an annual 36,000 GBP for a clinical education. To all this, you still need to add the daily cost of living in the UK.
But don’t give up on your dreams just yet. There are numerous ways of getting funding for your university degree in the UK. First of all, student loans in your home country sometimes cover the costs of studying abroad.
Secondly, students from EU member states and a couple of other countries may be eligible for Student Support. As the criteria for eligibility are, however, very complex, we can’t explain all here. You can read up on them on the homepage of the UK CISA (Council for International Student Affairs).
Thirdly and lastly, all British universities offer a range of scholarships (also called bursaries) for national and international students with outstanding qualifications. Have a look at the website of your future university. Most homepages have a section called “Fees and Funding” where they list all the scholarship funds their institution has to offer. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the admissions office and ask for advice.
Student Visa: Learn the Language
You can determine if you need a UK visa for attending university by completing this brief questionnaire provided by the UK Border Agency. However, you should always keep the following in mind: getting a student visa mostly requires proof of English language skills, sufficient funding, and proof that you have been accepted as a prospective student. Unless you have secured a place as a visiting student or in a degree program, your visa application will not be successful.
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