Once you’ve secured a place at a UK university, you can expect help and support with every aspect of your studies
With more than half a million international students studying here, the UK is the world’s second-most-popular international destination for higher education.
That means UK universities are well equipped to provide support to international students. If you’re coming to the UK to study, here’s the help and advice you can expect to receive.
If you’re a non-EEA national, over 16 and have been offered a place to study on a course that lasts longer than 11 months then you’ll need a Tier 4 general student visa to study in the UK. You can apply for this visa from both inside and outside the UK.
Your university will be able to support you throughout the process of applying for your student visa, and many universities will have a dedicated visa and immigration support team. Check your university’s website for the relevant contact details.
Caroline Shanahan, head of the international student advice service at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), says: “We have a dedicated team of advisers in the international offices on both our campuses, who provide immigration advice to offer-holders and current students and their dependents. The international student advice service also offers a free checking service for Tier 4 applications, and they provide online guides and tutorials to help students apply for their Tier 4 visa.”
Beyond your university, you’ll find further information at the Office of the Immigration Service Commissioner (OISC). Other useful information sites include UKCISA (where you can also get advice on the phone from OISC accredited advisers) and the British Council.
If you’re from an EU country, you may be able to get a loan to cover the cost of tuition fees. But, if you live outside the EU, you’ll have to fund your studies yourself. Before you can apply for your student visa, you’ll also need to make sure that you have – and can prove that you have – the finances to fund both your degree and your living costs.
If you have any questions about financing your studies, try your university first. All UK universities will have student financial support services, and many of those will have dedicated teams for international students.
There are hundreds of scholarships, bursaries and grant schemes available for international students coming to the UK. Many of these will be specifically for postgraduate applicants: for example the UK government’s Chevening scholarship programme (open to students from around the world) and the Commonwealth Scholarship (open to students from Commonwealth countries).
Undergraduate funding may be less common, but can also be found. Many universities will offer their own scholarships for international students, so check with your university to find out what may be available.
“ARU offers scholarships of up to £4,000 for undergraduate and postgraduate international students,” says Caroline. “There’s also early payment discounts of up to £1,000 if international students pay their tuition fees by the deadline. Some of our scholarships are offered automatically; others you will need to apply for, so try to send your scholarship applications as soon as you can. More details of this can be found on our website.”
There are also country-specific scholarships and funding available. These will depend on where you’re from. The British Council website is a good place to start looking for these.
You might find day-to-day life in the UK is very different from your home country. Universities provide plenty of support to help international students settle into living in a new country.
For starters, you can expect your university to have an international student support team. They will run an induction programme to help you settle in, with events, day trips and societies for international students. The team will also be able to help you with general tasks such as opening a bank account or registering with a doctor.
“We provide pre-arrival information to prepare students for studying in the UK, as well as a two day international student orientation programme on arrival,” says Caroline. “We also organise social events throughout the year, and support student-led cultural events like Global Week, which celebrates the uni’s cultural diversity through dance, music and lots of food.”
Many universities have Facebook groups especially for international students, so you’ll be able to chat with fellow students before you even arrive. Buddy programmes are also popular, where international students are buddied up with a current student to help them find their way around and settle into UK life.
Sara, a Media Studies student from Portugal, shares her experience of studying in the UK: “I was really afraid to study abroad. My main concern was homesickness, so when I started at ARU, I got involved in as much as possible. I started playing basketball for my university team during my first year, got involved with different societies, and went along to different events at the student union, like karaoke. Anglia Ruskin really supported me and made me feel at home, so I didn’t actually have time to miss my family that much!”
Most universities will guarantee overseas students an offer of university accommodation that’s owned, managed or approved by the university for the duration of your study. It’s common for universities to also offer accommodation for students who will be bringing a partner or family along to the UK.
No matter what type of accommodation you’re looking for, your university’s student support team will be able to give you advice about the housing available to you, as well as details on rental types, costs and duration.
Anglia Ruskin, for example, has two campuses in Cambridge and Chelmsford that both have on-campus accommodation. Mohamad, an accounting and finance student from Malaysia, lives on the Chelmsford campus. He shares his experience: “I live in the student village and everything is within walking distance. If I want to go the business school or go out to eat, everything is near which is really nice. It also helps me meet lots of different people, both international students and local people too.”
Upon arrival at a UK airport, you’ll pass through immigration control. There are usually two main queues – one for EEA and Swiss nationals, and one for everyone else.
When you reach the front of the queue, a border force officer will look at your passport and check your visa. They may also check that you speak English at the required level, without needing an interpreter. They’ll want to see documents relating to your studies (such as a letter from your university or higher education institute, which includes your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies number if you are coming to the UK as a Tier 4 student), proof of your finances, and details of where you will be staying.
Universities often provide a dedicated shuttle service from the airport to your university campus. Your university’s international student support team will be able to inform you about the transport options available – and help you book the service you need.
The support team will also put you in touch with your university’s dedicated international student support service, where you’ll be able to get all the information and support you need to make you feel at home.
Xinxin, an International Communications student from China, explains the support available at ARU: “Support is always on-hand to help you at university – not just academically, but also with things like employment, which I’ve benefited from a lot. When you’re coming to study in a different country it can feel overwhelming, but ARU has always made me feel welcome and like it’s my home. Whenever you have challenges, issues or are confused about something, there’s always someone to help.”
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