The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also known as the UK or Britain, is regarded as the world’s second most popular international study destination. The UK welcomes almost 460,000 international students from around the world each year. Having built a world-class education system, higher education in the UK is a model for many countries around the globe.
With around 162 higher education institutions across the UK, and a generous range of degree types, it makes sense that Britain is a popular destination in international education. The education system varies depending on where in the UK you choose to study, with some subtle differences. Regardless of where you study, you will receive high quality teaching from leading professionals. Any qualification gained in the UK will be highly regarded internationally.
Many of the UK universities and colleges are seen in the leading education ranking tables. In the 2023 QS World University Rankings, the UK has 4 institutions in the top 10. There are also 17 UK institutions in the top 100. The highest ranked is the University of Cambridge, which occupies 2nd place. It is followed by the University of Oxford and Imperial College London, in 4th and =6th place respectively.
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Can I study in the UK for free?
Higher education is not state funded for international students in the UK. This means that each university is allowed to set their own tuition fees for their courses. Whilst this can be off putting, you should keep in mind that there are many scholarships available for international students that can help to make studying in the UK much more affordable. For more information about fees to study in Germany, see our Costs of Studying and Living in the UK section.
Can I study in the UK as an international student?
The UK is a fantastic place to study in as an international student. You will be receiving a world leading education from some of the most prestigious universities and renowned teachers and professors. As an international student, you will need to gain a visa in order to study in the UK. For more information about this, take a look at our UK Student Visas section.
Can I work and study in the UK?
As an international student, you are able to work up to 20 hours per week (during term time) on a student visa, provided you are studying full-time. Outside of term time, you are permitted to work full-time, and if you are required to take part in a work placement as part of your course, this is also permitted to be over 20 hours per week.
The currency used in the UK is the Pound Sterling (GBP/£).
Tuition fees for international students are not fixed or governed in the UK. This means that they can vary greatly from institution to institution, and each university decides what they wish to charge. The tuition fees you are charged will be highly dependent on your home country. If you are coming from an EU country, you are likely to be charged the same as a UK student. If you are from any other country, you will pay international student fees.
In England, the maximum undergraduate fee for UK/EU students is £9,250 per annum for the 2019/20 academic year. In Wales, the undergraduate fee can be up to £9,000 per annum, and in Scotland you can also be charged up to £9,000 per annum, but it tends to be less for EU students. In Northern Ireland, as an EU student you can expect to be charged up to £4,275 per annum. Tuition fees for UK/EU students are subject to change each academic year, and you should make sure that you are aware of how much your course will cost you. Postgraduate fees for EU students in each of these areas are normally the same as those for UK students, and will differ depending on the institution.
EU students will be aware of the UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union, also known as ‘Brexit’. Many universities have pledged to keep EU fees the same for several years after the referendum. These prices are always subject to change now that they are not set by a governing body, so make sure you keep up to date with the EU fees at your universities of choice.
If you are a student coming from outside of the EU, your tuition fees could be much higher. For undergraduate and postgraduate level, you can typically expect to pay between £5,000 and £40,000 per annum. If you choose to study an executive education course such as an MBA, or a competitive course such as medicine, your fees will be on the higher end of the scale.
In terms of living costs, it is recommended that you have at least £14,000 per year. This will cover your rent, groceries, travel, and any other necessary expenses. If you choose to live in London, you should budget for higher living costs, as it is significantly more expensive than the rest of the UK. Many retailers offer generous student discounts as long as you can prove that you are a student by showing your student card, take advantage of this to save some money. Depending on where you are coming from, you may be able to get a part-time job to supplement your funds. This is normally dictated by your visa, and can sometimes have restrictions.
You may be able to apply for a scholarship to help fund your studies. This could be awarded by your institution, or a separate funding body.
Depending on your home country, you may need to obtain a visa in order to study in the UK. If you are from an EU country, you do now need a visa to come and study in the UK, unless you are eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. If you are from any other country, you are required to be granted a visa before you can enter the UK. Before you can apply for a visa, you will need to be accepted onto a course, be able to prove that your English language skills meet the required standard, prove that you have sufficient funds for living and studying. To apply for a visa outside of the UK, there will be a fee of £348 for each person applying. The UK government website will provide you with more information about eligibility and restrictions.
Learn more on our UK student visa guide.
The official and national language of the United Kingdom is English. There are other recognised languages also spoken across the country. These include Welsh, Irish, Cornish, Scots, Ulster Scots, and Scottish Gaelic.
Courses at UK universities are delivered in English. If your first language is not English, it is likely that you will have to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application. If you do not meet the required standards, it is common for institutions to offer English language courses to help you improve.
If your native language is not English, you should make the most of your opportunity to learn a language as you study. Communicating with locals and other students is the perfect way to practice. Having advanced ability in English is a great skill to add to your CV/resume.
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