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Study in London, the UK

Why Study in London, the UK?

London is the capital city of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s largest cities with a population nearing 9 million residents. Located in south-eastern England, London is a famously multicultural city with a centuries-long history of welcoming people from all over the world. Today, nearly 2.5 million immigrants reside in London, which is home to sizable and welcoming international communities from all corners of the globe.

London is considered the financial capital of Western Europe, and many world-leading financial institutions and businesses are headquartered in London. The city has also been a major centre for multiple large-scale industries including trade and manufacturing, media and communications, and technology over the years.

London: Highly Ranked Universities on Every Corner

Most importantly for international students, London boasts world-class educational institutes, a well-developed public transport system and an endless list of exciting attractions to enjoy away from the classroom. The city is situated on the River Thames, and is the largest urban economy in Europe.

Over 300 languages are spoken in the multinational city, with English being spoken by nearly everyone. The London time zone is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+0) during the winter months, and the city switches to GMT+1 (also known as British Summer Time, BST) during the summer months.

London can be easily accessed by flights from all over the world to the city’s three major international airports – Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. Flights from India, for instance, take about 10 hours while flights from China take a couple of hours longer. Flights from South Africa to London similarly take about 11 hours, while travel from South America may take an additional 3-4 hours and flying from Australia to London takes nearly a full day of flight time. New York City, meanwhile, is a short eight-hour flight away from London.

The city’s central location and accessibility from all over the world is one of many reasons why international students choose London as their university destination.

Study in London for International Students

Latest estimates say that there are as many as 125,000 international students currently pursuing degrees in London. The city is home to a wide variety of universities and specialised institutes of different sizes, campus types, tuition costs and educational quality.

London has ten universities ranked in the global top 500 according to QS World Rankings 2024:

Many London universities are well-known for the strength of their research and innovation programmes in addition to their faculty quality. In fact, London is home to five members of the Russell Group, a prestigious group of 24 Universities in the United Kingdom with a shared focus on research and a reputation for academic achievement:

  • Imperial College London
  • King’s College London
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • University College London

QS ranks Imperial College London highest at #3 in the United Kingdom and #6 worldwide. Each of the above universities are large-scale institutes, or members of larger university groups such as the University of London institutes with over 25,000 enrolled students except The London School of Economics and Political Science which hosts just under 9,000 students overall.

Aside from these, the city also features multiple award-winning universities specialising in certain disciplines. The most prominent such institutes are:

The large concentration of universities in London has enabled the city to develop a world-class educational infrastructure in the form of high-quality libraries, student union services, research institutes, entrepreneurial centres and post-graduation employment support services.

This means that even international students who aren’t studying at a top-500 university in London can benefit by using the same resources as students from universities. Here is a list of the other universities for international students:

Study in London Costs

Undergraduate tuition costs for international students in most London universities can vary between 20,000-30,000 US Dollars per year. Tuition fees are higher for specialised programmes such as Law and Healthcare courses at about 35,000-40,000 US Dollars per year. Postgraduate tuition fees depend on the specific programme and courses selected, and usually range between 20,000 and 35,000 US Dollars per annum.

On the matter of living costs, international students should note that unfortunately, London is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in due to extremely high real estate prices, rental values and utility prices in the city. Imperial College London estimates that international students should budget between 1,800 and 2,000 US Dollars monthly. This figure includes about 1,200 US Dollars for shared accommodation, 350 US Dollars for food expenses, 150 US Dollars for transport, 120-150 US Dollars for utilities and another 150 US Dollars for miscellaneous expenses.

For many international students, high living costs could be a major disadvantage of studying at a university in London. Luckily for you, most universities offer a wide variety of scholarships to attract high-performing international students. Examples of such scholarships include The Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship, and the Erasmus Mundus scholarship. We recommend that you thoroughly research and locate all relevant scholarships before you begin the application process.

Working as an International Student

As a result of high living costs in London, many international students decide to financially support themselves through part-time employment alongside their studies. An international student in London can legally work up to 20 hours every week during the academic semester, and they can be full-time employees during summer and winter vacations.

Moreover, international students are allowed to work full-time during the semester if they are on a work placement that is considered an integral and assessed part of the course. But you must keep in mind that any such work placement cannot be longer than 50% of the total course length.

The specific post-visa work rules for students are even more flexible – The UK’s ‘Graduate Route’ enables international students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master’s degree to apply to stay in the United Kingdom for up to two years after their studies. PhD graduates can apply to stay for up to three years.

The Graduate Route is unsponsored, meaning that you can use these two-three years to work or search for employment anywhere in the United Kingdom. The Graduate Route allows international students the flexibility to gain work experience, pursue internships or even work as a freelancer in the United Kingdom. The benefits of the Graduate Route are yet another factor why international students prefer attending universities in the United Kingdom, and especially London, for their degrees.

International students in London should keep a constant lookout on popular job forums for semester-long and summer internships offered by world-leading firms in London every month. These include the world’s best consulting firms, investment banks, hedge funds and many other types of large-scale businesses. Securing such internships indicates your work-readiness to potential employers, and greatly boosts your chances of finding permanent employment post-graduation, even if it isn’t with the same firm you interned at.

In addition to professional internships, many international students in London find part-time employment in various university venues such as research institutes, student unions, administrative centres, cafes and sporting facilities. London also offers many entertainment, cultural and academic institutes which provide part-time employment and competitive wages to international students.

Things to do in London

London offers an exciting mix of culture, history, entertainment and sporting venues for international students to engage with, alongside a wide variety of outdoor spaces to enjoy the pleasant British weather during the summer months. International students interested in historical affairs, for example, will be able to view items from many global cultures and eras at the world-famous British Museum.

Sports fanatics, meanwhile, have an action-packed schedule of world-class football, cricket, tennis, rugby and other sports to appreciate all year round. The city’s neighbourhoods each offer a completely new atmosphere and lifestyle. Camden in North London, for example, is well-known as a favourite for younger crowds because of the nightlife and the colourful flea markets dotted all over the neighbourhood. Spitalfields, in Central London, is popular for its world-class restaurants and unusual shops.

Each part of London has its own unique history, and international students interested in urban living and history will learn a lot about the iconic city simply with a walk around town.

Below are a few of London’s can’t-miss destinations for international students:

  • Tower of London
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Natural History Museum
  • St. Paul’s Cathedral
  • Wembley Football Stadium
  • Lord’s Cricket Ground
  • Victoria & Albert Museum
  • The National Gallery
  • London Eye
  • Tower Bridge
  • Big Ben
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hyde Park
  • The Shard
  • The British Library

Alongside the above destinations which are tourist favourites, London offers plenty of offbeat and youthful activities for international students to enjoy as well. These include access to urban adventure sports, vibrant nightlife venues and even tours of supposedly haunted buildings!

Below are a few offbeat activities for you to try during your time in London:

  • The Attendant – A Victorian-era toilet that is now a cafe
  • The Leake Street Tunnel – A hub for street art
  • The Cartoon Museum – A history of cartoons & comics in Britain over the years
  • Sky Garden – London’s tallest garden, 155 metres above ground on The Shard
  • Jack The Ripper-themed walking tour across East London
  • Emirates Aviation Experience
  • The Slide at ArcelorMittal Orbit
  • The Dare Skywalk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
  • Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter
  • Madame Tussauds London

In addition to the exciting sights and sounds of London, the relatively small size of the United Kingdom enables you to comfortably make weekend trips to the country’s other major cities. Manchester and Liverpool in northwest England, for example, are both under five hours away by train, whereas the coastal city of Brighton in the south is just a two-hour drive away. The Scottish Highlands, a popular destination for tourists, can be accessed easily with an hour-long flight from London to Edinburgh.

Additionally, most of the major western European cities including Madrid, Paris and Amsterdam are a short flight away from London, and international students can take advantage of extremely well-priced flight tickets for each of these destinations. With such an exciting line-up of activities in addition to world-class academic and research facilities, it is no surprise that so many international students decide to study in London.

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