Every year, hundreds of thousands of international students study in the UK. So, what is it that makes British education so attractive to students from all over the world? Here are our top 11 reasons.
1. One of the Best Education in the World
We should say from the start, we don’t believe university league tables are everything. However, if you look at some of the famous university ranking lists, you will find that many of the universities listed are in fact British universities.
UK universities are known globally for the world-class education they provide. They have high standards and one of their key strengths is the way in which they combine academic research and teaching.
The UK government also plays a part in ensuring the high standards and quality. For example, there are strict rules for which type of higher education provider in the UK can call itself ‘university’.
A government agency called the QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) regularly assesses universities and publishes reports on the universities’ performance and the quality of their degrees. The reports are publicly available for anyone to read.
2. Learning from the Experts
We mentioned earlier that the way UK universities combine academic research and teaching is one of their key strengths. Indeed, many UK universities often promote themselves as ‘research focused’ or ‘research intensive’.
What this means for you as a student is that you will be learning from academics who are actively engaged in the subject they teach. They’re likely to have published books, articles or other work about the subject.
University research is also assessed by the UK government in the REF (Research Excellence Framework, previously known as the RAE or Research Assessment Exercise). The REF looks at the quality of research academic departments produce. The results are used to create a university research ranking.
The most recent REF was in 2014. The next one is likely to be in 2018.
UK degrees are on the whole more specialised compared to some education systems. Specialisation is something that starts from senior secondary school where students usually choose 3 or 4 subjects on which to focus.
Specialisation continues at university, where courses are usually focused on one subject area – for example on English literature, mathematics or politics. Or, they can be focused on two subjects in the case of joint courses or major/minor degrees.
This is quite different from so-called ‘liberal arts’ degrees where you can study a variety of subjects in different disciplines, from literature to history, psychology and biology.
Specialisation has many advantages. You get to develop in-depth knowledge of your subject area, along with the relevant skills. This may make it easier for you to pursue a career in a field that’s related to your subject. Or, you can build on your expertise through a postgraduate qualifications, such as a Masters degree.
Having said this, some British universities have started offering degrees that are interdisciplinary and similar to liberal arts degrees.
4. Course Choice
There are approximately 150 universities in the UK, plus hundreds of small colleges offering degree courses.
What this means is that you can choose from many different types of institutions. And, within each university, you can choose from a wide variety of courses.
Therefore, it’s not hard to imagine that whatever you want to study – somewhere at a UK university there is the right course for you. Even if you restrict your search to a specific subject focus, specialisation, course length, location, cost, ranking or other criteria – you’re likely to have a number of options to choose from.
5. You Know What to Expect
Before you apply to any course, you can check the university’s website to see what modules you can expect to study. Modules may be compulsory or optional, and you usually have some choice of which areas to focus on.
Remember, you won’t be able to tell from the degree title alone what you will actually study. It’s important that you look at the course content and structure.
6. You Graduate Sooner
Another reason why many students prefer UK degrees is that they are shorter compared to qualifications in other countries. This is because they are taught more intensively in less time.
Being able to graduate with a full Bachelor, Masters or PhD degree sooner has many advantages. For example, it lowers the cost of your degree as you pay tuition fees and living expenses for less time. Another advantage is that you’ll be able to start working or return to your career and start earning a salary earlier.
However, the length of UK degrees does depend on a few things.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, an undergraduate degree lasts three years. However, it will be longer, usually four years, if it involves a year abroad or a long internship. Also, some courses leading to certain professions, such as engineering, architecture, dentistry or medicine, usually take longer, between four to six years.
In Scotland, undergraduate degrees take at least four years to complete and will be longer for some subjects.
UK Masters degrees usually last 12 months full-time. However, here again courses in specific subjects or courses that involve a period abroad or in industry will last longer. Anything between 15 – 24 months.
The situation for MBA progammes is very similar to that of regular Masters courses. The typical length of an MBA course is 12 months full-time.
However, some MBA programmes last between 15 – 18 months, and a very small number are 24 months long. Usually, the extra time is needed to complete a compulsory work placement or a field trip abroad.
PhD degrees last three years and a maximum of four years.
As a PhD student, you would normally spend the first three years of your PhD programme carrying out your research. You would then spend your fourth and final year writing up your thesis.
7. Easy Application Process
Another advantage of studying in the UK is that the application process is relatively easy and straightforward.
All UK universities explain their application process on their websites. The application process can be fairly similar across different universities for the same level of study and in similar subject fields.
However, there will be important differences in the entry requirements, deadlines, qualifications and supporting documents that you’re required to send. These are set by each university independently.
8. Preparing for Your Future
A good degree from the UK will provide you with the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills to prepare you for your future career or further studies.
For example, when taking a taught course with a UK university, you will be expected to develop the following skills and abilities:
All of the above aren’t just things that you need in order to pass your university degree with good grades. They’re essential skills and abilities for almost everything we do, and they add to our personal growth.
Your future employer will look for these qualities when hiring or promoting you. If you’re planning to take another qualification after your degree, you will have to demonstrate them as part of your application.
9. Student Support
Another reason for choosing the UK is the supportive environment that it offers.
At university, you will find that academic and support staff are generally very welcoming and friendly. They really want you to do well on your course and to have a positive experience during your time with the university.
So you can get the most out of your degree, universities offer a lot of formal support. For example, your department might assign you a ‘personal tutor’ or ‘academic advisor’ with whom you can meet regularly to discuss your progress and any academic questions you may have. Some universities are also able to offer you a ‘mentor’. Usually, this is a more senior student who you can go to for advice.
All universities have a student support office where you can get help with practical matters (like student visas) or welfare issues (for example, if you’re going through a difficult time).
10. A Great Place to Be
The UK is unique in many ways. It manages to combine history and tradition with a dynamic and creative modern culture. All this is supported and enhanced by the number of international communities across the country, all of whom bring their own influences.
If things like politeness, friendliness, personal freedom, respect for one another, accepting people’s individuality are important to you – then the UK is right place for you.
International students often comment on how welcoming and friendly people are. Many seem surprised by how often you can hear ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’ just going through your day.
11. Hobbies & Tourism
Wherever you decide to study in the UK, you’ll never be short of activities to do and things to see.
Whether you enjoy shopping, outdoor activities, clubs, theatres, events, museums, art galleries, sporting events or concerts – you will always find something that suits your interests.
Many of the cities and towns in the UK are popular tourist destinations. We recommend you visit at least some of them during your stay here.
And if that’s not enough, the UK is often said to be ‘the Gateway to Europe’. What this means is that, once you’re here, you can get to the rest of Europe very easily.
This is not only because of the UK’s location, but also because the country has excellent international transport links. These include 24 international airports, five of which are in London alone.
The UK offers high quality education that is recognised all over the world. A good degree from a good UK university gives you great preparation for the future.
However, studying abroad is about much more than just going to your classes, taking exams and getting a qualification. People from around the world come to study in the UK every year for the excellent teaching and support they find here. But they also come here for the chance to get to know and to embrace the uniqueness of the UK.
So, when deciding where to study, think about the academic aspects, such as your degree. But think also about all the other experiences and knowledge that will stay with you long after you finish university.