London, United Kingdom


A beginner’s guide to studying in the UK

Some of the world’s best universities, unforgettable cities, brilliant nightlife and a welcoming environment for international students.

Those are just some of the reasons you might have for wanting to study abroad in the UK, but there’s actually so much more. Want to find out more about the University of Edinburgh’s essay proofreading service for students that don’t list English as their first language? Or more about the University of Sheffield’s #WeAreInternational campaign? There are so many initiatives held to welcome international students at UK universities. You’ve come to the right place to find out all about them, and everything else you need to know about studying overseas in the UK. If you need a better understanding of the UK undergraduate honours degree system, you can find that here.   

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Will studying in the UK help to further my career?

In terms of looking to further your career, there aren’t many better places in the world to study than the UK. Not only does it have some of the highest numbers in the world for international students going to study there, meaning that you can make plenty of potential job contacts from all around the world. But, it’s also home to some of the most reputable universities in the world. In the Times Higher Education (THE) World Rankings, the UK have 23 universities in the top 150, the second most behind USA. This means that moving abroad to study in the country looks very impressive on your CV.

UK universities are very good at helping their students into employment too, many institutions will have a careers centre, which gives advice and guidance on how to get into particular fields. This information will come from professional careers advisors, who will sometimes have links all around the country for jobs in the UK. A lot of universities have careers advice exclusively for international students too, where they can help with visas and CVs.

If you are looking for a graduate career in the UK, check out this article for some help .

You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a job after studying abroad there, though. The British often use the phrase ‘your reputation precedes you’, and this will become commonplace for an international graduate after studying at one of the country’s top universities. Employers will be expecting big things from you. Don’t take that as extra pressure, take it as a compliment and a stage to showcase your new skills on.

You’ll certainly have a reputation to live up to as an international graduate in Britain, have you got what it takes? After studying at a top UK institution, of course you do!

Which UK city should I study in?

The fact that this question is so difficult to answer, is testament to the fact that the UK has plenty of beautiful cities to study in for international students. From the scenic coastal paths in Exeter, all the way up to the famous cobbled lanes of Glasgow, there are plenty of viable options for places that you could study in between. No matter what you want from your study abroad adventure, you will find a British city to meet your needs.

Sheffield has been ranked the greenest city in Europe, Bristol is well-known for its amazing street art after being the birthplace of world-famous artist Banksy, and London is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the world.

Just a short train journey from the UK capital, Loughborough University is one of the top institutions in the UK. Loughborough University boasts lots of green spaces, plentiful sports facilities and a campus cat. It’s no surprise that it repeatedly wins University of the Year!

Portsmouth is another UK city known for its passion for sport with a particular love of football. Ideally located on the south coast of England, Portsmouth University is close to other major UK cities such as Brighton and London.

However, it was none of these spectacular cities which won our sister company Whatuni’s Student Choice Award (WUSCA) for having the best university city life. No, that honour fell to the Scottish city of Edinburgh.

Argentinian Paula Blanco Borner, an international student ambassador at the University of Edinburgh, says that everyone who has come to visit her in Edinburgh fell in love with the city just as much as her.

“There is not one single person who didn’t find this city amazing. There is a mix of landscapes, cultural activities, as well as nightlife that means students never get bored. There is so many things we can do in Edinburgh, from trying the thousand cafes, to climbing Arthur’s Seat on a sunny day, or spending the whole day at the National Museum. Not to mention the views from the library that make studying less dreadful, even when it’s raining.”

Those must be some pretty good views, right?

Paula also made it clear that the city is a good place to be as an international student, “Edinburgh is also a very welcoming city. There are students from more than 140 different countries at the University of Edinburgh, so even if someone comes from the most remote country, the probability of finding someone from home is really high – something which might help when feeling homesick. But Edinburghers are really nice as well – it caught my eye from the first time I stepped into this city.”

So, there you have it! Edinburgh is clearly a top choice and is very welcoming of international students. However, you will soon find that a lot of UK cities are very inclusive for students from all over the world. Take your time, do your research, and you will not find it hard to discover the best UK city for you to study in.

What is it like to live in student accommodation in the UK?

Student accommodation in the UK is notoriously fun, and that is no different for international students. Fresher’s week can be a daunting experience, you wouldn’t be blamed for being overwhelmed by the thought of moving to a new country, enrolling on a new course programme and meeting tons of new people, all in the space of a week!

However, UK universities make a big effort to make this transition as easy as possible for international students. Most student’s unions will have an ‘activities fair’ and a ‘sports fair’, where you can sign up to different societies or sports clubs. So, if you’re worried about making friends in the accommodation, don’t worry. There are plenty of other opportunities for you if you don’t feel on top form in your first week.

Having said that, you will be surprised at how easy it is to make friends in your accommodation, or ‘halls’ as they are often called by students. You will have probably heard the phrase “don’t worry, everyone else will be in the same situation” about a million times when talking about university, but unfortunately, we’re going to say it again. Don’t worry guys and girls, everyone else is in the same situation as you when you get to university, they will all be desperate to make friends too!

Most international students stick to university accommodation in their first year. This usually involves sharing a kitchen and living area, and having private rooms along one corridor. The number of people that you’ll share a corridor with can be anything between 2 and 12. A lot of the rooms available have an en suite bathroom with a shower, toilet and sink, but some halls will have shared bathrooms and toilets.

For example, Cardiff Met University was a finalist for the Best Student Community in the National Student Housing Survey, offering 1000 bedrooms and 600 private ensuite student halls. Similarly, Southampton University also has a range of living options with a choice of rooms located either close to campus, in the city or on the outskirts.

Although it is traditional to stay in university accommodation for your first year in the UK, in the remaining years you have a bit more freedom with your accommodation choices. Most people grab a group of friends and move in to a shared house with them, but you can also choose to stay on in halls for a reduced price as a mentor for the new first years. That involves going around to the flat to check up on the students once a week and helping with any problems they may have. Or, you can rent privately run student accommodation such as those available at Unite.

What do international students think about living in the UK?

Isabel, University of Leeds (21st on the Hotcourses Diversity UK list, with 144 different nationalities and 7079 international students studying there)

Museum studies

Year of graduation: 2015

 “Great Uni!” (5 stars)

The University of Leeds is an excellent place for an international student to study. Not only because of the high quality of modules but also all the extra events and activities offered by the uni in order to integrate all students as much as possible. One can make friends easily and there are plenty of societies to take part in. There are many volunteer and internship opportunities around Leeds and many outside speakers brought in lecturing on a broad range of subjects.

Fathimath, University of Glasgow (47th on the Hotcourses Diversity UK list, with 131 different nationalities and 8219 international students studying there)


Year of graduation: 2017

“Historical university, lovely city DEFINITELY worth living in!” (5 stars)

I love the University of Glasgow! The course setting is reasonable, easy to follow and there’s a lot of coursework and laboratory work, which I love to do. The staff are nice, friendly and could be contacted, quite conveniently! The library facilities are easily accessible and the University grounds and campus areas are beautiful and serene. Our International Society arranges day trips and weekend trips almost every weekend and very cheap prices and it is a great way to make friends and explore Scotland! The night life is amazing, with a lot of gigs going on all the time! You can never run out of things to do here in this eventful city!

Manuel, Swansea University (84th on the Hotcourses Diversity UK list, with 118 different nationalities and 2759 international students studying there)

English studies

Year of graduation: 2015

“Fantastic” (5 stars)

My personal experience at Swansea University couldn’t be better. As an exchange student I’m enjoying life at uni, as well as the modules I am studying. I would recommend this university to everyone who wants to have a great university experience.

Should I join a UK university sports team?

University sport in the UK is huge. Whether you’re a first-time player looking to have some fun, or a seasoned professional on the pitch – there are plenty of options for you to join a university sports team. In fact, part of the #WeAreInternational campaign is to try to include more international students in university sport in the UK.

The University of Sheffield were the university that started the #WeAreInternational campaign, and have been pioneers in using sport to integrate international students into university life. In fact, this year, there have been 5,669 attendances by international students at their ‘social sport’ sessions, which give students the opportunity to try out different sports and keep active around the university. These sessions are usually run by student sport representatives in their free time, and they are a great way for international students to ease their way in to university and meet new people with a love of sport!

The Sports Officer at the University of Sheffield, Emily Roche, says that the university’s sports clubs have loved getting behind the #WeAreInternational campaign, “When we started off with the campaign, one of the really nice things about it was that I didn’t really feel like I had to push clubs that much to get involved with it. They heard that it was something they could use to proactively engage with members and they ran with it.”

A lot of people see sport as a universal language, and joining a university sports team can help you integrate into a new country like very few other things can. Traditionally, teams have socials at least once a month, which is a great way to meet new friends, and get to know the area under the guidance of people who have been at the university longer than you.

Also, when you’re far from home, it can be handy having a big group of people to accompany you on your study abroad adventure, “University sport is a great way of making friends and meeting a range of different people that you might not have if you just stayed in halls. Everyone I know involved in university sport has always felt so comfortable, made so many friends, and you feel like a real part of a family during that time” says Emily.

University sport can get to a really competitive level in the UK through BUCS (British University and College Sport). This is a competition which over 150 universities compete in, that spans over 47 different sports. From football to korfball, each university sports team can win points for their university, which goes towards their BUCS total for the year. Some of the BUCS finals are played in world-class venues, too – so there’s more to play for than just pride. The BUCS Rugby Championship finals are played at Twickenham Stadium, for example. 

Another huge part of university sport in the UK is varsity matches. Although not all universities have a varsity tournament, for those that do, it is often the most important game of the season. Varsity is essentially when two universities which are based in the same city fight it out to be crowned the superior sporting university in that city. Thousands of students turn out over varsity week to watch all sorts of sports matches as each university team battles for that crucial varsity point. In the Sheffield Varsity for example, the Ice Hockey Final is played at the Sheffield Arena in front of over 7,000 people every year. This is the highest attendance for an ice hockey match outside of North America.

Imagine crowning your study abroad adventure by scoring the winner in a varsity final in front of thousands – it wouldn’t get much better than that, would it? Your peers wouldn’t forget you in a hurry, either!

What support services are available for international at UK universities?

Along with specialist careers advisors and plenty of support from societies and sports teams, each university in the UK will have other unique support services for international students.

For example, as Paula explains, at the University of Edinburgh, they have an International Student Centre, “They organise language exchanges, trips around Scotland and provide a warm and cosy atmosphere for students to meet other international students, something that helps a lot if feeling homesick. There is also a proofreading service for students where English is not their first language, apart from other English language courses students can take as part of their degree. Students can request to send an essay a couple of weeks before it is due, and someone will proofread it making sure there is no grammar mistakes.”

There are often events held throughout the year at different universities aimed at international students, too. At the University of Sheffield, they celebrate World Week in October with a variety of events, ending with the ‘World Week Parade’, where international students are invited to wave flags and wear traditional dress in a march from the student’s union to the Peace Gardens in the city centre.

Advisory services for international students are usually available at different universities in the UK, which can help with setting up a bank account, organising healthcare, getting a part time job and loads more. If you ask any official university member of staff, they should know where to point you, or you can have a look online.

Phew, hopefully that’s enough information for you! If you think you need more, head over to our study in the UK landing page.

Or, if you think you’ve heard enough and you’re ready to study in UK, get searching for a study abroad course!

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