Five Things International University Students Should Know about Studying in the UK

August 11, 2021

Congratulations the hardest part is over, you’ve completed your application and received your offer to study abroad, but now what? There is still a lot to learn about going to university in the UK, especially if you are an international student. What is British university culture like? Is the grading system different to what you are used to? What about my new local area? These may be some questions that pop into mind. Tutor House has collected five top tips to prepare you for your studies in the UK.

Consider your budget

University gives you a great amount of freedom and independence, but also responsibilities like managing your finances. Course fees are usually higher for international students so it’s worth keeping this in mind. You will need to pay for your student accommodation, groceries, transport (if you are not living on campus), any course materials and social activities. – there’s a lot to think about. Planning is key! Try to research your local costs beforehand, as each city varies, London living tends to be much more expensive than elsewhere in the UK. 

Look into the National Health Service (NHS) too, which will help you get free medical care whenever you may need it. Make sure you find and register with a doctor at a nearby GP surgery, often your university will help you with this. However, there are some things the NHS does not cover if you are over 18, such as such as medical prescriptions, vaccinations, non-emergency dental treatment and any optical care. It’s important to also take care of your mental health, a lot of people tend to feel stressed and anxious studying far away from their friends and family, if that’s the case for you, seek help from your university’s support team who will help find you free and confidential counselling. 

Get to know your new city

One of the most exciting things about studying in a foreign country is to be able to explore and fall in love with your new home. The first thing you should do before packing your bags and leaving is research a little. Are you moving to a big city like London, Manchester, or Glasgow or are you going to live by the coast in Brighton or Plymouth? Every place in the UK is unique and will have its own places to visit, foods to try and things to do. Get an idea ahead of time and then ask locals when you are there!

You also need to sort out where you will be living in your new city. There are many options, you can privately rent a room in a house or flat or you could stay in university accommodation. Most first year students stay in halls of residence student halls, this is a fantastic way to meet new people, socialise, and get to know people’s unusual habits. 

Academics: timetable & grades

The highest possible classification is a 1st class degree (or a distinction in a master’s course), it generally requires a score of 70% or higher, so if you are in that range, you know you are on the right track! A score of 60% and above will get you a 2:1 and 50% will be a 2:2. 40% is usually the pass mark, for a 3rd, below that you may be required to redo your exam or piece of coursework. 

On your student timetable you will probably have a combination of lectures, where a professor will address a large group of students about a topic they specialise in, or seminars where there are smaller groups which allow for more participation and discussion among the students. A lot of courses are assessed differently as well, some courses only require coursework and presentations, typical for art subjects, whereas others may be a lot more exam based like Maths. You may even be required to do lab work if your course is science based, so make sure you find out when those sessions are as they can be difficult to catch up on. It’s worth finding out the details of how your course is assessed via your course description list on your university website.

Holidays can vary but usually you get a reading week around October/November. This is a week’s break from formally attending university where you can catch up on extra reading and coursework. Universities also have longer holidays than schools – 1 month at Christmas and Easter and 3 months in the summer – plenty of time to enjoy the sun, sight see and visit family and friends you most likely will be missing.  

Student visas & working while studying

As you may know, all international students need to get a student visa to study in the UK. There are a few different types of visas but the most common one will be the tier 4 student visa, used for full-time students. You can apply for this through the UK government website once you’ve been offered a place by your university.

If you want to work whilst studying, check that your student visa also allows you to do the type of work you want to do. Some universities, such as Russell groups ones, try to steer students away from work when studying. There are many jobs in the UK for students if you do decide to work whilst studying, especially in big cities like London and Manchester. You can also see if there are any jobs on campus such as through your student union (SU). Look for part-time jobs that work best for you and around your studies.

Learn the British University Culture

Studying in the UK is about much more than just learning your subject, University culture allows you to try out new skills and hobbies, meet new people and go to new places. Every University has a Student Union (SU), which is responsible for representing students on campus. The SU is usually the centre of social life on campus, organising clubs and societies for students.

If you are interested in playing a sport like badminton, or even joining the movie society you should go to the Fresher’s fair during Fresher’s week where each club and society will try to convince you to join. Fresher’s week is at the beginning of the first term and aims to settle new students into university life. As well as receiving useful information it is famous for being a great way to meet people and have a good time. You might want to check if there are any fresher’s events you would be interested in in preparation, you can suggest it to your new housemates! 

To Sum it All Up… 

Try to keep all these points in mind so you can be well on your way to having the best experience at university. Make friends in your new home and explore together! With hard work and a little luck, studying in the UK could be the greatest decision you’ve ever made.

Learn more about your university course and studying in the UK

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Sadiyah Zaman

Sadiyah is our Content Writer and Tutor Manager, who loves everything creative, having studied architecture and linguistics at university. She has previously worked as an English language teacher in both the UK and Italy and is passionate about equal education for everyone.

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