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Comprehensive Guide on how to Apply to Universities in the United Kingdom





    Housing more than 442,000 international students, the UK is currently the world’s second leading study abroad destination (after the US), thanks to the strong global reputation of UK universities. An impressive 76 UK universities feature in the QS World University Rankings® 2019 (again, only the US has more), and four institutions are currently ranked within the global top 10.

    Despite uncertainties following the nation’s referendum on EU membership in June 2016, UK universities are united in their efforts to continue welcoming students from across the EU and the entire world. It goes without saying, that this country is home to tons of internationally diverse campuses and communities – and this, for many, is the reason for studying in the UK.

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    Application Process

    The UK operates a centralized university admissions service which takes care of all undergraduate applications – It is known as the University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). This application is used by both domestic and international students to apply for programs across universities in the UK. You’ll need to register on the UCAS website before completing and submitting your application. The website has all the details on how to apply, what to include, most importantly how to track your application and how to respond to your chosen institutions. It equally has a guide for international students, including information about student visas, finance and lots more.

    The moment you’ve submitted your application, UCAS will share it with the institutions you’ve chosen, and then email or mail you back their responses.Say you’re accepted by an institution, you’ll receive an ‘offer’. This can come in the form of a ‘conditional offer’ which implies that the place is yours if you can satisfy the specified admissions requirement, or an ‘unconditional offer’ which means you’ve already satisfied their criteria. If you’re not lucky you’ll receive either a ‘withdrawn application’ response, which means either you or the university has withdrawn your course choice, or an ‘unsuccessful application’ response, that means the university has decided not to admit you. You might be able to add another choice if you’ve received decisions from all five universities or colleges and were not accepted, or if you declined the offers you received.

    For schools, English language centers, most further education courses and some postgraduate courses, there is no centralized application system, so you’ll need to apply directly to the institution providing the course. You can usually find application forms on the website.

    UK university application requirements

    All applicants are expected  to write a ‘personal statement’ and explain their reasons for wanting to study their chosen course. If you are applying to more than one university (as is usually the case),avoid the pitfall of mentioning any by name, as they will all receive the same personal statement. The UCAS website has a lot of tailored advice for writing personal statements, but as a rule-of-thumb, international students are encouraged to mention why they want to study in the UK rather than in their home country, how their studies will help them in the future, and describe their English language skills (perhaps by mentioning any English courses or tests they have taken).

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    In addition to completing the UCAS process, international students may be asked to send copies of their academic transcripts to their university. The reason is UCAS can only send some results from awarding bodies (such as the International Baccalaureate) directly to your chosen course providers. For other international qualifications, the universities will specifically request that the results are sent directly to them.

    There are several application forms and deadlines depending on the type of program you’re interested in. The UCAS website has very clear deadlines, so make sure you don’t miss these deadlines, as most universities reject late applications.

    Although UCAS typically processes applications, decisions about admissions requirements are carried out  solely by individual universities. So, if you have any concerns or questions that are not about the technicalities of the application, do well to direct them to the university involved. Before applying, ensure you have read up on the course requirements, tuition fee costs and course details, and connecting with the university if you need more information. Please remember that requirements vary depending on your country of residence

    UK tuition fees & living costs

    The amount of UK tuition fees varies and depends on where you hail from. EU students for example are charged the same as students who come from within the UK, while those from outside the EU typically face higher tuition fees. Maximum undergraduate tuition fees at public universities in the UK also vary depending on the region: in England for example, universities can charge tuition up to £9,250 (~US$12,400) per year, and in Wales up to £9,000 (~US$12,050). Note that Scotland does not charge tuition fees at the undergraduate level for domestic or EU students (except those from the other three parts of the UK, who are required to pay up to £9,000 a year). In Northern Ireland, Northern Irish students and those from EU countries pay up to £4,160 (~US$5,600) per year, while students from the other parts of the UK will pay up to £9,250.

    International students who hail from outside the EU would pay significantly higher tuition fees, going between  £7,000 (~US$9,400) and £35,000 (~US$46,800) per year depending on the study program. For postgraduate levels, there’s no set tuition fee, and for thousands of students (UK/EU/international), tuition fees would be higher than at undergraduate levels. But then, this varies considerably and depends largely on the degree and university.

    Recently, UK’s referendum on membership of the European Union (dubbed ‘Brexit’) has created tons of uncertainty about whether EU citizens who are studying in the UK will be required to pay higher fees once the UK is officially out of  the EU. Interestingly, several universities have vowed to keep tuition fees at the same rate for current EU students for the entirety of their studies. The UK government equally indicated that there will be no immediate change to their visa issuing policies, and that EU students will still be eligible for the same loans and grants.

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