K M Enayet Hossain
21 December, 2021

6.7 min read

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Why study in the UK?

For its world-ranked universities, high quality education, academic excellence and great multicultural environment, Study UK is very popular among international students.

About UK

The UK is short for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Situated in European continent, it is a sovereign state but is made up of 4 countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The largest country of the UK is England. The smallest country is Northern Ireland.

The UK is located mainly on 2 large islands in the Atlantic Ocean: the island of Great Britain and the island of Ireland. Britain part of the island includes England and Wales. Great Britain is the largest (greatest) island in the British Isles (8th largest island in the world) and houses the countries of England, Scotland and Wales within its shores and that is why the island was called ‘Great’ Britain. The island of Great Britain and the island of Northern Ireland are together known as the UK.

The British Isles is the name of a group of islands situated off the north-western corner of mainland Europe. It is made up of Great Britain, Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Alderney), as well as over 6,000 other smaller islands.

To understand the differences in a snapshot

Britain : England + Wales
Great Britain : England + Wales + Scotland
UK : England + Wales + Scotland + Northern Ireland

England is one of the countries of UK but it is not a sovereign state. It is the largest country within the UK both by area and population. The capital of England is London which is also the capital of the UK.

The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh, of wales is Cardiff and of Northern Ireland is Belfast.

The landmass of UK is surrounded by North Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean and has one land border only with the Republic of Ireland.
 

UK: quick facts -

Area : 242,514 sq km (93,638 sq miles)
Population : about 67 million people
Major ethnic groups : British, Irish, West Indian, South Asian
Major languages : English, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic
Literacy : 99%
Currency : British Pound (GBP)
Government : Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Number of cities : 69 (51 in England, 7 in Scotland, 6 in Wales, 5 in Northern Ireland)
Economy : 6th largest economy, 5th biggest exporter of the world
GDP : £2.14 trillion
GDP per capita : £31,991.40

 

 

UK as a higher education destination

As per the Home Office  Register of licensed student sponsors (updated in September 2022), there are 1523 Higher Education Institution (HEI), Independent School, Publicly Funded College, Overseas Higher Education Institution, Embedded college offering pathway courses and Private Provider that can sponsor international students via either student or child student route to study in the UK.

Higher Education Institution (HEI) normally refers to universities. There are 165 Higher Education Institution (HEI) in the UK as per the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

In 2019–20, there were 538,615 international students studying at UK higher Education Institutions (HESA). In 2020, UK ranked 3rd with 22.3% share of worldwide international students at higher education (Statista). UK’s share is anticipated to increase significantly in 2021 and beyond.

 

 

 

Top reasons and benefits of study UK

 

1. UK higher education brand - top in the world

4 of the world’s top 10 and 17 of the world’s top 100 universities are in the UK (The QS World University Rankings, 2022).

The 2021 Best Countries for Education ranking based on a perception-based global survey, which used a compilation of scores from three equally weighted country attributes: having a well-developed public education system, whether people would consider attending university there and if that country provides a top quality education, UK ranked Number 2 next to USA (U.S. News).

Among countries that consistently deliver the best higher education experience and boast the strongest higher education systems, UK ranked 2nd among the top 50 countries worldwide (QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings).

The latest National Student Survey, published in 2020, found that 83% of students were satisfied with the quality of their course, 84% were happy with the teaching on their course, 86% were happy with their learning resources and 83% were happy with their learning opportunities in the UK.

 

 

2. UK higher education quality - excellent standard 

The quality, standards, validity of UK higher education have been regulated and assured by independent and government regulatory bodies to make sure these are of the excellent and highest levels.

Quality of UK higher education is continuously and consistently reviewed, monitored, assessed and assured by Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), the independent body that checks on standards and quality in UK higher education through external peer review. Reviewers check that the core expectations of the Quality Code, agreed and recognised by the UK higher education sector, are met. QAA works closely with other organisations that have an interest in the reputation of UK higher education, including the Office for Students (Ofs), Universities UK and GuildHE.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is the regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and the regulator of vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. It is responsible for ensuring that all qualifications and assessment meet high quality standards by monitoring awarding organisations, assessments and examinations and taking the necessary action to ensure that the qualifications meet the needs of learners, higher education institutions and employers. It is often referred to as the exam ‘watchdog’.Ofqual is independent of government and report directly to Parliament.

The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) developed by The Office for Students is a national exercise to assess excellence in teaching at higher education providers and assess how they ensure excellent outcomes for their students in terms of graduate level employment or further study.

UK use The Research Excellence Framework (REF) system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The Office for Students publishes list of Recognised bodies (UK higher learning institutions that can award recognised UK degrees themselves) and Listed bodies (cannot award recognised UK degrees themselves, but they can deliver courses that lead to a UK degree which is validated and awarded by a recognised body). If a UK degree/qualification is awarded by a recognised body, then it will be officially accepted as valid qualification.

 

 

3. UK higher education international recognition - highly valued

In addition to UK government’s recognition, most of the UK degrees and qualifications are recognised and professionally accredited by national and international relevant professional, technical, industrial or chartered bodies ensuring the qualification outcomes meet requirements of related bodies and international benchmarks. This adds extra value to the qualifications and help graduates in entering and developing international career.

 

 

4. UK higher education international impact - great returns

Universities UK International (UUKi) International Graduate Outcomes 2019 survey conducted by iGraduate with responses from more than 16,000 international graduates from 58 UK Higher Education Institutions reveals that 90% of graduates are satisfied with their learning experience and the support they received from their universities in the UK, 83%) felt that their UK degree helped them to get a job, 82% of international graduates say that their UK degree was worth the financial investment.

In 2017–18, 91% of responding graduates were in job or due to start work or further study approximately 15 months after leaving university (HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey results record).

UK is number 1 for educating the world’s leaders; a study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) reveals the UK’s higher education sector has educated more of the world’s leaders than any other. Almost one in seven countries around the world has a prime minister or head of state who studied in a UK higher education institution, according to an analysis by the British Council. This measure of "soft power" shows 27 countries have a UK-educated leader.

UK has the 2nd most number of Noble Prize winners in the world (WorldAtlas). Additionally, there are many other country Nobel Prize winners who are educated from the UK.

 

 

5. UK advantages for international students - second to none

  • Shorter course duration
    In the UK, students can complete a bachelor degree in 3 years and have options to complete it in 2 years via accelerated route. Duration for master’s degree is normally 1 year. In other major higher education countries, bachelor and master degree course duration is longer than those of the UK. By achieving degree in quicker duration, UK graduates can save money in tuition fees, living and maintenance costs, opportunity costs and enter career earlier.
  • More choices and options
    International students have thousands of options for subject choice to meet their needs. There is study subject for everyone in the UK.
  • Clearer criteria for admission and acceptance
    Unlike universities in other countries, UK university admission criteria are in black and white with clear and transparent information available on universities’ websites, all in one place.
  • Availability of seats and acceptance rate
    Usually, there are more than enough seats to meet demands of international students and the acceptance rates are higher than those of other countries.
  • Safer campus and racial discrimination free environment
    UK university campuses are crime and violence free, independent of political influence and bias, neutral of social and racial discrimination and everybody enjoys equal opportunities. 
  • Access to world-class health service
    International students in the UK have access to world-class top quality health services and resources offered by UK National Health Service (NHS).

 

 

6. UK’s competitive edge in international higher education - makes students winners

  • Lower tuition fees
    In like to like comparison, tuition fees are much lower at UK universities when comparing this with same or similar ranked universities in other major English speaking countries. 
  • Lower maintenance costs
    In like to like comparison by taking standard and quality of living in considerations, maintenance costs in the UK are comparatively lower than those of other countries.
  • Added value with degrees
    UK higher education integrates development of ‘soft’ skills with every course so that graduates accomplish a set of transferrable professional competencies and skills in addition to their academic degrees. These skills add extra value to UK graduates’ profile.
  • Unique learning methods
    Learning at UK universities is mostly ‘learning by doing’ – courses are taught through coursework, seminars, presentations, practical assignments, group works and independent research. Thus students become responsible for their own learning and take ownership of knowledge.
  • Learning in unique educational environment
    UK has the most multicultural and diverse society with almost every national of the world representing the international student population.  This is unique to UK and learning in such environment put learners ahead in their personal development.
  • International exposures and connections
    As UK is in the centre of international sports, culture, finance, events etc., students have exposures to international personalities and opportunities to bridge immediate or future connections and prospects.
  • Membership of alumni with world-famous personalities   
    You could be a member of alumni that might have personalities who sat to next to you in your class at University in the UK.

 

 

 

7. Work opportunity and immigration prospects in the UK - highly rewarding 

  • Working while studying
    International students are eligible to work part-time during academic terms and full-time during holiday period. There are part time jobs available for students in every UK city.
  • Working after studies
    International students can apply for 2 years post study work visa after bachelor or masters studies and 3 years post study work visa after doctorate degree and work full time in the UK under ‘Graduate route’.
  • UK settlement visa
    Eligible international students will have opportunities to switch to skilled work visa and other immigration route leading to settlement visa in the UK.

 

UK higher education systems are very well-structured, co-ordinated and follow common frameworks country-wide. The admission and enrolment procedures are simplified and streamlined for international students to understand these easily with clarity and intelligibility. The motto is to make students more informative so that they can take choice and make decision with complete knowledge of problems and prospects before their investment in overseas higher education.  A warm welcoming UK education strategy is committed to provide as many benefits as possible to international students’ favour and advantages and give them the most pleasing and rewarding education experience.  

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

QHow many international students do study in each country of UK?

A: In 2020-21, 584120 international students (EU and Non-EU) studied at UK higher education institutions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Below is an account for International students per country of study, 2020-21:

Country Non-EU international students EU international students
England 360,660 119,600
Northern Ireland 11,545 2,575
Scotland 47,630 20,550
Wales 16,170 5,395
Total 436,005 148,115

Source: HESA Student Record FPE, 2020-21

Q Which course do international students choose to study in the UK?

International students come to the UK to study undergraduate courses (English, foundation, bachelors etc.), postgraduate taught and postgraduate research courses. Please find below percentage breakdown for each level of study by international students in 2020-21:

Level of course Non-EU international EU international
Undergraduate 45.1% 70.5%
Postgraduate (taught) 47.1% 19.9%
Postgraduate (research) 7.8% 8.6%

Source: HESA, 2021)

Total number of international students by level of study 2020-21:
Level of course Non-EU international EU international
Undergraduate 196,575 105,955
Postgraduate (taught) 205,455 29,450
Postgraduate (research) 33,975 12,710

Source: Source: HESA Student Record FPE, 2020-21

Q Which subjects do international students choose to study in the UK?

A In both 2019-20 & 2020-21 academic years Business and management, engineering and technology, and social sciences courses attracted the highest number of international students. In 2021, 42.9% international students studied business and management subjects, 39.5% studied engineering and technology and 21.8% studied social science subjects.

Computing and subjects allied to medicine saw the largest growth in international students, growing by 29.7% and 19.9% respectively from 2019-20 to 2020-21 (HESA, 2021).

Number of Full-time international students by subject area and study level 2020-21
Subject area Undergraduate Postgraduate Total
Business and Management 73,085 85,205 158,290
Engineering and Technology 32,480 27,715 60,195
Social Sciences 26,715 21,515 48,330
Computing 19,800 24,445 44.245
Design, Creative and Performing Arts 25,005 12,095 37,100
Subjects allied to Medicine 15,830 10,920 26,750
Law 14,570 8,535 23,105
Biological and Sport Sciences 10,285 5,585 15,875
Architecture, Building and Planning 6,430 8,035 14,465
Psychology 9,805 4,375 14,180
Mathematical Sciences 8,425 5,755 14,180
Language and Area studies 8,105 5,955 14,060
Media, Journalism & Communications 6,820 6,210 13,025
Physical Sciences 7,660 5,185 12,845
Medicine and Dentistry 7,345 4,580 11,925
Education and Teaching 1,840 8,975 10,815
Historical, Philosophical & Religious studies 5,750 4,425 10,180
Geography, Earth & Environmental studies 2,340 2,715 5,055
Agriculture, Food & related studies 1,180 1,455 2,630
Combined and General studies 1,560 895 2,455
Veterinary Sciences 1,650 155 1,805

Source: HESA Student Record FPE, 2020-21

Q Why choose to study in the UK over your home country?

A Studying in the UK is better than studying in most of the home countries because

  1. Teaching in the home country is mostly theory based and exam assessment ismemory based. These do not help academic development
  2. In home country, tuition is provided to pass the exam, not to prepare students for careers
  3. Home country course syllabuses are not designed to meet industry needs and very limited scopes to gain skills for opening careers. Graduates with home country degrees remain unemployed for years as they do not become career-ready
  4. Most of the home country degrees are not internationally accredited or recognised and those do not lead to jobs at good international companies
  5. Home country educational environment is not multicultural and system is not universal to be globally competitive
  6. Due to political chaos and corruptions in home countries, most of the campuses are not safe for students
  7. There is no plan or strategy in place in home country to place graduates for post study work or skilled jobs

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