Considering studying at a university in the UK? There are a few things you should know before you apply from overseas, from terms to campus culture and fees. MoveHub take you through the different facets of UK colleges and universities to make sure your move to the UK is as smooth as possible.

Which university to choose?

The UK has over 109 universities (colleges to Americans), not including the 133 establishments that provide higher education. 19 of the universities in the UK are included in the 100 universities in the world and a further 10 are in the top 200.

The process for applying and studying at university in the UK does vary slightly depending on which country (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales) your university is located.

Degrees and course Structure

UK universities offer a wide range of Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees in different subjects, the 5 most popular degree courses in recent years being: Computer Science, Art and Design, Sociology, Law and Business Management.

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A full-time undergraduate degree usually will last 3 years (compared to the normal 4 in the US) with the exception of some courses in Scotland that can take a year longer to complete.

Fast-track undergraduate courses are offered by some UK universities that only take 2 years to complete. Some students in the UK choose to take a foundation degree before starting their undergraduate degree which prolongs the course duration by a year.

An undergraduate degree can lead a UK student into a Master program that can last between 1-2 years or a PhD which can take at least 3 years to complete.

The UK university year is divided into 3 terms:

1st termLate September-Mid December
2nd termEarly January- End of March
3rd termMid April- Early July

Most courses in UK universities are delivered in English, with the exception of some Scottish Gaelic-language programs in Scotland and Wales offering some Welsh-language programs.


If you are moving from the States, you may be used to grades being on a scale of 0 -100 or up to an A+, however, the UK varies in this regard. For example, it is nearly impossible for someone to receive a 100 on an essay in the UK, where anything over a 70 is considered excellent.

Keep this in mind while writing your research papers and do not be discouraged when you receive lower marks than you may be used to in your home country! This takes some time getting used to.

Campus culture

Attending university in the UK gives students the chance to move out from home and into the widely offered student accommodation by universities. The social aspect and independence for UK students from going to university is usually as important as the education side itself. This is why a large amount of students choose to live in halls or house shares instead of commuting to the campus from home.

There is a big appeal to live in student accommodation in the UK due to the fact that renting is extremely expensive in the UK and students can pay to live in halls with their student loans and grants. Fees for halls are all inclusive, including: water, electricity and even internet. With living on or near university campus being so popular, cities with good universities usually become very ‘student crowded’.

The social life of students living on or near the university campus is highly encouraged with a usually a 2-week ‘Freshers’ introductory period with many events put on just for the sole purpose of meeting people on the campus as soon as students start. UK university campuses have their own security and usually a strict rule that guests from outside the campus can only stay no more than 3 nights.

Applying to a UK University

Whether you are a UK resident or an international student, to apply to study at a university in the UK you have to apply through ‘Student Finance’.

If you are an international student then you will be required to apply for a UK study visa if you wish to study at university for longer than 6 months or, if it’s an English Language course, more than 11 months. You need to register at a UK government approved university to be eligible to apply for a UK study visa.


There are two different fees that are charged to non-UK residents for studying at UK universities: EU students and Overseas Students. EU students’ fees are slightly less than Overseas students. Here are examples of the different university fees:
Rent for a single room: £90 GBP£130 GBP per weekThe typical living costs for single UK students are around £190 GBP a week, based on:

  • Food: £30 GBP£40 GBP per week
  • Travel: £20 GBP per week (a 7 day bus or tram ticket)

These costs are excluding additional costs such as: cost of a student visa and travel to the UK, Overseas student health cover, text books, trips, and other living expenses such as entry to clubs.

Paying for a university qualification

Student loans and maintenance grants are available to students studying in the UK, but only to those who are UK citizens. Whether or not you have a study visa unfortunately does not make a difference on this matter.

Help for overseas students

Despite the fact that overseas students are not eligible for student finance in the UK, there are other ways to fund their studies. The UK Government offers many different scholarships including the Commonwealth Scholarships for Developing Commonwealth Countries. Non-Government scholarships are available to Overseas students too, including Euraxess UK which is run by the British Council.

Another way an Overseas student can help support themselves whilst studying at UK university is to get a part-time job. A study visa allows you to work up to 20 hours per week during term time and full-time (35 hours) during breaks.

Top universities in the UK

Now that you have the essentials, where should you apply? This of course depends on what you want to study, as different universities are known for various areas of research, however, here are just some of the top universities in the UK for overseas students:

1. University of Cambridge

The second oldest university in the English speaking world, University of Cambridge was found in 1209. Over 18,000 students attend Cambridge University along with 9,000 members of staff and 150 different departments and faculties.


The University of Cambridge offers 28 different undergraduate courses, covering a large amount of subject areas ranging from Chemical Engineering to Music. The tuition fees for Overseas students varies depending on what you study between £15,063 GBP to £36,459 GBP per year. The university of Cambridge estimates that living expenses for an Overseas student will be about £9,400 GBP per year depending on the lifestyle of each student.

Scholarships include the Cambridge Trust Scholarship.

2. University of Oxford

Oxford University is the oldest university in the English speaking world made up from over 30 different colleges (academic communities) each with their own common rooms, libraries and societies. Receiving a place is very competitive at Oxford University with over 17,000 students applying just to study at undergraduate level with only 3,200 places.

External scholarships external to Oxford include the Colt Foundation Fellowships in Occupational/Environmental Health and the Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.

3. London School of Economics

The London School of Economics rates the 3rd best university in the UK with a cosmopolitan student body and around 9,600 full-time students from 140 different countries. LSE has over 3,300 members of staff with approximately 44% from outside the UK.

Presently the London School of Economics offer scholarships for Overseas students from Kenya, Mauritius, and Singapore but new scholarships possibly may become available during the year.