The Top 10 Reasons to Attend University in the UK

Image shows the Cambridge Bridge of Sighs, at St John's College.The decision of where to go to university is never an easy one, but it’s made even more complicated if you’re keen to study abroad.

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Suddenly, your choice of university extends far beyond those of your home country and the task of narrowing down your options to a final shortlist becomes much greater. An international university experience is invariably beneficial in broadening your horizons, increasing your confidence and allowing you to see what it’s like living in another country; these benefits can be gained wherever you go. However, we reckon that there are even more benefits to studying here in the UK. Here, we make the case for going to university in the UK and show you why we think the UK university experience tops all others.

1. Lots of our universities are in the world top ten

Image shows Hertford College, Oxford.
Hertford College, Oxford.

The UK is home to some of the world’s best universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London (UCL) are all in the top ten in the world university rankings. Degrees from these universities have international appeal and will impress employers when they see these names on your CV. Oxford and Cambridge aren’t just two of the world’s best universities; they’re two of the most famous, a fact reflected in the sheer number of tourists who come to visit these historic universities each year. Imperial is held in great regard internationally as well, and so is another London-based university we haven’t mentioned yet, the London School of Economics (LSE). A degree from any of these universities will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life, putting you in line for the top jobs and allowing you to be part of a global network of influential alumni.

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2. It’s much cheaper to study here than the USA

Image shows the main library at Harvard.
The fees at Harvard are much higher than at even the best UK universities.

Another good thing about coming to university in the UK is that you will benefit from world-class tuition at a fraction of the price of going to the other universities in the world top ten, which are all in the USA. Including tuition, accommodation and board, you’re looking at anything between £19,762 and £25,265 to go to a university in the USA (according to the College Board’s 2013 Trends in College Pricing Report). The bad news is that these figures are per year, not for the whole degree – and degrees in America tend to go on for four years rather than the three years standard in the UK. It gets worse: Harvard’s fees are £40,000 or more. The privilege of going to university in the USA comes at a scary price, while international fees for UK universities can be as little as £9,000 a year for humanities subjects (you’ll pay the same as a UK resident if you’re from the EU). For science and engineering subjects, fees tend to be between around £10,000 to £14,000; clinical subjects are admittedly much more (£23,000 to £26,000), but they’re still much cheaper than Harvard. If your budget is limited but you’re determined to study abroad, you’re better off coming to university in the UK.

3. First-class facilities

Image shows Jodrell Bank's largest radio telescope.
Jodrell Bank was the only radio telescope in the West able to track the carrier rocket of Sputnik 1.

They’re widely admired for their beautiful architecture, but there’s much more to the UK’s top universities than that; they are all equipped with first-class facilities that will make your experience of studying here that much better. From beautiful old libraries to state-of-the-art laboratories, these universities have the resources you need to be able to excel in your chosen field. Oxford University, for example, has among its many treasures the Bodleian Library, which is one of the world’s oldest libraries and the second largest in the UK; it receives a copy of every book published in the UK. Oxford also has the world’s first university museum, the Ashmolean, which is full to the brim with priceless artifacts from around the world. Manchester University even has its own radio telescope, Jodrell Bank, and St Andrew’s University has its own observatory, at which undergraduates can be trained. Such facilities don’t just help you carry out your studies: they inspire you.

4. It’ll be easier to get a job here

There’s great demand in the UK for high-quality graduates in certain professions, such as engineering and other scientific fields. If you come to study in the UK, you may decide you want to stay on here and get a job. Having done your degree in the UK, you’ll be au fait with how things work here, and you’ll have easier access to work placements with companies you might want to work for, too. What’s more, with a degree from a respected UK university, you’re more of a known quantity to potential employers than if you approach a UK company with a degree from a less well-known overseas university.

5. UK universities are responsible for some of the greatest discoveries of our time

Image shows Stephen Hawking in the surroundings of a Cambridge college.
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking is the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.

The first test tube baby; hip replacements; fibre optics; safer airliners; the first atom split; all these innovations and discoveries and many, many more have happened at universities in the UK. If you want to follow in the footsteps of people like Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Tim Berners-Lee and dozens upon dozens of Nobel Prize winners, come to university in the UK. Achievements like these will spur you on to succeed yourself; just by being in an environment that has fostered such advances in human knowledge is enough to motivate you to make your own discoveries and excel in whatever you do.

6. Take your English to new heights

If you’re not a native speaker of English, coming here to study is the perfect opportunity to take your English skills to new heights. Most universities will run advanced English classes for non-native speakers to help you improve your English for academic and social purposes. Even if you already consider yourself fluent (and you’ll have to be if you want to get into a good university), English is a colourful language that even native speakers don’t know inside out, and speaking it is a continual learning curve. By mingling with British students and practising English in many different contexts on a daily basis, you’ll discover new ways of expressing ideas in English and learn all manner of interesting and bizarre idioms and slang, enabling you to speak English like a true Brit.

7. Fascinating university traditions

Image shows four Oxford students in sub fusc, complete with pink carnations.
Oxford students in sub fusc.

UK universities are full of bizarre traditions, which students delight in keeping alive with great gusto. At Oxford, for example, students must wear smart clothes with gowns (outfits known as “sub fusc”) to their exams, a popular sight with tourists during exam season. Not only that, but they also pin carnations to their gowns to symbolise where they are in their exams: white for the first exam, red for the last one, and pink for those in between. This is one of the tamer Oxford traditions, with others including Merton’s famous Time Ceremony, in which students walk backwards drinking port around one of Merton’s picturesque quads in the small hours of the last Sunday of October, supposedly to maintain the space-time continuum during the clock change from British Summer Time to Greenwich Meantime. It’s not just Oxford and Cambridge that harbour strange traditions, either. St Andrews, for instance, has “Raisin Weekend”, which involves “college parents”, house parties, dressing up and foam fights. These traditions add plenty of fun to your university experience and make you feel part of the university community, wherever in the world you happen to be from.

8. Quirky, historic national events

Image shows fireworks on Bonfire Night.
Bonfire Night is a great British tradition.

If you come to university in the UK, you’ll be able to partake in our weird and wonderful historic traditions and annual events and discover a side to Britain that only the Brits tend to see. The UK is known for its quirky traditions, and you will certainly encounter them if you choose to come to university here. The first of your time at university will probably be Halloween, on the 31st of October, which will almost certainly be marked at your university by some sort of fancy dress party and/or spooky film night. Less than a week later, on the 5th of November, you’ll be able to enjoy the Guy Fawkes Night festivities, as many universities put on firework displays and bonfires to mark this occasion (and if your university doesn’t, there will be one in the city or town in which it’s located). Then there’s Christmas, then New Year, then Valentine’s Day, then Easter… the list goes on. And as if that wasn’t enough, there are countless other bizarre events – many of which are centuries old – taking place throughout the year to celebrate ancient traditions that draw in visitors from far and wide. You can read more about them here.

9. The UK is a great place to be a tourist

Image shows Highclere Castle.
Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, is only one of many stunning stately homes in the UK.

Going to university isn’t just about working hard at your academic studies; it’s important to take time off to relax, so you’ll want to be somewhere where there’s plenty to do in your down time. The UK fits the bill perfectly, as there are scores of possibilities for exploring the country in full-blown tourist mode. The UK is fairly small, and it’s therefore easy to travel around and see different parts of the country. Some of the places you could visit and things you could see while at university here include:

  • Discover the UK’s stunning country houses (think Downton Abbey)
  • Visit Buckingham Palace and see a West End musical in London
  • Visit Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Enjoy exploring National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as the Peak District and the Lake District
  • Holiday like a Victorian at a quaint British seaside resort
  • See Stonehenge, the mysterious prehistoric stone circle on Salisbury Plain
  • Bask in the quintessential English atmosphere of a Cotswold village
  • Enter a Jane Austen novel by having tea at the Pump Room in Bath

And those are just for starters! The UK is a very old country, packed with interesting history and culture alongside all the trappings of the modern world, such as restaurants representing every international cuisine, multi-screen cinemas, ancient pubs, sophisticated bars, and facilities for every imaginable hobby. Whatever your interests, you can be sure that you’ll be able to indulge them here to your heart’s content. Your university will probably have a student society dedicated to your hobby, too, allowing you to do it cheaply while making friends with like-minded fellow students.

10. You’ll easily be able to explore the rest of Europe

Image shows the Prague National Theatre in the late afternoon.
The National Theatre in Prague.

It’s not just the rest of the UK that’s easily accessible if you come to study here. You’ll also have easy access to the rest of Europe, and if you’re travelling from far afield, you should definitely try to see some more of Europe while you’re in this time zone and close to its most famous cities. Paris is little more than an hour away by plane, or you can get a direct train there from London; Rome is a couple of hours away, and so are Barcelona, Vienna, Prague, Copenhagen and numerous other cultural capitals. What’s more, you could very easily go skiing in the Alps (some universities may even organise ski trips, such as the Varsity Ski Trips held by Oxford and Cambridge universities), go diving in the Mediterranean, see the Northern Lights in Norway or visit the First World War battlefields in France and Belgium. One thing’s for sure, and that is that you’ll never run out of things to do or places to visit.
Have we tempted you yet? If so, you might be interested in our university preparation courses. As well as helping you to prepare for your UK university application, you’ll also have the chance to visit the UK and stay in Oxford for two weeks – the ideal opportunity to decide whether the UK is where you want to go to university. We’re pretty confident that you’ll enjoy your stay so much that you’ll consider the UK the only possible place for you!







 

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Image credits: banner; Hertford; Harvard; Jodrell Bank; Hawking; sub fusc; fireworks; Highclere; Prague