The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers, situated in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh; the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies. The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.
The UK is a developed country and has the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and seventh-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world’s first industrialized country and the world’s foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence. It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world. The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the OECD and the World Trade
Education in UK
The UK has grown to become one of the top destinations to study around the world. With traditions of excellence dating back hundreds of years, high class institutions at every corner and much more flexibility than many other countries, the United Kingdom has much to offer international students that other English-speaking countries cannot offer.
But what makes the United Kingdom stand out? Why should you go to the UK as a destination to further your international education?
International students have always been an important presence in the UK, and the numbers have been growing steadily. With over 330,000 international students during the 2005/2006 school year, the UK is the second most popular destination for international students, behind the US. The UK has worked hard to capitalize on the growing demand for English-language instruction and the post-9/11 visa hurdles in the US. The top ten countries sending students to the UK are:
1. China 50,755
2. India 19,205
3. Greece 17,675
4. Republic of Ireland 16,790
5. USA 14,755
6. Germany 13,265
7. France 12,455
8. Malaysia 11,450
9. Nigeria 9,605
10. Hong Kong 9,445
For more demographic and statistical information about international students in the UK, visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
The degrees and qualifications from UK higher education institutions are known around the world as high quality and world class. The standard of excellence is set by some of the older universities with recognizable names, like Oxford and Cambridge, but the tradition carries through to many of the universities and colleges throughout the UK. When looking for work in the future, this can be a great selling point in your favour!
Education Costs are lower
The cost of education for an international student in the UK can be lower compared to the USA and other countries. Some courses in the USA can be $25,000 plus a year in tuition alone. Tution for the majority of UK higher education institutions is in the region of £6,000 to £7,000 a year – considerably less!
You can also save a lot of money because your degree will generally take less time to complete in the UK than in other countries. Although four-year programs are increasing in popularity, most degree programs in the UK require a three-year course and a masters program is typically between one and two years. When you consider the shorter timeframe, the cost will be much lower if you only have to plan for three years instead of four or even five as in many other countries.
Although international students can manage their affairs so that their UK education is affordable, UK policymakers are taking note of an alarming trend in the cost of education for non-EU students. With exchange rates climbing, life in the UK can be quite expensive generally. In addition, unlike in many other EU countries, non-EU students are charged higher rates in the UK than students from EU countries. One recent study from the Higher Education Policy Institute warned that the UK must act to contain and reduce tuition and costs to stay competitive in the hunt for international students. At InternationalStudent.com, we are always cheered when policy-makers take note of the increasing costs of international education. As global competition for international students heats up, we’ll be watching for the UK to act aggressively to keep the UK a primary destination for international students.
An international student in the UK is typically allowed to work up to 20 hours a week during school term, and up to full-time when school is out of term. Of course, you should always check with your international advisor at your school before starting any work – you do not want to be in violation of your visa, and rules change all the time. Also, it is not always easy to find a job, so relying on work income to fund your education is not a good idea. Unless you have employment set up through your school before you arrive, you should plan to fund the entire first year of your studies without any employment income. Please visit our Visa and Immigration pages for more details on working in the UK as an international student.
Financing an international education is always difficult. The best approach includes lots of preparation, careful analysis of your budget, and hard work in researching and applying for scholarships. There are a variety of scholarships and loans available to students who wish to study in the UK. Please visit our Financing/ Scholarships section for more detailed information, and also check out the following resources:
• UK Scholarship Search
• UK Loans for US Citizens
• Education UK Scholarship Database
Gateway to Europe
With the addition of the Channel Tunnel and low cost airlines such as EasyJet and Ryan Air, Europe is easier to access from the UK than ever. You can reach most areas of Europe from the UK within a few hours by train or direct flight. For example, if you are studying in London or Manchester and you want a weekend away in Italy, you can fly Ryan Air direct to Rome, Milan, Pisa, Genoa, Venice or several other cities in Italy. The direct flight would take around two hours and cost anywhere from 30 to 100 pounds, depending on when you travel and when you book. Visit our Getting Around section for more UK travel information.
The UK is known for having a multicultural society with all religions and faiths represented in some way. With a racial, ethnic and religious jumble, the UK is very open to new traditions and cultures – something that is a great thing for students from other countries! You can also be sure that a place of worship will be easily accessible for most major religions – and for more information on this please see our Religion section or visit the following sites:
• Catholic Church in England
• Church of England (Protestant)
• Hindu Council UK
• Buddhist Society UK
• Islamic Society UK
• Judaism UK