Across the Pond

The UK offers the perfect combination of world leading education and a life enhancing experience

As defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, the United Kingdom (proper noun), is: A country of western Europe consisting of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; population 64,700,000 (estimated 2015); capital, London. Full name: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

To most Canadian travellers, the United Kingdom is familiarly known as the birthplace of The Beatles, landmarks and attractions such as Big Ben, Edinburgh Castle, Stonehedge and Piccadilly Circus [to name but a few], home to the Royal Family and such century old universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. To Canadian high school students seeking to study abroad, however, the UK is full of intrigue and opportunity.

In fact, most recently the UK has become one of the most popular destinations for study around the world. As an English-speaking nation, it offers some of the worlds most renowned institutions that provide Canadian students with flexibility and options that many other English-speaking countries, don’t.  International students have always been an important presence in the UK (welcoming over 400,000 higher education students each year) and the number of students continues to increase as it now ranks second in popularity for international students behind the United States. As a great option offering English-language instruction, the recruitment efforts of the UK schools are creating awareness in Canada that they hope to capitalize on.

Referred to as the gateway to Europe, low cost airlines and infrastructure additions make access to other European countries quick and convenient – within a few hours by train or plane.

As a multi-cultural society, the UK welcomes new cultures and traditions, which is part of what allows for a smooth transition for Canadian students and others from around the world.

Quality and Class

Holding several of the spots in the top ten of the World University Rankings, universities in the UK have a reputation for developing a skillset many employers seek. While receiving worldwide recognition, students holding degrees from UK schools stand out and are in demand.

In addition to attending lectures, students receive enhanced learning through seminars and discussions, which allow for development of critical thinking, creativity and confidence.  While benefitting from these academic practices at many of the UK’s most famous universities, students also have access to their world-class research facilities.

The Application Process

Once they have done the research and decided on which UK university they’d like to attend, they will have to make sure they meet the entry requirements. Most undergraduate courses will consider applications from students with a [Canadian] high school diploma with an average of 80 percent in at least five acceptable Grade 12 courses. However, these requirements will vary depending on the province in which the student has graduated from. Below are some examples:

Alberta: General High School Diploma with a minimum of 80 – 90% in five acceptable Grade 12 course

British Columbia: Senior Secondary Graduation Diploma with at least five B’s in acceptable subjects

Manitoba: High School Graduation Diploma with five credits at the 300 level in at least four subject areas [average greater than 75% each]

Ontario: Minimum of 80% in six Grade 12 courses; at least five of which must be University Preparatory Courses (4U) with the sixth perhaps a University/College Preparation Course (4M)

More specifics about provincial requirements can be found on the individual university websites as well as requirements for faculties that have their own specific requirements [such as Law or Medicine for example]. Because many of these requirements are unique, planning well advance is great advice to share with the students.

Once the university and course have been decided, all students register and apply through Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). 1

Student Visa

The academic year in the UK generally runs from September/October through July/August. For students enrolled in a college or university course exceeding more than six months, a Student Visa is required.  This application can begin three months prior to the start of the course, and decisions are usually received within three weeks. The cost to apply is around $320GBP in addition to a healthcare surcharge. More details on this can be found on the UK government site.2  Once approved and received, students can plan to arrive up to one month in advance of their enrollment start date.

Some students, however, who are not completely certain of their commitment to study abroad, elect to enroll in a shorter course to “test the waters” across the pond. In this instance, if the course is less than six months, students do not require a Student Visa; only appropriate travel documents to cross the border must be presented. If students choose the shorter-term courses, they may arrive up to one week within the start date.

Show me the money

While studying in the UK (as is the case in many countries), students will be asked to provide proof of financial support. To understand how much a student’s living expenses will be while attending school is the million-dollar question, however.  Because of it’s diversity, the cost of living varies significantly from north to south – and living in a major southern centre such as London for example, can prove to very costly as opposed to other parts of the country. To make the most informed decision, have them take the time to extensively research the availability of accommodations and transportation in the area – this information will provide them with the facts to ensure their financial means are sufficiently realistic.

Many UK schools will offer international students financial aid to perspective students; it’s a good idea for your students to include a request for such information at the time that they request the application form.  Some schools may also provide an opportunity for an exchange student program between Canada and the UK and this too can reduce the costs associated with the international tuition.

Understanding that there are scholarships, grants, and loans for Canadian students studying in the UK to access and apply for doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll qualify for them. Some scholarship eligibility will have testing score requirements, and others are dictated based on the citizenship of the country the student is from.  There are a wide variety of resources for students to utilize when researching scholarships – many will have online access that will ask for an individual account to be created before the search can begin. But, it is important to note that there are as well a number of scholarship scams. A good rule of thumb to share with students to help them identify these fraudulent sites is that you generally don’t have to pay money to apply for money – never provide a credit card or banking information to receive information.

Once they’ve determined the source of their required revenue, having them identify and including all their annual costs – tuition, fees and living expenses (including entertainment – let’s face it, that’s part of the attraction of seeking education abroad) and generating a budget will make this entire experience more enjoyable.

The Experience

A great education at some of the world’s most noted universities is one of the best reasons to study in the UK. The notoriety a graduate receives and opportunities available upon graduation – at home and abroad – are unfathomable to most. But learning in multi-cultural environment, with extensive student-support services is most appealing. According to the British Council, 91% of international undergraduates are happy with their experience in the UK. Students in the UK enjoy a great lifestyle that combines city life, historic sites, beautiful countryside and music and culture.

By: Donna Billey

1 https://www.ucas.com
2 https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/pay