The UK has a vast array of colleges and universities that cater for all budgets and abilities. Whilst some may say that the UK is expensive (and it is if you take into account the costs of travel and accommodation) the UK education system for International Students is booming because it teaches to such a high standard. For any student wanting to work hard there are rich rewards to be had.
I live in Cambridge city. We have more language schools than you can count. We also have schools that offer international students the opportunity to study for English National quaifications (GCSEs, A Levels, Degree Foundations and preparation courses, or vocational qualifications.)
All institutions ask that students whose first language is not English undertake English Language Preparation. This usually involves taking a short IELTS (International English Language Testing System) course. There are currently 500,000 tests taken each year (source IELTS.org) There are test centres in most countries around the world so the test can be taken prior to registering for a course in the UK, or you can study IELTS (at some institutions) before going on to study your chosen subjects.
Upon joining a school there are a number of accommodation choices for students. There are usually halls of residence, living with a host family, or renting your own private accommodation.
Halls of residence are usually on-site or very close to the school or college. You usuallyhave your own private room, with en-suite, and laundry and meals are usually provided.
Host families are people who have a spare room in their family home who have a contract with the school to offer accommodation to overseas students. This is sometimes a cheaper way to live and also a good experience for the students, as they get to see how real families live in the UK. Host families provide breakfast and evening meal. They also offer laundering, but usually only 1 or 2 small loads of washing per week.
Private accommodation is the other option. This can be a huge responsibility for a student, especially if they are travelling abroad for the first time, and if their knowledge of the language is not to a good standard. Costs can be quite considerable too as there are local taxes, utilities to pay for, and also the meal and hygeine costs. Not all private landlords offer “all-in” rents, where local property tax (called Council Tax) is included. Most accommodations do not have a washing machine or tumble dryer – launderettes are expensive. Most private tenants will need to have contracts with electricity, gas, telephone and water companies. It is worth looking at local property agents to see if you can find somewhere furnished, that also includes all utilities – this can sometimes work out slightly cheaper.
You will need to apply for a student visa. You will need proof that you have been accepted on to a course. If you are a non-EEC student you will also have to register with the local police station (a condition on your visa.)
Always get comprehensive travel and health insurance. You will need to register with a local GP practice if you are going to be studying in the UK for any length of time. This usually means free doctor consultations for general conditions i.e if you become ill a doctor will see you. You will have to pay for all treatments/medication that is prescribed. Always make sure that if you are bringing a personal laptop, digital camera, mobile telephone with you that they are covered on a policy in your home country – or arrange a personal possessions policy when you arrive. If items are lost or stolen they can be very expensive to replace.
The only thing I have to add is that if you come here to study don’t forget to actually get out and visit the country you are studying and living in. So many students I have known have seen nothing of the UK when they leave and the UK has a lot to offer. We are now officially a multi-cultural society and we have a rich history which can be investigated in the countless local and national museums and art galleries. We are a pretty country – we have huge green areas – local and national parks and there are always plenty of things to do – cinema, theatre, theme parks, tours, concerts.