UK Student Life homepage
Study, work or travel in the UK. British culture and life.
A-Z index
Message Board
Contact us
< Up
Course / University
Find a university or college course in the UK
  Find a course
  League tables
  Entry requirements
  Education fairs & open days
  Study skills
  University life and reviews
Related pages:
Guide (information for all types of student)
  Language school (study English in the UK)
  Vocational courses (study job-related subjects)
  Postgraduate study (MA, MSc, PhD)


Education at the level of a university (including colleges teaching at an equivalent level) is known in the UK as higher education, and education at a lower level than this which is taken by someone over the age of 16 is known as further education. The main qualification obtained at a university is known in the UK as a degree (in the US it is referred to as your major), and someone studying for a degree at a university or college is called an undergraduate. A first degree, usually based on a single subject, is called an honours degree (this is often abbreviated to Hons) or a bachelors degree. The most common qualifications include a BA (Bachelor of Arts), a BSc (Bachelor of Science), a BEd (Bachelor of Education) and LLB (Law). The grades if you pass are known as a first class (highest, often shortened to "a first"), a second class ("a second"; sometimes divided into an upper second - 2:1 or "two-one" - and a lower second - 2:2 or "two-two"), and a third class ("a third"; the lowest pass grade). Undergraduate courses normally have three terms of 8-10 weeks each year, and usually last for three years (usually four years for Scottish courses). An academic year normally starts in the autumn (late September or early October) and finishes in the summer (mid-June), although you may be asked to attend a pre-sessional course before the start of the academic year.

Many universities offer a 1-year diploma or foundation course: these courses can sometimes be started at different times of the year (for example, in January, April or September). These are designed to prepare students for a full undergraduate course.

Back to top


If you are a university student in Europe, you may be able to study in the UK as part of your university course. If your university takes part in the Socrates Erasmus ("European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students") programme, you can spend between 3 months and 1 year in the UK at another European university which is also part of the scheme, and you may be able to receive some money from the European Commission to help with the extra costs of studying abroad. For further details, see:

Back to top


A course search facility is available from the UCAS (University and Colleges Admissions Service) website: There is a map of university and higher education colleges on the site, and direct links to each of their websites. You can register on this site to take a free test called the Stamford test, which is designed to help you to find courses which are relevant to your skills and interests.

Total Publishing produces a guide "GoStudyUK" at
Hot Courses provide a directory of courses at: This includes a section of information for international students.
The Education UK website contains further useful information to help you to find a course:

If you are currently in the UK, visit your local reference library or careers service. You should be able to see reference publications, and there may also be copies of university or college prospectuses.

There is a search facility for private UK further and higher education colleges which have been accredited by the British Accreditation Council (BAC) at:

Back to top


To judge the quality of a university's undergraduate course in a particular subject, you can refer to ranking tables. Tables are available in the "The Complete University Guide": There is another set of tables available from The Guardian newspaper: One common way of ranking is based on the average grades of students entering the university to study the subject (A-levels or Scottish Highers are the exams taken by UK students before going to university). Although they can be useful as general guides, do not place too much importance on the ranking when making your choice.

An alternative source of information (aimed mainly at British students) which includes rankings for various non-academic factors is published by Push:

To read comments from other international students about a university, see:

The Times Good University Guide 2011
Author: John O'Leary
Publisher: Times Books
Date: May 2010
The Virgin Guide to British Universities 2011
Author: Piers Dudgeon
Publisher: Virgin Books
Date: May 2010

Back to top


When British students apply to a university, they are normally given a conditional offer, setting minimum grades required in their A level or Scottish Higher exams, which are usually taken at a secondary school (high school) at the age of 18.

International students are not expected to take these exams: an assessment is made based on the qualifications obtained in the student's own country. In addition, universities also require evidence that the English language skills of international students are good enough. Often students must have a recent IELTS score of at least 6.0, a paper-based TOEFL score of at least 550, or a computer-based TOEFL score of at least 210 (check your university for their requirements). For more information about these exams, see English/Exams. You may be able to take an English course at the university or college before the main course starts (a pre-sessional course). For information about studying English at a language school, see: Course/Language.

Back to top


If you are in the UK, try to attend a higher education convention (sometimes also called an "HE convention", "higher education fair" or "HE fair"). These events take place in major towns across the UK between February and July each year. They give you an opportunity for you to meet representatives of the universities or colleges, to ask any questions you may have about courses, admissions processes, costs or scholarships, and to collect prospectuses. You can find the dates on the UCAS website:

Once you have chosen your university or college, or you have narrowed your choice to a few, it is a good idea to travel there to attend the open day. An open day is a chance for you to find out more about student life or the application process, and to look around the buildings and local area. To find out the dates and to book a place at an open day, see: or check a university's website. For information which may help you to arrange your travel to a university, see: Travel/Transport.

If you are not in the UK, contact the British Council in your country (see: Links or Representatives from UK universities and colleges sometimes travel abroad to meet prospective students at presentations or interviews, or to attend a local "study abroad" or "UK education" fair. The British Council may also organise seminars explaining about choosing a course, applying and living in the UK.

Back to top


Entry to a university course usually requires:
- completing an UCAS application form
- providing high school leaving certificates to prove that you have obtained the qualifications which you claim.
providing a course transcript from your high school, showing the subjects studied, dates and the grades obtained.
- providing references from people who have supervised the student at high school (these people are referred to as referees)
- writing a personal statement. This outlines the reasons you have for wanting to take the course, and why you think you are qualified to take it.
- you may be asked to attend an interview, possibly by telephone if you are not living in the UK.

You can apply for a course electronically on the UCAS website The Big Guide produced by UCAS contains details of all the universities and courses: if you want to use this, you should be able to refer to this at your nearest British Council office or you can order it through the UCAS website. There is some information about applying through UCAS to study at a UK university here:

Check application deadlines as early as possible. If possible it is a good idea to plan about a year in advance (for example, it is usually best to apply before the end of December for a course starting the following September).

How to Complete Your UCAS Application - 2011 Entry
Publisher: Trotman
Date: May 2010
The UCAS Guide to Getting into University and College
Publisher: UCAS
Date: January 2011
Big Guide: For Entry to University or College in 2011
Publisher: UCAS
Date: May 2010

Back to top


Contact the British Council in your country as early as possible to find out about scholarships which are available to study in the UK. For information about sources of funding, see: General information is available at: UKCISA also provide information at:

The book University Scholarships and Awards (see below) lists scholarships awarded by UK universities or colleges for undergraduate study, including sections about awards which are available for overseas applicants. Some awards are available for any student at the university or college, while others are only for students who are studying a particular subject or who are from a particular country. Usually you have to apply for a place at the university and receive an offer of a place before you can apply for one of the scholarships. There is a scholarship search tool at:

It may also be worth asking your school or university and your government's education department about scholarships. International organisations such as the World Health Organisation (, the FAO (Food & Agriculture Organisation:, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization: or the Rotary Club ( sometimes provide financial assistance for studies which help to promote the objectives of the organisations. If you are from a Commonwealth country, you may be able to find useful information from the Association of Commonwealth Universities: There are also EU scholarships for people who are from countries in the European Union. Information on support for EU students is available from the DfES (Department for Education and Skills):

University, Scholarships, Awards and Bursaries
Author: Brian Heap
Publisher: Trotman
Date: October 2009

Back to top


You may need to learn about study skills (for example, how to manage your time, write essays or give presentations) before you start your course. Courses may require you to express your opinions in seminars and to work together in teams for some assignments. The way of teaching and learning may be different in the UK from what you have experienced in your home country. The marking system in the UK may also be different, so ask how well you are doing if you are not sure. It is not common for very high marks to be awarded for essays: a typical marking range is A (excellent): 70-100, B (good): 55-70, C (pass): 40-55, D (poor): 25-40, E (very poor): 0-25.

UKCISA provide guidance notes for students on "Preparing for study in the UK" and "Study methods in the UK" at:

There are useful study tips for students on the site:

The Study Skills Handbook
Author: Stella Cottrell
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; book information
Date: April 2003
Study Skills in English Student's Book
Author: Michael J. Wallace
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Date: June 1980
Presenting in English: How to Give Successful Presentations
Author: Mark Powell
Publisher: Language Teaching Publications
Date: November 1996

Back to top


For information about how to prepare for university study in the UK, see:
For student reviews and videos of UK university life, see:

Graduation day

Get Set for Study in the UK
Author: Tom Barron
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Date: March 2003
Studying at University
Author: George Bernard
Publisher: RoutledgeFalmer
Date: February 2003
Student Survival Guide
Author: Lucy Clarke, Jenny Hawkins
Publisher: How To Books
Date: September 2001

Back to top


Overview of the British educational system: Course/Guide
Using an education travel agent: Prepare/Agent
The cost of living in the UK: Prepare/Cost
UK immigration issues: Prepare/Visa
Guide to British towns: Travel/Tours/UK

Home page: Home

Back to top

© UK Student Life 2002-2011

* Search this website ( or the web: