A guide to overseas universities – UK Edition
Welcome to another edition of “how to guide” for universities. This article is a four-part series focusing on universities abroad, featuring the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. This time, we will take a closer look at the land of Hope and Glory.
First, do your research
So, you love sipping English breakfast tea and eat fish & chips all day. I’m chuffed to bits (British for “I am very pleased”). But before you put on your best suit or dress to shake hands with the queen, proper research is the key to success. It is advised that preparations should be done 12 – 24 months in advance.
University of your choice
As of 2017, there are around 130 universities in the UK compared the US which has around 1,400. That is significantly less and it makes the choice relatively easier. In addition, the UK has a centralized admission system called UCAS (more details under the chapter admission) which makes it easier to apply. Furthermore, you are allowed to choose up to 5 courses. There will be no preference order and the university will not see your other choices. This allows you to mix in universities you would be more qualified and ones that are harder to get in.
The recommended way to choose a university is to find a university that fits your needs and your future goals. If you are struggling to find your own path, try talking to your peers and teachers, read articles about other people similar to you, find inspirations in others. You can also check which UK universities are popular among Japanese students. Going deeper into this topic is a bit out of scope for this article, but there are a great deal of books and articles to get you going.
In 2017, the cost for international students to study a lecture-based undergraduate degree in UK was between £10,000 and £35,000. With the addition of living cost and hidden fees such as visa fee, it can add up to quite a lot!
If you are interested in a scholarship, they can be categorized in three types: Global scholarships, country-specific scholarships, university scholarships. There are a lot of scholarships out there and cover them all would be too much. Here is a helpful link to get you started:
If you are going to study abroad, you need the appropriate permission to do that. There are three types of visa for international students, but the most relevant is the “General student visa (Tier 4)”.
The General student visa allows you study at the university of your choice and stay up to 1 week or 1 month after your graduation depending on the lengths of your study, although there is an option to extend your visa. Please beware that you are required to prove that you can support yourself financially during your stay. In addition, you also have to prove your English proficiency to the immigration.
Important note: The TOEFL iBT can be used for the student visa but only under certain conditions. Please check with the immigration for the most recent information.
At this point, you have decided which university you would like to study at. Now it is the time to apply for it. In general, the admission procedure is similar to the English-based program in Japanese university with the exception that there is a centralized admission system called “UCAS”. I advise you to check out your university of choice to see the exact details for the admission.
There are 4 documents you should take special care of:
Essay (Personal statement)
The essay is an important part in the selection process because this is where you can stand out from your peers. You only have to write one personal statement. For that reason, you should avoid specific mentioning of any university.
The content is broadly defined (write about you), but there is a lot of information/help on the UCAS website to help you get started. In general, you need to write about your relevant background, your motivation and your future goal. In addition, international students should include why they want to study in the UK, their English skills and why they want to study abroad instead in their home country. There is a 4,000-character limit which roughly corresponds to 2 A4 pages.
Check out this page for more details:
Some universities may ask you to submit a recommendation letter (reference).
Certificate to prove English proficiency
In most cases, if you are not native English speakers and have not studied in a school system where English was the primarily language, you have to submit a certificate such as TOEFL or IELTS to prove their English proficiency. Take extra caution that in list of approved English tests and providers by the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as of March 2019, TOEFL is NOT on the list. Currently, “IELTS SELT Consortium” is the only provider approved in Japan. Although this may depend on the chosen university which English tests is allowed.
Certificate of University Entrance Qualification
You may be familiar with certificates such as IB, SAT and ACT. In the UK, the most common is the “General Certificate of Education Advanced Level certificate (GCE A level)” short for “A level”. For international students, they are referred to Cambridge International A Level. Unlike the SAT, the “A level” consists of over 50 subjects which students can pick from. Students usually choose 3 subjects corresponding to the subject they are going to study in the university. Some universities have certain requirements for the A-level. Please check with your university of choice if they are any requirements and which subjects is the best to choose.
The study content of A level is split into two parts, namely AS level and (final) A Level (aka. A2 level) whith each respectively takes one year to study. That means in total a typical 2-year study program for the Cambridge International A level is required. As of now, I haven’t found any study courses in Tokyo for A-level.
You can do the certificate at the British Council in Japan (check the link below for more information). If you consider doing the A-level certificate, check if the “A-level” is required or if other certificates (SAT, IB, ACT) may also be accepted at the university of your choice. It might be worthwhile to check if SAT, ACT and IB are accepted, as this is more common in Japan than the A-level. Please check with your university of choice for more details.
Admission Period & Deadlines
The academic year in the UK commonly runs from September to July. But depending on the course, there may be other starting dates. The deadline for admission is usually 9 – 12 months before the starting date. Check out the UCAS and your course for the exact deadline. Keep in mind that some courses require certain test or certificates which may have different deadlines.
Prepare and go
There you have it. It is great that the UK has a centralized admission system which makes it easier for prospect students to apply. Over half of the top 200 universities are either in the US or UK. This may be a generalization but it is said that in the education in UK is more focused on depth whereas in the US it is more focused on breadth. At the end, I think it depends on the specific university you are going for.
Simon has worked in the IT industry for 9 years as an IT Product Manager. In 2018, he was chosen by the Swiss-Japanese Chamber of Commerce to receive the prestigious scholarship and consequently moved to Japan from Switzerland to learn more about the country and the culture. He has a huge passion to make a positive impact in people’s life which shows in his engagement in various volunteering activities.