The UK attracts around 500,000 international students every year, making it the second most popular destination for overseas study (the USA currently sits at the top spot). According to the Times Higher Education University Rankings 2019, England is home to the two best universities in the world -- Oxford and Cambridge -- while Imperial College London was ranked in the top ten (number nine).
Students can choose from around 50,000 undergraduate courses in over 25 subject areas, with thousands of programs tailor-made for niche career paths or emerging industries, such as fintech and AI. English universities have a reputation for world-class research, excellent learning resources, and, most importantly, your degree will be recognized by employers and academics all over the world.
A long, enlightened tradition
England is a small country with a huge artistic and intellectual tradition. England is the birthplace of Shakespeare, Blake, Wordsworth, and Charlotte Bronte, while it also became the center for one of the most important intellectual movements of the modern world - The Enlightenment. In the 18th century, writers such as John Locke and David Hume argued the cases for scientific inquiry, individual liberalism, and the social contract.
England is where Isaac Newton formulated his theory of gravity. (Although the apple falling on his head part may be an exaggeration!) In 1917, Ernest Rutherford produced the first artificially-induced nuclear reaction at his laboratory at the University of Manchester, a radical breakthrough that changed the world forever. His work led to the development of nuclear power and cancer-fighting radiotherapy. More recently, scientists at the University of Manchester discovered graphene, a super-conductive material that's just one atom thick. This new material promises to revolutionize computing, renewable energy, medicine, and the defense industry.
Diverse and friendly environments
Many English cities have a diverse, multi-cultural population. Over 250 different languages are spoken in London, and the city is a fascinating mix of traditional British culture and migrant influences. You will find a similar atmosphere in cities all across the country, including Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, and Leeds. University campuses are just as diverse, giving you a unique chance to make new friends from all over the world. This is also a great way to build up a global network of international contacts for when you finally start your career.
Taibek from Kazakhstan, a science and engineering student in London, tells study group INTO, "I love studying here in London because of the mix of nationalities. You can meet anyone from any country – it's so diverse, and I love that!" And Thanchita, a student from Thailand, decided to study at Newcastle University in the North East of England, where it didn't take long for her to feel right a home. She says, "It's great here because I feel like I'm in a big family with the other students and well looked after by the support staff. Everyone is super friendly, everything is well organized, including social activities and classes. My accommodation feels really safe too!"
Fun student life
University is the first big step towards your dream career. But, for many young people, it's a chance to learn the value of independence and self-sufficiency. It's also an opportunity to meet different people, explore new environments, and have some fun!
Every major city in England has a thriving student community, with plenty of fun social activities, sports clubs, and societies to join. For example, British Universities & Colleges Sport, known to UK students as 'BUCS', includes over 170 universities and colleges in the UK and a whopping 4,800 university sports teams, competing against each other for university pride. Most students' academic timetables are kept free on Wednesday afternoons so they can participate in weekly BUCS matches against other universities (and travel to them in the case of away matches)... and then celebrate -- or drown their sorrows -- in the student union afterward!
...Which brings us neatly onto nightlife. There are plenty of student bars and nightclubs for when you're ready to celebrate a big essay submission or the end of exams. In a 2019 survey by Which, Liverpool was named the top city for student nightlife. In the words of one student at Liverpool John Moores University, "All the clubs and bars are centred around Concert Square so there's a huge variety in one area. [...] Because it is all centred around one place, it feels very safe with police and club bouncers, so I feel confident walking [around] as two girls on their own. Liverpool is a lovely place and has a great student environment."
University cities in England are also packed with art galleries, museums, and famous landmarks, while sports fans can visit some of the most iconic stadiums in the world. London is home to world-famous Wembley Stadium, the national football stadium, while a trip up north will take you to Manchester United's famous stadium, Old Trafford. From there, it is just a short train journey across to Anfield, home to Liverpool FC. Students in London can also visit Wimbledon, the historic tennis venue, and take a trip to (and, who knows, maybe even compete at!) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
It's got the best student city in the world
England has many amazing student cities, but there's one that stands head and shoulders above the rest - London. In fact, the English capital was named as the best student city in the world by QS in 2018. The survey compiled data from 50,000 students regarding the quality of student life and their future career paths. Students reported high levels of satisfaction with their universities, including prestigious institutions such as University College London, and they also indicated a strong desire to stay in the city after graduating due to the huge number of career opportunities in the city.
The only downside to studying in London is cost. Accommodation fees and public transport costs are significantly higher than in many other European countries. But this doesn't seem to be deterring students. Ben Sowter, research director at QS, said, "The city benefits from outstanding employment prospects, more world-class universities than any other city, and enviable lifestyle opportunities. These factors mean that the capital remains a great place to study [despite] the costs."
So if you're thinking of studying in London, make sure you've got enough to support yourself financially. Having some savings in reserve is advisable, while many students find part-time work to supplement their student loans. One of the great things about London is the number of part-time jobs and gigs perfect for fitting around your studies. And if you do start to struggle, speak to someone from student support services. Universities can often provide additional funding for students who run into financial difficulties.
The future looks bright for international students
While political uncertainty about Brexit hovers over the UK, there are plenty of signs that a post-Brexit England will still welcome thousands of international students every year. The Department for Education (DfE) has already announced plans to introduce 12-month visas to allow international students to find work after graduating. As well as the new visas, the Department for Education and the Department for International Trade made a pledge to increase the number of overseas students in the UK by 30% over the next ten years.
Janet Beer, the vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, has been one of many leading academics who have been discussing a post-Brexit strategy for international students with the UK government. She said, "International students contribute a huge amount to the UK, not only economically but also by enriching the international education environment in our universities for all students. While their presence in the UK is worth an estimated £26bn in direct and knock-on effects, sustaining over 200,000 jobs in all parts of the UK, they bring much wider benefits to our academic and civic communities."
So whatever England and the UK's future, international higher education seems set to remain a top priority, with the country will continuing to welcome the valuable contributions of its international student body. Want to be one of these international students in England?