• Tina Gauthier

"Consider A College Outside Of the US" by Christina Brown, a prior London college student

University degree in the UK:

Are you struggling with uni decisions? Are you having to decide between staying in California or going to another state? Maybe, you’re thinking about going to the UK?

Hello, my name is Christina, I’m currently on a gap year and I am here to help you with your university decisions. I went to school in London and I applied to a bunch of universities in the UK but decided to go to university in Australia. I wrote this article to help you decide whether you want to go to university in the UK, which is something you might have never considered before but speaking from someone who has recently gone through the application process, it’s good to keep your options open. I hope you enjoy the article and wish you good luck!


There are many advantages to studying in the UK, such as the legal drinking age is 18 whereas in the US it is 21. A university degree in the UK is 3 years long unless you go to Scotland where it is 4 years. However in the US, university degrees are 4 years long. In the US, 33% of students finish their degree in 3-4 years and it takes 6 years for 57% to complete.

In the UK your first year of your degree doesn’t count towards your final mark at the end, all you have to do is pass the first year. Also, most universities don’t interview you, it’s only Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge) or if you are taking specific courses such as medicine or veterinary science.

In terms of postgrad, a master’s degree in the UK is only 1 year, whereas in the US it is a 2-year program and as a student there are a bunch of apps that gives you discounts from shops and restaurants such as Unidays. Finally, living abroad means that you have an opportunity to acclimate to a new environment.

Application process

In the UK you can only apply to 5 universities through an online system called UCAS. You have to put down details such as your latest grades, your ethnicity and religious affiliations. This is simple and straightforward. You then have to enter the universities that you are applying to and the course. The only tricky part is that you have to write a personal statement. This is essentially an essay where you write down why you want to study this particular course, you need to include relevant work experience, books or documentaries or perhaps volunteering that relates to the degree. At the very end, you can write about your other hobbies and other things that are not related to your degree but the majority of the essay is about the subject that you intend to study. Although you can only apply to 5 universities in the whole of the UK initially, if you decide to reject your offers/ get rejected, you are allowed to apply for more universities through a process called clearing.

In the UK despite Oxford and Cambridge being the top UK universities, you can only apply to one of them. Although you apply through UCAS like other universities you have to complete an admissions test and an interview (if you get that far in the application process). Also, once you get a university offer, they will let you visit the university again on an offer holder day so you can ask your final questions and have another look around before making the decision.

Although it is up to you to look at the universities in the beginning, universities have open days on their website and most students go to them but I do know of a few people who applied without having visited the universities that they were applying to.


International undergraduate tuition fees are anywhere between US$14,130 to US$53,700 per year, it depends on the degree, because some univeristies have a set price for international tuition fees whereas other universities have different prices per course. I would recommend looking up the cost before choosing universities.

London is definitely more expensive to live in than the rest of the UK - a night out in London (going to a club or bar) can cost between US $40 to $65 and as part of your budget, you will need to remember that you will have to pay for flights when you travel back to the US, but travel in the UK as a student can be cheap. We have a great transport system especially in London where you have a bus, tube and train system. You can also get a train pass for $42 which gives you unlimited travel on trains for a whole year.

Round-trip flights to England from the US can cost anywhere between $400 to $1000+ depending on when you’re travelling and what airport you are flying from. Remember to book flights in advance. You will also need to get a Student Visa which costs $440 and lasts for 5 years.


You can apply for a foreign enrolled student loan if you are planning on studying for 3 years and you can also apply for certain scholarships. Some universities have scholarships that can be found on their website. In addition, you can apply for a student abroad loan if you are planning on studying for a semester or two.


There are two types of accommodation: self-catered where you have to pay for food and have to cook for yourself or catered accommodation. In terms of catered accommodation your university will have set times for meals and some universities don’t offer catered meals for every meal, so you might have to pay for lunch each day by yourself. Sometimes they will offer you a card which you can use to spend at various student cafes, cafeterias and restaurants.

The average cost of university accommodation across the UK is about $8300 a year and it lasts for 36-40 weeks. Students can sometimes stay at university during holidays if they want to.

Types of universities

Campus-based universities are based in a small town. Some universities have colleges which offer a range of social activities such as balls and formal dinners eg: at Durham and Oxbridge. City universities are just universities in a city so university buildings are scattered around the city instead of being close together like in a campus university.

Degree structure

In the UK, you only study one subject with the exception of liberal arts where you study a few subjects and in year 2 you choose which subject you want to pursue. There are also joint honour degrees where you study 2 subjects for the degree or you can take PPE which means that you study 3 subjects (philosophy, politics and economics). You don’t take any elective courses or modules from other subjects but you can choose modules in the subject that you choose. However, some Scottish unis allow you to take elective courses.Essentially you only take one major, no elective modules or anything else, all your classes are just for that one subject.

To extend a university degree you can study abroad for a year or even work abroad for a year, this extends your degree by a year and you spend the third year abroad, meaning you come back to the UK for your final year. Also, university in the UK starts in September and lasts until December. Then you start again in January and it ends in May/June, depending on when your exams end. There are also breaks in between those dates.

Grading system

The best UK grades at a university is a first or a 2:1, in order to get a good job and to be accepted onto a masters you need to achieve a 2:1 at the end of your degree. First-class honours is 70% or higher, Second-class honours upper division (2:1) is 60-69%, Second-class honours lower division (2:2) is 50-59% and Third-class honours is 40-49%.

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