If you’re an international student planning on coming to the UK, it might be overwhelming. Most international students come here to study as undergraduate or graduate.
We’ve compiled this step-by-step guide to the many aspects of international student life in the UK. We cover visas, tuition fees, health insurance, and banking.
Here are all the steps on how to study in the UK:
When going to the UK as an international student, make sure you have the money.
When you first enrol at uni, you have limited funding but as time goes on, there are more opportunities for funding available.
Previously, students from the EU, the EFTA and Switzerland had the same access to student finance as UK students, but now Brexit has changed things.
The government has also said that from 1st August 2021 onwards, continuing EU/EEA students who started university in the UK before that date will pay the same fees as students coming from outside Europe.
Students who study in the UK and are from the EU and EEA are eligible for Student Finance. As long as they were enrolled at a UK university before the academic year 2021/22, their tuition fees will be covered by loans.
Non-UK students study abroad and live in UK
You deserve financial support to help you with your studies, but the government may deny your funding if you come from outside of the EU.
If you’re considering a private college, it’s important to note that you’ll be responsible for funding your degree, and the fees can be much higher than UK students’.
To put in the application, you need to give evidence that you have the financial ability to pay your fee and support yourself.
There are options for students and academics who can’t afford a Master’s degree. You could look into education loans, or research scholarships, student exchanges and funding programmes.
If you’re coming to the UK as an international student, it depends on your country of origin.
Students from the European Union, the EEA and Switzerland feel change is already on the horizon.
The EU Settlement Scheme (ends December 31, 2020) would allow students living overseas to study in the UK after Brexit.
In the UK, you will now need these additional requirements if you moved there after December 31 2020.
Foreign citizens will always need to apply for a visa when they want to study in the UK.
If you are visiting the UK for less than six months, a Standard Visitor visa is required. Be aware that you cannot work with this type of visa unless it is an elective course (i.e. optional training as part of a medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine program). If you would like to work on your visit, you will need to apply for a Student visa (more information to follow).
If you are over 16 and are studying an English course for under 12 months, you can apply for a student visa. You can also enrollin a short-term study visa if the course is between six to 11 months long.
If your course lasts longer than six months, you will need a student visa. The old Tier 4 student visa has been replaced by this new one.
You need to be able to prove that you can pay for your first year of tuition, as well as the mandatory £1,323 per month. This can be through a scholarship or through scholarships that cover living expenses.
You’ll need to prove your English language skills to the Immigration post if you can’t speak it fluently.
The Student Visa costs £348 if you’re applying from outside the UK but £475 if you’re already in the UK and want to extend your visa.
If you apply for a visa to live in the UK, you’ll have to pay for a healthcare surcharge. For six months, it will cost £235 and for the whole year it’ll be £470. You can use the NHS after paying for this surcharge.
You can apply for a student visa from anywhere in the world up to six months before starting your course, but if you are applying from inside the UK, then you need to apply three months beforehand.
You may get a response in just a few weeks, but it is best to apply as soon as possible to increase the chance your application will be accepted. Here’s information on the processing times for each country.
What to expect when moving to England
Cultural diversity is prominent in the UK, and all students go through a long process to become a citizen. In this way, international students have a chance of fitting in easier at university.
To make your transition as smooth as possible, we would recommend searching for Facebook groups related to your university before you arrive. They often have groups specifically for international students.
In the UK, you have to pack a lot of warm clothes and waterproof coats. It’s not very hot in summer due to the cold, rainy climate.
Wearing warm clothes in the winter is necessary because it is expensive to have the heat on all day and it’s not environmentally friendly.
You will want to stay in a hotel or get an apartment in the UK ahead of time.
First, you may want to contact the university that you’re applying or attending. They often offer guarantees to house all students before a certain date.
A lot of students live in university accommodation or they rent a room from a private landlord.
University halls are the best option for your first year of study, as it makes searching for a room difficult.
If you want to save money and cook your own meal, then take a self-catered room. We have lots of student recipes to teach you how to cook.
If you want to find your own accommodation, our directory has houses near your university, and we have a guide on what to look for when viewing properties.
The ways to ensure you have the right insurance coverage
NHS hospital systems staff shortages averaging at 10,000 in eight years
All international students must confirm they have health insurance to cover them while they are in the UK. You can do this by providing your documentation to either your institution or a private insurer.
EU students, students from the EEA and students from Switzerland
If you’re from the EU or EEA and moved to the UK before 2020, you could be eligible for NHS benefits. In order to qualify, you need an EHIC card which will provide healthcare through the NHS in the UK.
If you don’t have one, it’s as simple as applying for one through your home country’s national health insurance provider.
If you are a citizen of an EU member state, but have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, you may no longer be eligible for free healthcare in the UK after 2020.
If you are from the EU and have since moved to the UK after December 31st 2020, the following information applies to you instead.
You need to pay the health surcharge, in order to access healthcare while you’re visiting. If you’re a student from outside the EEA or Switzerland, you’ll also have to pay the surcharge when you apply for your visa.
Don’t forget to check your health insurance just in case it covers you while you are abroad.
It is important that you are aware of the limitation of the EHIC card, which will not cover any additional expenses.
Endsleigh provides travel insurance for international students coming to the UK. Endsleigh will cover these extra expenses.
How to set up a student bank account
If you don’t have a UK bank account, we recommend setting one up before staying in the country for more than a few months.
Setting up a bank account can be time-consuming, as banks may need a lot of information to verify your identity and credit score.
Foreigners who are seeking UK banking experience from home country should research the BAAN-Link if they want to minimize paperwork. Even if you don’t live in the UK, it’s important to see if your bank has any links to banks in UK. Due to the consistency of BAAN-Link, processes can be easier for foreigners than for locals.
Student bank accounts offer numerous benefits, such as an interest-free overdraft of £3,000. However, it is worth knowing that not all banks allow international students to open a student bank account.
You can find a list of UK international student bank accounts in our guide. These are a great place to start, as they will help you make the right decision when it comes to banking.
To avoid carrying large amounts of cash, it’s best to make sure you bring a prepaid card to cover your initial expenses in the first month.
Simple explanations on the cheapest way to make international calls
Newer smartphones use LTE technology which older phones do not support; if you’re upgrading, you’ll need to buy a new SIM card. If you want to be in control of your phone bills, a PAYG SIM card might be best.
You can now have a contract that is valid for one month and can be terminated just before the expiration. Monthly contracts are usually better value because they guarantee high-quality services without prolonged commitment. We’ve got a guide on the best SIM-only deals.
If you want a new phone but think it’s too expensive to buy one out of pocket, this tool can help. It lets you compare deals for phones with minutes, texts, data and two years’ contract included all for one low monthly price. You’ll even be able to keep the phone later when your contract finishes.
You may have to unlock your phone to use your new SIM before you start using it.
For a way to call back home
In recent years, there have been many low-cost international call providers popping up outside the country, such as Lebara, LycaMobile, and RebTel.
You can use services like Skype, Zoom, FaceTime (iOS only), Viber, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp to chat using voice or video for free – but these usually require an internet connection.
You may want to invest in a bus pass if you live close-by to campus to save money.
If you live in a larger city, it might have a public transit system. You can invest in a yearly pass to help you save money on travel.
Bike travelling is a green and cost effective way to spend time outside.
How to plan a national travel itinerary
For those in the UK for their first time, you may want to visit various cities and sights around the country. You can either travel by coach or train.
For anyone who is 26 or 27, they can save 33% off their train fare by purchasing a Railcard. With these cards, you will still be paying some money for your train ticket but it is worth it if you plan on taking many journeys.
Megabus offers a cheaper alternative to train services, with fares starting as low as £1. Coaches take twice as long as trains, and they can take up to 30 minutes to arrive at the destination.
If you can’t find a suitable arrival and departure point, try searching National Express. They have the largest coach network in the UK, which our guide discusses how to save money on.
Travelling via plane is also a viable option for long distances, for example, if you’re travelling from London to Edinburgh. However, airlines can be on the higher side for price. Have a look at our list of hacks to save on your next flight.
Know your worker rights
If you want to work while attending school, you may be wondering what your rights and options are.
If you have a student visa, you can work up to 20 hours per week while studying and full-time during the holidays. You can also work before and after your course starts.
Graduates from EU countries or those in the EEA have no restrictions on being able to work after graduation, and are free to choose their time commitments.
But you shouldn’t rely on a part-time job as a main source of income to fund your living costs in the UK. Researchers found that term-time jobs are unlikely to be able to successfully support living costs and distracted students from studying. Seek scholarship opportunities instead.