UK universities are regularly ranked in the top 5 among the best educational institutions in Europe (THE world ranking). The share of international students studying in UK universities is constantly growing and even reaches up to 50% in some institutions. Over the past 15 years, the demand for studying in the UK among Russian students has doubled, which is not surprising: diplomas from UK universities are prestigious, recognized all over the world and contribute a lot to a successful international career.
Choosing a university is an important task for an applicant and, of course, is a big responsibility. Studying at university is a unique experience that forms personal qualities, independence, allows you to find friends and a new social circle, and forms your interests.
The more you know before applying for the programme, the higher the chance that the time spent in the UK will bring you both benefits and pleasure from the learning process.
Honestly ask yourself just three questions: who do I want to become, what city do I want to study in, and what can this particular University give me?
How to choose a UK University?
The choice of university largely depends on the specialty you want to study. Many students are guided by university rankings by speciality (for example, QS or The Guardian), although different ratings give different results. Specialized subjects and training programmes can largely determine your future career path.
Before you apply for admission to a particular university, ask yourself what subject you would like to study, why, and where? And honestly answer the question: did you decide to study it yourself because you are interested in the chosen topic, or was it your parents ' decision?
"At the first stages, when you have chosen a speciality, it is useful to look at the description of vacancies for it in large companies – so you can really assess whether you want to work in this field. If you are interested in the chosen career path in the future, you have made the right choice," recommends Ghazi Lashab, International Officer, City, University of London.
University rankings are an important parameter when choosing a university. If the prestige of a university is a determining factor for your decision-making, the UK provides many opportunities – British universities occupy leading positions in academic university rankings across the world. However, the positions of universities in different ratings often do not coincide, because educational institutions are evaluated differently.
The QS ranking compares Universities in four areas: research, teaching, employment, and international perspectives. Each field is then evaluated on six indicators: academic reputation based on a global survey of academics (40%), employer reputation based on a global survey of graduate employers (10%), faculty/student ratio (20%), faculty citation rate (20%), international student ratio (5%), and international employee ratio (5%).
The Times Higher Education (THE) rating series includes several ratings, where universities are evaluated by similar parameters – research, teaching, knowledge transfer, and international activities. And in the World Reputation Rankings (THE), the emphasis here is on what others think, and so the rating is based on opinions – leading scientists are asked to rate the best universities in the world in terms of teaching and research.
You can look at the student satisfaction rating – the best will be Student Experience UK (THE) or National Student Survey. Students are asked to answer 20+ questions in several areas: learning, course teaching, academic support and personal development, and others.
The location of the University determines the life of a student for one, two or even three years. Sometimes the speciality itself dictates the location of the University and the potential benefits, so for example, future business students will suit life in densely-populated London, where there is a large concentration of financial and business corporations.
Students of science majors can benefit more from living in a quiet and beautiful Cambridge, where they can conduct full-fledged research.
When studying in the field of marine archaeology, the best programs will be offered by universities located closer to the coast.
"UK universities can be both campus and urban: think about what would suit you better: being on a closed campus or in a noisy urban environment" - Ghazi Lashab, City, University of London.
The correct approach to choosing a university is to balance the quality of the programme with a comfortable university life.
Some students chose the more peaceful cities, such as "very English" Exeter or Bath, included in the list of UNESCO cultural heritage sites. Some people prefer historic universities, like Edinburgh or Durham, where Harry Potter filming took place. Others, on the contrary, tend to go into the thick of things — to London,where active life is raging. Someone will choose the seaside port of Southampton, which is very close to the historical capital of England, the beautiful city of Winchester. Those who choose a non-metropolitan University say they can spend more time (and probably less money) studying foreign languages, music, or horse riding.
Practice and industry relations
Think about what the university can give you. Some universities specialize in internships in leading organizations, others can provide strong connections in the professional environment and the strength of an excellent academic base and well-equipped laboratories.
Some universities offer a one-year internship in British companies as a mandatory part of the course program, and some offer "sandwich" programs, where after one or more years of study, the student switches to an internship for a year, and then returns to university. Possible partner organizations include the UN, the European Union, or the world-famous BBC, Deloitte, IBM, Marks and Spencer, Rolls Royce, and many others. This practice will allow you to get an additional advantage in employment after graduation.
See which companies the selected university cooperates with and find out how universities help with employment. In most cases, the university has a Careers Department, where professionals help students correctly create their CV, teach them how to pass interviews, and advise on basic questions about finding companies and writing cover letters. However, it should be borne in mind that British universities strive to foster proactivity in students and the ability to work in a highly competitive mode, so the university will not guarantee students employment in leading companies – much depends on the student.
"Use all the resources that the University provides, and over time, thanks to hard work, the knowledge and experience gained will help you move forward towards your goal" - Ghazi Lashab, City, University of London.
Communication with a university representative
As studying at university lasts for several years, making a choice is a big responsibility. To make the proper decision it is better to communicate with representatives of universities directly.
The best way to do this is to visit the largest online exhibition of UK education in Russia, Study UK: Meet UK universities, supported by the British Council, the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy in Moscow and the official partner of the Fair – the ECM Agency. The fair will be held until December 11.
You will be able to meet directly online with representatives of 45 British universities, ask all your questions, find out about employment, internship opportunities, teaching and student support staff. Book individual consultations and find out what makes this university unique, where students live and how the university helps students to get comfortable at first.
When you have compiled your personal rating of universities where you would like to study, you can arrange to visit each of them. Universities organize Open Days several times a year (with the exception of this year, due to restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, they are organised virtually), or you can arrange an individual visit with a university representative. A personal visit to the university will allow you to feel the atmosphere of the University, see how student life works. The training time should be comfortable, so the emotional side can be decisive when choosing.
Summer schools at universities
Many universities in the UK, including leading ones such as King's College London or LSE, organize summer schools – short-term training programs in certain specialities. These programs last for three to four weeks, which is enough to experience all the subtleties of student life. Summer schools at universities are a great option to test whether, for example, the campus form of education is suitable for you, or if you would prefer to be in a major city centre. The approach to training is similar with a long-term programme, teachers are recruited from the University staff, and students live in residences at the University.
Book an online meeting
By the way, to select a University by subject and form of study, you can use the convenient form on the exhibition website. If you choose a University that suits your needs, you can book an individual consultation with a representative of the University, choosing a convenient date and time. To do this, go to the page of the University you’d like to meet with and click on the "book now" button.