Higher Studies Options in the UK
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Category : Tips
Author : Sherna Salim
Recently, studying abroad, especially the UK, has become a popular choice for students in India. The quality of higher education you acquire will play an important role in defining your career choices. Before deciding to pursue education in the UK or any other country for that matter, it is good to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages.
Why choose the UK?
The UK has some of the best ranked universities in the world. It is home to three of the top ten universities in the world.
The UK has a wide choice of courses. There are about 150,000 courses in about 150 universities in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland). One year masters courses are an advantage compared to two year courses.
The higher education system encourages good interaction between students and lecturers. Students are given freedom to combine different subjects into a single course of study. Most universities provide additional support to international students for learning the English language.
Students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week while studying in the UK. This way they can acquire skills and earn money while studying. Work can be done in two ways:
There are a range of part-time work options to choose from: On-campus job options include but are not limited to teaching assistant, administration, campus tour guide, tutoring, small sessions in library, research assistant etc.
Off campus jobs include but are not limited to working in restaurants and take-aways in delivery, waiting tables, cashier, driving, baby-sitting, tutoring, working in retail stores etc. One point to remember is that the number of students has increased exponentially this past year (even with COVID) and as a result, such jobs are in high demand. Another main point to remember is survival is possible ONLY if you come ready to work, without our typical Indian ego of not working in small jobs. In the UK, every job has its own value and respect.
People from all over the world choose the UK for higher education. One reason for this is its plural nature. People living in the UK are free to practice any religion; universities provide you with prayer areas if you ask, and you are allowed to follow the dress code of your choice, like hijab for Muslims or for Sikhs, the turban.
Students (and their families) are eligible for free NHS treatment (you pay a health surcharge initially for the whole duration of your stay; please read on for further information on fees and expenses)

UCAS
UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is an organization that provides centralized services to help students to apply to universities in the UK. Applications to all universities are submitted via UCAS. For details on how to apply, please visit the UCAS website.

Fees and living expenses
In recent years, UK tuition fees have increased. For undergraduate degrees, international students are required to pay fees ranging between £10,000(~ 1,029,700) to £38,000 (~ 3,913,536) or more for a highly rated undergraduate medical degree. In the case of post graduate degrees, fees start at around £11,000 (~ 1,132,869) for classroom-based courses and can go up to £32,000 (~ 3,295,394). For lab-based courses, average annual fee ranges from £12,000 to £27,000.
Apart from this, there are other expenses to be aware of. To apply for a UK student visa, you must have at least £1015 per month. This comes up to £12,180 per year, which should be in your account when you apply for the visa. This is for universities outside of London. If the course is in university in London, the budget can go up to £15,180 per year or even more.
In case of a dependant (with a student visa you can bring dependents and they are eligible to work in the UK, but getting a job is a whole different issue), each dependant must have £650 per month (£950 inside London) in their account while applying for the visa. Then there is a health surcharge of £650 per person per year. You can get more details on the UK government website.

Accommodation
If you are a single student, you can get accommodation in student halls (more like college hostels of India). There are paying-guest options, but that depends on the place you are in. Students sharing accommodation is quite common too; however, it will be good to make sure you know who you are potentially going to share with before committing.
If you are planning to bring your family with you, you will have to find an accommodation for rent, which may range from around £450 to £1500 depending on various factors, some of them being, number of rooms, detached/semi-detached house, flat, shared, furnished/unfurnished, which part of the UK you are, etc. With more and more people migrating to the UK, this has become a difficult task in most places in the UK. On a positive note, school education is free for all children in the UK (regardless of your visa status).
Although the costs are overwhelming, it can be noted that UK universities offer shorter programs than other countries; an undergraduate degree generally is a three-year course rather than a four year one, and masters is a one-year course instead of two.

Funding and Scholarships
There are many different types of scholarships and funding opportunities available in the UK for international students, depending on merit, need, course or sometimes the student. Merit-based scholarships are quite competitive and require a focused application and noteworthy statement of purpose. A statement of purpose is a short essay explaining why the scholarship must be awarded to you.
There are several scholarships available for international students planning to pursue education in the UK. However, most of them are for post-graduate studies, particularly PhD; there are very few for undergraduate studies. Nevertheless, you can always check with the university you are planning to apply to for further help regarding funding.
Scholarships can range from £1000 to £6000. Doctoral scholarships are usually fully funded. Some include living expenses as well. You can find PhD with and without scholarships on this website. It is one of the biggest databases of PhD and contains details about PhDs across the world, especially UK and Europe. There are a lot of funded PhD options available for Indian students if you apply the right filters (e.g. In ‘funding’ try giving ‘I’m a non-European student’ or ‘I am a self-funded student’ and many funded PhDs will be shown)
A large range of scholarships to study in the UK are also offered by the government, individual universities, independent organisations, and various charities. The Education UK website provides an overview of scholarships available from the British Council and other organizations. It is also worth checking to see what scholarships and support schemes are available from the government and other organizations in your own country. Chevening Scholarship, Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowships, Commonwealth Scholarships offered by the British Council are some of the scholarships offered for international students. You can get more info on this website. 

Post study work
There have been changes in this area post-Brexit. The post-study work visa is now called the Graduate route. This will allow students two years stay in the UK for two years (three years for PhD), to look for a job. This gives time for the students to job hunt, thus enabling smooth transition to skilled worker visas in the UK.
The work visa route is another change that has taken place in this sector. It is a point-based system that provides better opportunities for skilled workers to acquire work with visa sponsorship in the UK.

Few important points to note
You must start planning at least 10-12 months before the prospective course start date.
In most cases, you can apply for scholarships only after you get an offer (or a conditional offer) for a course. So, it is better to have back up funds ready if you really want to do the course even if you don’t get the scholarship
Funds mentioned above in the ‘Fees and Living Expenses’ section, must be shown to be available in your account for at least 3 months before you start the application. So again, start all planning early. There is no ‘too early’ in this case, only too late!
If you have any doubts regarding a course in a university or need more information, don’t hesitate to contact them. Most universities respond quite quickly and give you as much information as you require. University websites provide you with different options like a toll-free number, a live chat section, an email address and sometimes all three. So don’t be shy, no question is a silly question.
And finally, I can say with confidence that Indian students can do most courses without much difficulty; our Indian education system has trained us well. However, it is not going to be a bed of roses once you start your course. Single students will have coursework, part-time job, fees instalments to pay. Students with families will have family commitments, childcare etc. But remember, you came here with a conviction to do it and you can do it. Whatever you decide, May Allah bless you with barakah and make it easy for you. Ameen.

 

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