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The UK is one of the most popular destinations for international students all over the world. It’s also a country with a diverse range of universities, large and small, country and city based.
In the past few weeks, we’ve had the exciting opportunity to interview university reps and admissions officers from a number of university institutions. From Glasgow in Scotland, to Brighton on the south coast of England, our university showcases have highlighted the diverse range of higher education experiences on offer in the UK.
The six universities in our first showcases fielded a range of questions from our student audience. Some of the most common themes covered included:
- University admission requirements, and how they were affected by the recent events brought about by COVID-19.
- Accommodation & campus living – how to choose the right accommodation and the sort of options available to international students.
- English language requirements for students applying to the UK in 2020.
- Employability and career prospects for students after they graduate from a UK university.
The University of Exeter
At a glance
Taylor Wearne & Anjana Singh, International Admissions Officers at the University of Exeter, showcased one of the most renowned universities in the south west of England.
They gave a helpful overview of the university’s COVID-19 contingency measures, before taking our audience on a tour of the three university campuses: Streatham, which plays host to the Social Sciences, Science and Liberal Arts faculties; St Lukes, which is home to the university’s Medical and Sports programs; finally Penryn, a campus based in Falmouth and housing more specialist faculties such as Business, Law and Environmental Sciences.
In their Q&A, Taylor and Anjana were asked a range of questions from our student audience.
What is the acceptance rate of the University of Exeter?
It really varies from program to program. Every year many of our programs are oversubscribed and competitive – we have more applications than we have spaces.
Would IB English suffice in place of IELTS requirements and what happens for the visa IELTS requirements?
All of our accepted English tests are on our website. In some scenarios IB Higher Level English will be acceptable. There’s also a section that our visa team has put on our COVID-19 page for prospective students.
Does your campus location depend on what courses you take?
Some courses are only offered at the St Lukes campus, or the Streatham campus, or the Penryn campus and you would know which before you applied.
There are some instances where, for example, you could study some Business on our Streatham campus and some Business courses on our Penryn campus and you would choose which campus you’d like to study on.
If you’re not made an offer for the campus you applied to it may be that you’re made an alternative offer to enable you to study the same subject at a different campus.
“We host two big careers fairs every year at the university for students to attend. We have a Careers Zone where you can book appointments and get employability support”Taylor Wearne: International Officer, University of Exeter
What percentage of your undergraduate intake each year are international?
The international student body is around 26% from 140 countries. Our international student body is expected to increase in the coming years!
Does the university have any connections with local employers that can be utilised by students?
We host two big careers fairs every year at the university for students to attend. We have a Careers Zone where you can book appointments and get employability support. Our Business school also has its own careers team and there’s a real focus on employability there.
What do you look for in a successful applicant?
I think one of the key things is academic rigour and a real demonstrable interest in the subject.
We’re looking for students who are clearly very passionate about their subject but, to avoid a cliche, students who have done something that they didn’t need to have done before university, they’ve evidence that they’ve gone outside the box to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of a subject.
Is all the accommodation based on campus or is it based around Exeter/outside campus?
About 70% of our accommodation is on campus in Exeter and Penryn. 30% is off campus but this is in the city centre a very short walk away and it ranges – self catered accommodation or catered. You can do virtual tours of all of the accommodation on our website and learn more about the application process.
London Metropolitan University
At a glance
Keyan Zhu, International Recruitment manager gave a presentation on London Metropolitan University, the first of three London universities in our first showcase.
Keyan started his presentation with some key facts and stats about London Met. For example, 96.7% of London Met’s graduates are employed after 6 months. The university also has valuable links with industry to ensure that students gain valuable professional experience while they learn.
He also gave students an insight into The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass) which offers students a range of courses within the umbrella of these three subject areas.
Below are some of the key questions students had about studying at London Met.
What is the acceptance rate at London Met?
Generally speaking our acceptance rate is high, but when it comes to a course like Nutrition for example, the acceptance rate might be lower because we have more applications. The best advice is to apply early – we’re on a rolling admissions process, so the earlier you apply, the higher chance you will have.
Could you give some information about the scholarships you offer and are there any unique scholarships for international students?
We have a number of scholarships only available to international students. We also have a number of course specific scholarships, for example if you want to study Art, Architecture or Design. In general, all international students are eligible to apply for our International Excellence Scholarships, which offers up to £2,500 off your tuition fees.
“We’re very proud that over 50% of our students are non-white British. We are a very pro-equality and pro-diversity institution”Keyan Zhu: International Recruitment Manager, London Metropolitan University
What majors is London Metropolitan best known for?
We’re very well known for our Human Sciences. Nutrition is another course that we’re well known for, and we’ll be shortly entering Clearing, so if you’re interested in these courses, apply early!
Our Translation programme is also very famous and employability is very high once students have finished. Our Art, Architecture and Design courses are a bit under-represented, but we have great facilities and great teachers & academics coming to work for us.
I’m worried about achieving the necessary score for my IB diploma. Will you take into account the current situation when students are applying?
The university is looking very hard at all scenarios. At the moment we are going to look at provisional grades and we are looking at your term reports. We’re looking at a variety of English qualifications to give you the chance to be accepted. We understand this is a difficult time for everybody and we want to help you, so bear with us!
Could you tell us where London Met’s accommodation is based, and is accommodation guaranteed?
We are a city based university and currently our accommodation is based around our campus. Depending on the course you are going to do, you can choose where to live. You also have the freedom to decide not to stay in student accommodation. We have an Accommodation team who will help students to find houses as well.
International students are often given priority. We understand it’s often your first time coming to the UK and we want to help you with that. In terms of pricing, we give you a range of options depending on your budget.
You will have a strong city life and it’s not for everybody, but you will get a chance to know London better!
Are A-level English certificates enough for English language requirements and what alternatives (e.g. Duolingo) do you accept?
We are still looking at expanding the English qualifications we are considering. We are also looking at launching our own internal English test, so students who want to study with us can take our test instead of alternative English qualifications. We are looking into this and all the information will be communicated shortly!
How does Brexit affect EU students applying to London Metropolitan university?
One of the biggest challenges is we’re not quite sure what a deal with the EU looks like and what kind of financial support EU students are going to get. We have seen a surge in applications this year because obviously for this September, your fees will still be guaranteed under UK/EU home fee status.
We are also working on expanding our January course listing for students who are not confident about starting in September, so you can delay your start date until January to give yourself more time to prepare.
“In general, all international students are eligible to apply for our International Excellence Scholarships, which offers up to £2,500 off your tuition fees”Keyan Zhu: International Recruitment Manager, London Metropolitan University
I’m an IB student and I was wondering what the requirements are for the Architecture program?
Our Architecture program is not a science-based program. It’s more focused on the design side not the engineering or construction side. That’s why we don’t have compulsory requirements for physics or mathematics. You’ll need to produce a portfolio that demonstrates an ability to draw and design things.
You will get the chance to learn how to build things. We have a lot of field trips and projects and we work very closely with our local communities so you will get into social housing building, for example. But the course focus will be on the design side.
How diverse is your student body, and can you give us a bit more information about the student population
That’s a great question! We’re a very very international institution in London, so we have students from 145 countries. We’re very proud that over 50% of our students are non-white British. We are a very pro-equality and pro-diversity institution.
We also support our local community to fight social injustice, particularly during this pandemic!
What are you looking for in admissions to CASS in terms of portfolio and grades?
We are looking at the process of you producing the work. We want you to show us the different stages of producing the work. On each page, you should have pictures and notes to show how you did this. Articulate the process of how you did this, rather than just giving us the final stage!
University College London
At a glance
Yasmin Hossain, Senior Liaison and Recruitment Officer at UCL answered questions about the second London university in our showcase.
Yasmin shared some interesting facts about UCL’s proud history and heritage, including being the first UK institution to welcome women to university education and the first university to accept students from any religious or social background!
Below is a summary of some of the main questions that Yasmin received from our students during her presentation.
Is it an advantage to get your application in early and what makes an outstanding application?
There’s no advantage to getting your application in early! As long as you get your application in by the deadline, we will consider your application.
In terms of what makes an outstanding application, I guess it’s just the real sense from a student that they’ve really thought about why they like that subject, pinpointing specific things and then expanding on them in a bit more detail.
In order to prepare for that, start having conversations with your friends, with your parents and with your advisers […] get yourself in the habit of speaking about it.
We don’t expect all students to have amazing work experience. Some students might have opportunities more readily available in their country, but others might not have those opportunities. If you do, that’s great. But don’t feel like you have to have amazing work experience to prove that you’re right for that subject.
It’s about the subject and finding a careful, fluid way of writing. Write how you speak! Don’t be sat next to a thesaurus trying to find the most impressive words for your Personal Statement.
What scholarships are available for international students?
I’d suggest you go to the UCL scholarships finder, there is a really great tool where you can search by your country and your subject area.
What’s the student/teacher ratio?
Despite the fact we’re a large institution, our class sizes are some of the smallest in the UK. The ratio is around 10 students for every professor that’s teaching. While your lectures might be a bit larger, the seminars are around 10 to 1.
“Despite the fact we’re a large institution, our class sizes are some of the smallest in the UK. The ratio is around 10 students for every professor that’s teaching”Yasmin Hossain: Senior Liaison & Recruitment Officer, UCL
In light of COVID-19, are UCL looking to do any study online or distance learning?
Senior admissions staff at UCL are having discussions day-to-day. As soon as we have clarity we will be in touch with students directly and also our schools and counselors.
What are the graduate prospects for your students?
Gosh, this is quite a difficult question, just because of the sheer range of subjects that we offer at UCL and the careers that would naturally open up!
In terms of the fields, it really depends what subjects you’re applying for. If you’re applying for Architecture, naturally a lot of students will go on to become an architect, but there might be some architects who go into Interior Design!
I mentioned some of our inter-disciplinary programmes – often students end up working in fields which require a similar ability to make links across different subjects, like management consultancy or journalism.
It really can vary. Don’t feel limited by your subject. Even though you studied a specific subject, it doesn’t mean that you’ll go on to do a career that’s exactly related to that, it’s also about the skills you’re developing throughout your degree programme as well.
How will COVID-19 affect entry requirements for applications in 2021?
In terms of 2021 entry, it’s a little bit too early to say. Our Undergraduate prospectus is already online and the entry requirements for 2021 are more or less the same as last year.
University of Glasgow
At a glance
Joey Kirk, International Recruitment Manager at the University of Glasgow, gave our students some insights on life at one of the most prestigious universities in Scotland.
As well as launching COVID-19 contingency measures for its students, The University of Glasgow has helped to launch Scotland’s research response to COVID-19, including participating in important work on COVID-19 whole genome sequencing!
In addition, the University of Glasgow showcased their ‘Ask a Student’ platform allowing prospective applicants to talk to current students and staff at the university.
Some of Glasgow’s most notable alumni include Adam Smith, one of the founders of modern economics; John Logie Baird, a pioneer in the invention of the television and Nicola Sturgeon, the current First Minister of Scotland.
Can Glasgow give us an idea of how Brexit will affect EU fees for EU students?
We’re actually still waiting on the government to make that final decision and unfortunately it sits outside our purview.
I will say that our Principal, Anton Muscatelli has sat on the First Minister’s task force and is working very closely with Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Funding Council on Brexit.
We are hoping for a delay due to COVID-19 but that is unclear as of yet, so check the university website – it will be updated as we have more information.
Can you tell us a bit more about the extracurricular activities for students?
We have over 250 clubs and societies – all things weird and wonderful, I like to say – from the skydiving society, to the wine & cheese society to the Disney Appreciation Society which is actually a thing and is actually very popular!
We have two Student Unions so students can choose to be a member of one or the other – or both. Both have live music venues, pubs and clubs.
We are a campus university and many of our students live within a 15 minute walk and are very involved with both the local community and the University itself.
What is the percentage of international students in Glasgow?
So we’re roughly 30% international students (we range between 30-32%) so you’ll find that we have quite an international population. I think people are always a bit nervous when they come to Glasgow that they won’t be able to understand the accent, but we’re quite an international place!
“We are a campus university and many of our students live within a 15 minute walk and are very involved with both the local community and the University itself”Joey Kirk: International Recruitment Manager, University of Glasgow
What exams do students need to take for the Medical degree? And how practical is the degree?
So at Glasgow we require the UCAT, which is different from some other British universities. The first two years are much more theoretical, the final three years are much more practical.
Like many British universities at the moment, our students have now gone into the field given the current crisis and have moved on to working in our hospitals so we’re very proud of them in this trying time!
Could you tell us a bit more about the study abroad programme? How competitive is it?
Honestly this is a difficult question because it depends on what course of study you’ll be doing at the university.
Requirements vary from course to course. We just want to see that you are ready to study overseas. Depending on the course there might be a mandatory study abroad component, particularly if you’re doing a language programme.
Do students live on campus or is most accommodation based around the city?
Most of our undergraduates live in on-campus housing in their first year. All of it is within a twenty minute walk.
There’s hall of residence right in the centre of campus that is the most competitive to get into because it’s the shortest walk to campus! I live right by our biggest accommodation which houses about 2,000 students. It’s a 15 minute walk downhill so could be a lot worse!
Most of our accommodation is self-catered so students will have their own room and en-suite bathroom to themselves and then a shared kitchen.
Is the IB Higher Level English accepted in place of IELTS?
Currently we would take Higher Level English instead of IELTS so if you’ve achieved IELTs, that would suffice for us. The new IELTS scores are now on the website but again it varies from course to course.
The University of Brighton
At a glance
Brighton was the second coastal university in our showcase. It’s also another great example of a university that prioritises work-based learning for undergraduates who are looking to boost their employability while they study!
Originally a university rooted in art and design, Brighton has since expanded to offer a much broader range of undergraduate programmes that help prepare students for the world of work.
Joanne Bain, International Officer at the University of Brighton, gave a short but extremely informative presentation on Brighton’s course offering and campus life.
Some of the highlights of Joanne’s presentation included:
- An exploration of Brighton’s professional focussed degree programmes, which gives 100% of Brighton the chance to do some kind of work-based learning.
- Highlighting the diversity of Brighton’s international community – with over 146 nationalities represented amongst the students and the staff.
- A quick overview of Brighton’s two very diverse campuses – the main Brighton campus, and the smaller, close-knit campus in neighbouring Eastbourne.
The students attending our presentation had a range of questions for Joanne, and she gave some wonderful insights for potential Brighton applicants (including anyone currently writing their UCAS Personal Statement).
What is the most popular course at Brighton University and what is Brighton the most well-known for?
That’s a difficult one to answer! Our Art and Design programs are particularly popular. That’s because that’s where our roots lie, where we started out. Also our Medical school is very very popular and has a lot of applications.
What is the acceptance rate for Brighton University?
The acceptance rate is quite high for Brighton University. I believe our entry requirements are quite achievable for most students. We don’t have many courses where we have a cap on numbers, the only exceptions being Pharmacy, Medicine & Health. I wouldn’t say we’re turning away a lot of students.
What sports facilities and sports opportunities are available?
So on our Eastbourne campus where all of our sports courses are taught, we have all sorts of facilities – climbing walls, astroturf and grass pitches, basketball courts and netball courts.
Students can participate in sport at any level. We have some sports club where you turn up and try out, and then some where you turn up and play. We’re not elitist in the sense that you have to be of a certain level in order to use the facilities.
We have an Olympic size swimming pool. On our Falmer campus we also have sports centres and on our Moulsecoomb campus we have gyms offering a whole range of gym equipment and exercise programs.
Could you tell us a bit more about the student welfare provisions you have in place?
So we have a well equipped student advice team, for example if students have learning challenges such as dyslexia or dyspraxia and need support in that way.
We have an international student support team and they deal with things like homesickness and culture shock and they organise social activities and events, for example dinner at Thanksgiving, Chinese New year, trips to Stratford on Avon and London.
At school level, we have student support guidance tutors. Whatever issues you may encounter, we’re very experienced at helping you through that, signposting you to any support you may need.
“I want to see some individuality. I want to see someone who has thought about what their profession requires. So if you’re applying for Medicine for instance, what skills should a good doctor have?”Joanne Bain: International Officer, University of Brighton
Can you tell us a bit more about scholarships available for international students?
We have scholarships that are worth £2,500 and they work as a fee reduction for the student.
We’re not looking at GPA as the pure basis on which we award scholarships. If a student is holding an offer from the University of Brighton, they fill out a simple form that basically tells us why they want to study at Brighton, what they will bring to their course at Brighton and how this scholarship will help them to make that journey to a UK university.
I know a lot of universities allocate purely on GPA. We believe that it’s not just about what a student has on paper – it’s about them as an individual and what they would bring as an ambassador to the University of Brighton.
Could you give a bit more information about the future prospects of students when they graduate from Brighton?
We believe work opportunities are vital because students are developing soft skills that they’re going to need in their profession but they’re also getting practical experience that they can refer back to in their learning.
Students may do two years of study with us, they would then go and work for a year, then they’d come back and do their final year. What they learn in their first two years, they then use in practice on their placement, then what they learn on their placement, they’ll then use in their final year of study.
We also have practical opportunities throughout the programs. For instance within the Business School, we do an international study visit. We put the students into groups and they work with companies – they almost become consultants – advising and assisting and working on projects.
I think that’s why our students are in employment so quickly – and in employment related to their studies.
Could you tell us a bit more about the student residence available, and is lodging available on campus?
We have accommodation on all of our campuses and it is guaranteed for international students. You have your own bedroom and in most of our accommodation students have their own bathroom as well. You’d also have a kitchen that you share with other students so you have the privacy of your room, but they also have common areas to sit with other students.
We also have accommodation where students can cook for themselves and accommodation where meals are provided.
Our offer holders are invited to apply for accommodation and then just put their preferences in order. When we allocate our accommodation, international students are placed first.
All of our accommodation is a short walk to campus, or we provide a free bus to bring students to campus that takes about 7 minutes!
Do you need English language requirements before applying or can you provide them after supplying offers?
Definitely! Students can apply before they’ve got their exam and English language results. If we want to make them an offer it would be conditional on their applying the relevant level of English.
Aside from TOEFL, what other English language software do you accept [e.g. Duolingo] and do you accept Higher Level English?
Yes we do accept higher level English. We have just revised our language entry requirements in line with COVID-19. We appreciate that for many students, IELTS test centres are closed and when they do re-open, the pressure to get a test is going to be difficult.
What I would say is have a look on our website in the international section and you’ll see the full list of the qualifications we can now accept and that’s being added to as we become aware of more tests.
The University of Brighton is able to accept most English language tests as evidence of a student’s ability.
If we need to, we’ll be taking our academic programs online starting from September. We’re looking at January starts if that were needed”Joanne Bain: International Officer, University of Brighton
Will Brighton be offering distance learning for the 2020 intake & do you envisage any changes for the 2021 intake?
At the moment, because the situation with COVID-19 is changing every day, what we’ve agreed is that our pre-sessional English language programs will be going online because they start much earlier.
If we need to, we’ll be taking our academic programs online starting from September. We’re looking at January starts if that were needed. Brighton is working very closely with Universities UK and the sector as a whole to make sure we’re ready whatever comes.
We want to be open to admit students in 2020 but if we’re not able to do that, we have provision so that students can start their programs in some form. At the moment, we haven’t made any changes to our entry requirements but we’re not adverse to making changes should we need to.
What is something that you’d personally like to see on a student’s application when they’re applying to Brighton?
I want to see some individuality. I want to see someone who has thought about what their profession requires. So if you’re applying for Medicine for instance, what skills should a good doctor have?
Demonstrate how you have those skills. Too often we see Personal Statements that are a list of achievements and it gives me nothing about that person as an individual. What I want to know is what that person will bring to the program, and what will make them a good architect, a good pharmacist, a good lawyer.
King’s College, London
At a glance
Our final presentation (and our third university from the UK’s capital city!) was from Freddie Warner & Paulina Rozynska, Senior International Officers at King’s College London.
A richly diverse university, King’s College is home to a community of over 16,000 international students. Freddie and Paulina kicked off their presentation by giving students an overview of the various King’s College campuses, and the subjects taught on each campus.
Based in and around the heart of London, KCL also has some links with a number of famous & notable institutions and organisations.
For example, a specialised course focussing on renowned British playwright William Shakespeare is half taught at King’s College, and half-taught at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, where many of his original plays were first staged over 400 years ago!
In addition, King’s College has links with the British Heart Foundation (with a research centre based in their Life Sciences faculty) and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Could you give any information on any scholarship opportunities for international students
If you Google ‘KCL Scholarships’ you’ll find the pages on our website with all the scholarships and all the bursaries. Look at your country’s scholarships as well and see what support your government can give you.
Our scholarships change quite frequently as well. Have a look in the next few months. Many of the scholarships appear in September/October. Some of them are degree specific and some are specific to nationalities.
What are the accommodation arrangements?
First of all you have to make King’s your first choice. Then you will go on to a booking system and from there you enter your budget, your type of room and it will show you the availability. Some accommodation is more popular than others so we do encourage students to register for our accommodation as soon as you’ve made Kings’ your first choice.
Our accommodation isn’t based on campus because we’re a city university, but all of our accommodation is a short walk, bus or Tube journey from the campus.
How valuable is work experience with regards to your application?
For some specific courses, absolutely. For example, with Healthcare courses we need to see that you are capable of working within that environment, for example working in a nursing home, a care home or a hospital.
I know because of COVID-19 students are struggling to get physical work experience. We are currently working on that because I know there are lots of online activities that students can do.
When it comes to other courses if you’ve learnt key competencies and transferable skills from work experience, great! You can talk about that in your Personal Statement. As long as it links to the course, it’s fine.
We’ve had some students who’ve applied without work experience. There’s some courses where you can’t get work experience, or it might not link. So if you do some further reading or online courses, that could suffice.
My course has a placement year – what help will I get with that in terms of finance but also direction?
More information will be available on the course pages. In your first year, when you start, they’ll be a lot more information in the modules about your placement year as well.
The university careers centre can help you find a placement as well. Being in London we have a lot of connections with industry. But at the same time, we’d also encourage students if you have a good idea of where you want to work, we can help you write that cover letter.
Will there be any changes to entry requirements at King’s due to COVID-19?
At the moment for 2020, we’re going ahead as usual and planning for a September start date. We’re working with governing bodies, UCAS and organisations all around the world.
For students who are applying for next year, or starting this year, your application will be considered fairly, transparently, honestly and to the best of our ability.
We have COVID-19 pages on our website and there’s loads of information for prospective students about applying. But for now, we’re hoping that by December/January when students are applying we will be back in a situation where we’re back to normality.
We’re looking at all different situations at the moment. If we do turn to online learning in 2020 the students are informed straight away. I would always advise students to bookmark our pages on COVID-19 and sign up to receive information on our website. You will get the updated information straight away and you’ll know if there are any updates.
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