The students aspiring to pursue higher education in the West have multiple options, and myriad reasons have led to certain destinations being more popular than others this far. The United Kingdom (UK), despite having been at the forefront of superior education since times immemorial, has, till the recent past, been a choice for only a limited number of students. Let us look into aspects of this nation and their education system that make it worthy of not just mention, but certainly of note.
UK stands as the 6th largest economy of the world. According to Wikipedia, the country is the “ninth-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP), and twenty-first by nominal GDP per capita, constituting 3.1% of nominal world GDP. The United Kingdom [also] constitutes 2.3% of world GDP by purchasing power parity (PPP).” This economic powerhouse is the 5th largest exporter as well as importer in the world. The service sector dominates the UK economy and Finance is especially important here. London the world’s financial hub second only to New York City in the United States.
The UK has always been a major player in world politics besides being at the forefront of technological changes. They said that the sun did not set on the British empire. Goes to show how vast it was, spanning several continents and stretching across the hemispheres. In the 18th century it was the first nation to industrialize. In the 19th century it enjoyed a pre-eminent position in world affairs, though the two World Wars managed to shake it to its foundation. True, in 2023, the country did experience a certain amount of economic instability along with the rest of the world. However, the Financial Times observes that the UK economy has rebounded in November.
The UK is home to some of the oldest and most established Universities in the English-speaking world. With some of them even tracing their roots back over 800 years in history. Read this article to know about the 10 oldest universities in the UK. But that is not all. The country not only boasts an unparalleled pedigree in higher education but also has, perhaps, the most progressive education system. Following are some the notable features:
- Course Offerings – Students avail the widest possible choice of courses, both at the Undergraduate and Graduate levels. They include some of the most contemporary subjects being taught across all fields such as Business, Science, Technology, Law and Healthcare.
- Course Duration – Optimized, with most undergraduate programs (including Engineering) being delivered in 3 years. This is in contrast to North America where it takes an extra year to obtain the same degree. At the same time, in the UK, many Masters degrees (including MBA) are delivered in 1 year. Clearly, there is a time advantage here. If you study in the UK you’ll be off the blocks and become job-ready more quickly than in say Canada, the USA, or Australia.
- Cost of study – Despite the UK being perceived as an expensive place to study, the reality, is that there is a significant cost advantage well compared to other popular destinations. The international student is able to recoup his investment at an earlier date. He does not have to lead a relatively vulnerable life as a student for 2-3 years, depending solely on part-time assignments.
- Flexible factor – The education system in the UK is highly flexible, at least in terms of eligibility. With over 160 universities operating today, the UK permits aspirants with a lower English ability to pursue programs of their choice across multiple universities. The universities are not rigid about type/qualifications etc. of participants they expect for a particular program. This allows international students to diversify and gain competitive skillsets notwithstanding their prior education.
- Post-study work – The UK allows graduates to gain work experience for 2 years after completion of studies. This increases to 3 years, in case of Doctorates.
The consideration in choosing UK for higher studies does not end there. Students and parents alike are also concerned about safety, visa decisions, future prospects and employability. Hence it is worth mentioning that
- The UK boasts of a safe safe and modern environment for studies, with many faiths being observed and multiple languages in use across the geography. Look no further than their current Prime Minister to reflect on how secular the nation is, and the opportunities it represents.
- The UK has a robust Visa-processing methodology that is not only efficient but also largely based on assessments on technical factors rather than notional decision making. This is in stark contrast to many other countries, that tend to make decisions on tangible and intangible parameters. UK’s
- The UK usually experiences unemployment rates of under 5% in most years and – it is difficult to infer data specifically for international students – numbers from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) commonly indicate respectable employment rates for most Universities and over 90% for the higher standing ones.
- Since UK’s departure from the European Union in 2020, there have been substantial changes in the eligibility for Work Visas. Beyond the graduate visa, there is a simplified pathway for graduates to stay back longer and continue working in the country. Unlike USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – the UK does not employ a draw or lottery system for granting long term work visas.
As per data from the UK’s Home Office – the nation granted 498,626 student visas for the year ending June 2023 – 23% more than in the year ending June 2022. It is also double (+108%) the year ending June 2019, i.e. prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We can infer from such data that the rate of Visa refusal for Indian students is fairly low (around 1%)
While choosing their destination country for higher studies, students almost-often draw up a laundry list of parameters that a country must meet. The UK as a developed country ticks most – if not all – the boxes. While some students and or parents tend to make such decisions based purely on personal factors such as the presence of friends and family members in certain nations, this article hopes to provide a fact and data-based perspective on education and prospects in the United Kingdom.
About the author
Sherin Singhal is a Director at SG New Dawn Overseas Pvt. Ltd. The company provides education pathways to the West, most notably in the UK, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. What sets it apart is a fact-based approach, transparent process, up-to-date knowledge on careers abroad, and data-based guidance on foreign education. Sherin has counselled thousands of students in his career and helps place hundreds of students in leading universities across the said countries. You can expect to receive the best possible advice from him, provided you are open to hearing new things.