Studying abroad can be an enriching and transformative experience. The United Kingdom boasts some of the world’s most prestigious universities, providing a diverse range of courses and research opportunities.
Step 1: Research and Choose a University
The first step in your journey is to research and select a university that aligns with your academic and personal goals. There are over 100 universities in the UK, each offering a wide range of undergraduate (BA) and postgraduate (MA, PhD) programs across various disciplines. Consider factors such as course offerings, the university’s reputation, campus facilities, location, and tuition fees.
Step 2: Selecting a Course of Study
After selecting a university, take the time to explore the diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses available in various disciplines at UK universities. “Single honours” refer to degrees in one subject only, for example law or medicine. Course combinations are often referred to as “joint honours” or “combined honors,” which allows students to study two or more subjects within the same degree program.
In the UK, undergraduate courses usually take three years to complete, while MA courses often only take one year. The length of PhDs can vary, typically they take between three and five years to complete. Be sure to select a program that matches your interests, strengths, and future career aspirations. Research the modules, course structure, and assessment methods to ensure it meets your expectations.
The UK education system follows a modular structure, allowing students to select individual modules based on their interests and strengths. Lectures are common in the UK, where a lecturer delivers content to a large group of students. Despite its modular structure, degree courses at UK universities often offer less choice on the time in which they can be completed in comparison to Swiss universities. Some courses can be studied part-time, which usually means double the time period of full-time courses. There are few flexible variants in between.
Additionally, many courses, especially at Oxford and Cambridge, include small-group teaching sessions called tutorials, where students engage in discussions and receive personalized attention. In comparison to Swiss universities, UK courses will often provide more guidance and resources at the beginning of the course, such as reading lists.
The grading system for the whole course usually follows the classification first (1), upper second class (2.1), lower second class (2.2), Third, or Fail. For individual models, often a number between 0 and 100 is given: 70-100 (Distinction), 60-69 (Merit), 50-59 (Satisfying), 40-49 (Sufficient), 0-40 (Unsatisfactory). Most UK employers are looking out for an overall high 2.1., which equates to an average of just under 70 points.
Step 3: Meeting Admission Requirements
Each university in the UK has specific admission requirements for international students. Typically, the entry criteria may include academic qualifications, language proficiency, and entrance examinations. Personal statements that focus on a student’s personal history and character trajectory like in the USA are less common in the UK.
Swiss students must have a recognized Swiss Matura or other equivalent qualifications to be eligible for undergraduate courses. For postgraduate courses, a relevant undergraduate degree (BA) or equivalent is usually required. Many courses will require an overall mark of 5, or 5.5-6 for top universities, according to the Swiss system of grading.
English proficiency is vital for studying in the UK. Most universities accept IELTS or TOEFL scores to demonstrate language proficiency. The minimum required is often similar to a Cambridge ‘First’ certificate, but always check with your preferred institution.
Some courses, such as medicine, law, or history, may require additional entrance exams. Check with your chosen university if any such tests are necessary.
Step 4: Submitting Your Application
Once you have met the requirements, it’s time to prepare your application. For undergraduate courses in the UK, the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) is the central application system over which all applications must go. For postgraduate courses, you’ll typically apply directly to the university through their online application portal.
UCAS Application for undergraduate courses
As a Swiss student, you’ll need to submit your UCAS application online by the specified deadline, which may differ from that of UK residents. The application will require your personal details (including a copy of your passport), academic qualifications, a personal statement, and references from teachers or tutors.
Direct Application for postgraduate courses
For postgraduate courses, submit your application directly to your chosen university. This application will require similar documents, including academic transcripts, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and a CV.
Step 5: Financial Considerations
Swiss students who started a full degree course in the academic year 2021/22 and later will not be eligible for home fee status. Therefore, these students will be charged an international fee which is usually considerably higher and varies by university. Swiss students in the UK before 31st December 2020 were charged the home fee status of £9,000-£9,250 per year until their course finishes. Swiss students who started studying in the UK in the 2021/22 academic year or later will likely have to pay between £12,000 and £20,000 per year (the cost may be lower or higher depending on the university, course, and degree level).
Studying in the UK can be financially demanding. As a Swiss student, you will not be eligible for UK government-funded financial aid. Hence, you will need to plan for tuition fees, living expenses, and other related costs. Explore scholarships, grants, and sponsorships offered by Swiss organizations or the universities themselves. You should also check with your home institution, student advisor office, and relevant Swiss education authorities for information about scholarship options and resources available to support your study abroad. You can explore scholarship opportunities that may be available through foundations, governmental organizations, and private sponsors in Switzerland or the UK.
In addition, some UK universities offer scholarships and financial aid specifically for international students, including those from Switzerland. There are university-specific or college-specific funding options available in the UK. Such college-specific scholarships are typically highly competitive, and the selection criteria may vary from one scholarship to another.
Example of Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) Scholarship
The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) is a funding organization that supports scientific research and academic projects in Switzerland and abroad. One of the significant scholarship programs offered by the SNF for Swiss students studying abroad is the “Doc.CH” scheme. The Doc.CH scheme provides financial assistance to Swiss doctoral students enrolled at Swiss universities who wish to conduct part of their research at a renowned foreign university. This program enables Swiss doctoral candidates to access international research networks and facilities. While the SNF primarily focuses on research grants for scholars and scientists, it also provides funding opportunities for Swiss students pursuing higher education in other countries, including the UK.
Example of Berrow Foundation Scholarship at Lincoln College, Oxford
The Berrow Foundation Scholarship is a specific scholarship opportunity available to Swiss students interested in studying at Lincoln College at the University of Oxford. It is designed to support outstanding students from certain Swiss universities (check the eligibility criteria on the scholarship website). The scholarship provides financial assistance to cover tuition fees, living expenses, or both, depending on a student’s needs and the scholarship’s terms.
Step 6: Obtaining a Student Visa
Before you can study in the UK, you’ll need to obtain a Student Visa. Once you’ve received an acceptance letter from your chosen university, apply for the Student Visa (student route) through the UK Visas and Immigration website. All Swiss students coming to the UK to study for a period longer than six months need to apply through the UK’s points-based immigration system and must have confirmation that their visa application has been successful before they travel to the UK. Ensure you meet the necessary visa requirements and provide all the requested documents. Swiss nationals need a valid Swiss passport to enter the UK, as an ID card is no longer sufficient since the UK left the European Union.
Step 7: Accommodation in the UK
Student housing in the UK differs from private renting as a student in Switzerland. In the UK, many universities provide accommodation options specifically for their students. These student accommodations are often located on or near the university campus.
University Halls of Residence
University-owned halls of residence are purpose-built student accommodations managed by the university or contracted providers. These halls offer various room types, including single rooms, shared rooms, and studio apartments. These rooms are usually furnished with a bed, desk and chair, wardrobe, sink, and kettle. Students usually have access to shared amenities like communal kitchens, study areas, and social spaces.
Private Halls of Residence
In addition to university-owned accommodations, there are private halls of residence operated by independent companies. These private accommodations may offer additional amenities such as gyms, cinemas, and laundry facilities, often providing a more premium student living experience.
Students typically sign a contract for a fixed term, which corresponds to the academic year. Contracts may be for one semester or the full academic year, depending on the accommodation provider. Rent for student housing in the UK often includes utility bills and internet access. Rent and the cost of living vary greatly between accommodation in the greater London area, the south and north of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Step 8: UK Student Life
Many universities have a ‘Welcome Service’ that provides information on housing, bank accounts, health care, insurance, mobile phone contracts, partners and spouses, children, cars, pets, and other topics. You can search the university website and contact them via phone and email.
Once you have arrived, student life in the UK is vibrant, diverse, and filled with various activities and experiences. From Freshers’ Week to student politics, sports, and social activities, there is something for everyone.
Freshers’ Week, also known as Welcome Week, is the introductory period for new students at UK universities. It typically takes place in the first week of the academic year and is designed to help students settle into university life, make new friends, and get familiar with their campus and surroundings. During Freshers’ Week, universities organize a wide range of events, social gatherings, and orientation sessions. There are club and society fairs, where students can explore and join various student organizations based on their interests. Many universities also host parties, concerts, and sports activities.
Clubs and societies
Clubs and societies play a crucial role in enhancing the student experience and creating a sense of community on campus. Universities typically host a diverse array of clubs and societies. They cover a wide range of activities, including cultural, recreational, social, and sports-related interests. Some common examples include academic societies related to specific subjects or disciplines, cultural clubs celebrating various cultures and languages, hobby-based clubs like chess, poker, anime or photography, performance groups like drama or dance, and sports clubs covering a range of sports and fitness activities. Many universities have their own Swiss clubs, where Swiss students or people with an interest in Swiss culture come together to eat food, spend time together, and network.
Sports are an integral part of student life in the UK, with universities offering a wide range of sports clubs and teams. Some university sports clubs organize training sessions, competitions, and matches with other universities. In addition to traditional sports such as rugby, rowing, football, and tennis, you can find clubs for niche sports like ultimate frisbee or even quidditch.
Student politics plays an active role in the UK higher education system. Most universities have student unions or associations that represent the interests of the student body. These unions are run by elected student representatives who advocate for student welfare, organize events, and engage with university authorities on various matters. Student elections are held regularly, giving students the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidates to lead the student union. Student representatives may also participate in national student politics, collaborating with other universities and organizations to address broader issues affecting students across the country.
The UK has a well-known drinking culture and alcohol often plays a significant role in student social life. Many universities have bars or pubs on campus, where students can socialize.
Good luck on your academic adventure! Part 2 on work, health insurance, AHV/IV will follow soon.
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