The UK is a great place to study higher education, with over 40,000 courses available at nearly 500 universities and colleges. If you currently live outside the UK, you will probably have lots of questions about how to apply to study in the UK, the funding that is available to you, and what it is like to settle into a new country as a student.
Our guide for international applicants provides advice and practical tips to support you through the process of researching the best options for you, applying to your chosen course and ensuring you have all the information you need to start your higher education journey. You can also find out our key points in the sections below.
Applying from outside the UK
There are lots of things to consider when thinking about applying to a university or college in the UK.
You can search for undergraduate courses in the UK on Discover Uni. Each course page will provide information about that course, including links to their own website and their contact details. Our how to choose a course section provides information to help you to find a course that is right for you.
You will usually need to apply for your chosen course through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). You can apply for up to five different courses (at any university or college) . Details of the application process and deadlines for courses starting in 2022 can be found on the UCAS website.
Once you have applied, you will receive updates on your application through UCAS Track. Track will help you to see and reply to offers you have been given.
If you want to study part time, or want to apply for a distanced learning course, you may need to apply to your chosen university or college directly. You will be able to find out more information on their websites, or you can contact them to discuss in more detail.
Once you have been offered a place on a course in the UK, you will need to apply for a student visa to ensure that you are able to travel to and live in the UK for the duration of your course.
The student route is a points-based visa system for all international students, including EU, EEA and Swiss students, who want to study in the UK. All international students on degree courses need to apply through the student route, including those from Europe coming to the UK to begin a course.
You will be asked to evidence certain requirements in order to obtain a student visa when you first come to the UK:
- Your student sponsor (the university or college that has offered you a place) will assess your ability to read, write, speak and understand English. Your student sponsor will tell you how it will assess your English, and the level of English you must have, which is subject to minimum levels set by the Home Office.
- To satisfy visa requirements, you must be able to show that you have finances to pay for your studies and living expenses.
Official guidance on the student visa, including details of the above requirements and how to apply can be found on the UK Government’s website. You may also find the visa information on the UKCISA website useful.
Things you need to do before arriving in the UK
Universities in the UK are preparing to welcome international students safely. When planning your travel there are things you will need to check before you enter the UK.
Travelling to the UK
If you’re travelling to the UK from the United States or most European Union countries and have been doubly vaccinated you will be able to enter the UK without quarantining. Make sure to keep checking the UK government’s coronavirus pages as travel restrictions are subject to frequent change.
To enter the UK you must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test (wherever you travel from), fill in a passenger locator form, and submit it within 48 hours before your arrival in the country. The test must be taken no more than three days before your departure and will need to be shown at the border as a printed document, an email or a text on your device.
Check the traffic light system
The UK government has set up a traffic light system which means that countries are rated as red, amber or green for Coronavirus (COVID-19). This impacts the rules you must follow before and after you enter the UK. You can check the UK government red, amber and green list which will give you the up to date information on the country you are travelling from, and the rules you must follow based on the traffic light system.
Quarantine and testing
If you are travelling from countries on the red list, you will need to quarantine in a hotel on arrival in the UK for 10 days and complete COVID tests. You will need to book quarantine before you travel.
For countries on the amber list, you will need to take COVID tests when you arrive to the UK. There are further rules depending on whether you have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination.
Some universities have announced that they will cover the costs of the quarantine and testing fees up to the value of £1,750 and some universities have confirmed that they will partially cover these costs. Not all universities are offering financial support so you should check with your university to find out if they are offering any financial help.
You can contact your university for further support and guidance around quarantine and testing.
Anybody aged 18 or over in the UK is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, regardless of their nationality or immigration status. The COVID-19 vaccination is free of charge and does not count as the kind of care that requires payment. Further information can be found in the NHS vaccination information sheet for students.
Further advice and guidance
You can contact your university or the international office at your university to find out about the measures they have in place to support you. Below are some additional resources:
- The UK government website – to find the up-to-date information on travel restrictions and advice. You should check the traffic light system before you book any travel.
- UK council for international student affairs (UKCISA) – has lots of information and advice for international students
- UCAS website – has lots of information and you have the ability to talk to international students currently studying in the UK
If you are applying as an international, non-UK, EU or EEA (European Economic Area) student, you should check the fees for your course and any support on your uni or college website.
International students can apply for access to student loans only if they meet particular conditions. You may be able to access student support if you’re applying from the EU, EEA or Switzerland - please see our guide for international students for more information. The UK government has produced guidance for EU students who wish to apply for finance to study in the UK after Brexit.
For the latest announcements on student finance access, see the UKCISA website.
There are a limited number of scholarships available to international students studying undergraduate courses. In most cases you will need to have received an offer of a place from a university or college before you can apply for a scholarship. Please see the UKCISA website for more information on scholarships.
Arriving in the UK
Moving to a new country is exciting, but there’s a lot to think about too. Read our tips below to ensure you are prepared for your arrival in the UK.
- Make sure that you have arranged suitable accommodation for the duration of your time in the UK. Your university or college will be able to help you with this. Check our guide for international students for further information.
- If you have been granted a visa, make sure to check the details of the visa and whether you need to register with a police force in the UK. To see the details of this, check the visa sticker in your passport. Please see the latest information available from UKCISA and the updated guidance from the UK government.
- When you get to the UK, you will need to open a bank account to have access to money in the UK. UKCISA provides details of how to open a bank account as an international student.
- Check the latest government COVID-19 restrictions , and any implications on travelling to England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.
- Your university or college will have provided you with a list of documents to provide when you start your course. Take time to make sure you have packed everything you need, allowing yourself plenty of time to order any replacements or extra documents if needed.