How to Study in the United Kingdom for International Students (4 Steps)

With its illustrious universities and unique teaching approaches, a UK education can help open opportunities all around the world. In fact, these factors have helped many students attain easy employability in their home countries – and the UK too.

With these positive attributes, the UK has become the second-best destination for foreign students. If you want to get hold of this opportunity, then make sure to follow these tips on how to study in the UK as an international student.

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Studying in the United Kingdom for International Students

  • To get started with studying in the UK, you need to prepare your finances. In this article, we will outline the general cost, and there are multiple ways of covering the cost. Some of the ways are attending affordable universities, getting scholarships, working while studying, and/or paying out of your own pocket.
  • Then, you will need to prepare the application materials such as language requirements and necessary documents
  • After that, you need to apply to universities in the UK.
  • If you get accepted, the final step is applying for a student visa.

We will go over these steps in the later sections.

1. Finances of Studying in the UK

International students need to pay anywhere from $14,130 to $53,700 (£ 10,000 to 38,000) every year. Costs may even be higher for those who wish to take medical-related courses.

As with British citizens, the average monthly cost of living for a university student varies per location. For example, living in Manchester will cost you about $541 (£ 433) while residing in London will set you back $696 (£ 533).

Apart from rent, you should also factor in other monthly expenses such as transport – $100 (£ 80), utilities – $57 (£ 46), and food – $92 (£ 74).

2. Application Requirements to Study in the United Kingdom for International Students

Get started on your educational journey by completing these general requirements for foreign applicants:

General English Requirements (Undergraduate)

UK universities generally accept the following English proficiency scores from their prospective students:

  • IELTS = 6 to 7
  • TOEFL iBT = 79 to 100
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) = 169 to 185

Although these are the usual trends, UK’s premier university – Oxford – requires higher than average scores for its applicants. Their preferred minimum ratings are as follows:

  • IELTS = 7
  • TOEFL iBT = 100
  • CAE = 185

Oxford also accepts the following test results:

  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English = 185
  • English Language GCSE = Grade B/ Grade 6
  • English Language O-level = Grade B
  • IB Standard Level = 5 in English
  • European Baccalaureate = 70% in English

The University of Portsmouth, as with some UK universities, has easier English requirements for their foreign applicants. A minimum of 6 for IELTS, 79 in TOEFL iBT, 54 points in PTE, or 169 for CAE will be considered upon admission.

As required ratings vary across universities, make sure to check your school’s guidelines about its preferred English test scores.

General English Requirements (Graduate)

Post-graduate applicants are set to a higher standard in terms of English proficiency. As such, the minimum scores expected from international applicants are as follows:

  • IELTS = 6.5 to 7.5
  • TOEFL iBT = minimum 80

At Oxford, the minimum acceptable scores for undergraduate students apply to their graduate applicants. But due to the strict competition among programs, the university usually prefers next-step or higher-level scores (for example, 7.5 for the IELTS or 110 for the TOEFL iBT). The same philosophy of higher test ratings applies to the University of Portsmouth, where graduate students need to have a band of 6.5 to 7 for IELTS, 91 for TOEFL IBT, and 176 for the CAE.

As always, it’s best to check your university website for a complete list of its English proficiency requirements.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

To study in the United Kingdom as an international student, undergraduate applicants may apply through the University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) website, which handles the admissions in the UK. You need to create an account to get started with the process.

According to the website, you will need to provide your personal details, student finance, course choice (up to 5), full education history, and employment history, if applicable. You will also need to submit a personal essay that highlights the reasons why you would make a great student at your prospective university. Finally, you need to send letters of recommendation coming from your teacher or adviser.

Although these are the general requirements for all undergraduate applicants, some universities may need additional documents. With that being said, you need to check the admissions portal for details.

For example, at Oxford, some programs require applicants to submit one to four pieces of written work – even a portfolio. Due to competition, a higher chance of admission is granted to those with high GPAs (minimum 3.7).

American applicants may also need to submit the results of their SATs (1470) and ACT (32). Interviews are conducted with the shortlisted students as well.

At the University of Manchester, the admissions board is also keen on grades but their requirements are lower compared to Oxford. Applicants need to have a minimum GPA of at least 3. Other test exams may be required as well (i.e. 1290 in the SATs or 27 for the ACT).

Application Requirements (Graduate) in h3 headings

To apply to most UK universities, post-graduate applicants should have an undergraduate degree. Some universities look highly on your grades, so you need to check the admissions website for the GPA requirement.

Take the case of the University of Manchester, which prefers applicants with a GPA of 3.3 or above. Certain programs may also require written works about previous subjects or info regarding past work experience/s.

At Oxford, the GPA requirement is even higher. Depending on the program, the minimum admissible score ranges from 3.5 to 3.7. Some may even hold interviews for the applicants. Likewise, submitting previous publications or details about related work experience is not required but is highly preferred.

3. Apply to UK Universities following the Application Procedure

With the UK attracting thousands of foreign applicants, it pays to have a foot ahead by beating the admission deadlines.


For applications made through UCAS, registration starts the year before (September 1) and ends on June 30. The deadlines may be earlier at top-tier universities such as Oxford and Cambridge. With that being said, foreign applicants are advised to submit their documents at the earliest time possible.

UCAS applications cost about $25 (£ 20) for a single course and $31 (£ 25) for multiple programs.


Again, deadlines vary according to university. At Oxford, some programs have an early November cut-off. If you are gunning for a scholarship, you need to send in your requirements by January. If not, you will be given until early March for a last-chance application.

While Oxford may be strict, some institutions such as the University of Manchester have NO official closing dates for applications. Prospective students, however, are encouraged to apply as early as they can.

Application fees cost about $75 to $94 (£ 60 to 75).

4. Apply for a Student Visa

The final step of international students studying in the UK is getting a student visa. This step is the easiest if you complete the steps above.

To be granted a UK student visa, you need to have an unconditional offer from tier 4 sponsors (school or university). You should possess English proficiency as well, which can be proven by the language tests mentioned above. More importantly, you need to show that you are capable of financing your studies.

Apart from eligibility requirements, you also need to submit your current passport as well as the results of your TB exam. If you are under 18, you need to furnish proof of parental relationship and consent.

With these requirements, you can apply for a student visa online at least 3 months before you start your studies. After submission, you can go ahead and have your photograph and fingerprints taken at a visa application center.

This general student visa (tier 4) will cost you about $435 (£ 348).


Studying in the UK may be a little expensive, but it’s all worth it. After all, it has the potential to unlock high-paying career opportunities in your home country and virtually anywhere else. What are you waiting for? Get started with the application process ASAP!


I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit the UK Scholarships Page.