Join a friendly international community
The UK is a friendly, welcoming place for people of all countries, cultures and faiths.
In 2012, over 500,000 international students from 200 countries studied at UK schools, colleges and universities, and a further 600,000 students came to study English. On top of that, the number of non-EU international undergraduate students in the UK has increased by 46% since 2007 (UK HE International Unit, December 2015).
In fact, at UK higher education institutions, over 16.8% of all students and over 25% of academics and professors are from outside the UK! The number is even higher at postgraduate level – in the UK, over 50% of PhD students are international students.
Dan Stevens from the National Union of Students (NUS) has been elected by students across the UK as NUS International Student Officer. Here he explains what you can expect in the UK:
From making friends to gaining a global perspective, the UK's diverse, multicultural environment brings fantastic opportunities.
As a student in the UK, you'll get to know people from all over the world, and you’ll learn about many different cultures. What's more, the UK is known for the high quality of its student support. At the moment, the rate of satisfaction among international undergraduate students for the support services at their UK universities is around 90% (UK HE International Unit, December 2015).
Many schools, colleges and universities have international student societies to ensure you feel welcome and are supported throughout your time in the UK. These societies organise activities such as parties, pub quizzes, film nights and excursions to local tourist attractions, so hopefully you’ll quickly make friends with other international students.
The UK is a multi-faith society, where all major religions are practised and celebrated. Christianity is the largest religion, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism, while around a quarter of the population is not religious. In large towns and cities, you will find churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, gurdwaras and other places of worship, so if you worship regularly at home, you can continue to do so in the UK.
The UK has an active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Schools, colleges and universities for adult students often have LGBT societies, where you can find friendship and support. In the UK it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and many international LGBT students study in the UK on the understanding that their rights will be respected.
There is a lot of support in the UK for students with disabilities and special educational needs. Most join mainstream schools, colleges and universities, but there are also education centres for children and adults needing additional support.
At your school, college or university, there will be a student welfare officer, and most likely an international student officer too, dedicated to the wellbeing of students. They are there to give advice on personal problems and help you find any support you need during your studies. At boarding schools, students are looked after by ‘house parents’, a resident nurse and form tutor.
To help you settle in when you first arrive, most institutions run an orientation programme or ‘welcome week’ so you can get to know your new campus and fellow students.
The UK government welcomes international students, and there is no limit on the number of student visas that can be issued. Each year, thousands of international students successfully secure a visa to study in the UK. There’s more information in our Visas article.
Scholarships and research grants
Many universities offer scholarships and funding for international students, and some of these schemes have a focus on improving international development through education and training. Find out more in Scholarships and financial support.
For researchers and academics, the UK invests heavily in international collaboration – between 10 and 20% of the UK’s total science budget goes to international research collaboration, and 40% of all research council grants have an international component. Read more in UK research opportunities.