Study in the UK: A Guide

By Tess Campbell Modified on August 31, 2023
Tags : Academics | Travel

Check out everything you need to know about what it takes to study abroad in the United Kingdom.

 Study in the UK: A Guide

Studying abroad is a great way to pursue your education, while getting the adventure of a lifetime. To help make your decision easy, check out this guide on everything you need to know about studying in the United Kingdom:

Finding the right school for you in the UK

Between all the universities in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, how are you supposed to find the school that’s best for you? The first step to finding the right schools for you is deciding what you want to study. Once you choose the program you’re interested in, you can narrow down your options to schools that excel in those areas.

Make sure that your potential schools are all licensed student sponsors, meaning that they are registered with the government and can enroll international students. This is a necessity for when you apply for your student visa.


Many universities in the UK are ranked in some of the top spots in the world. In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2023, three schools in the UK cracked the top 10, with the University of Oxford in first place.

Rankings don’t tell you everything about a school, so make sure you talk to student ambassadors, learn about their scholarship options, and discover what opportunities are available for you.

Russell Group

You’ve probably seen a school or two labelled as part of the "Russell Group." Schools in the Russell Group are the equivalent to the top universities in Canada and the Ivy League in the US. There are 24 schools that are part of the Russell Group, and they all share a common focus on research and a positive reputation for academic achievement.

The application process

You’ve narrowed down your choice of schools, so now the next step is applying!

How to apply to schools in the UK

Luckily, applying to schools in the United Kingdom is a lot like applying to schools in Canada. You have two options for applying:

  • Apply to your desired school directly
  • Apply through

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is similar to the province-wide application systems in Canada, like OUAC or ApplyAlberta. You'll need to pay an application fee of £27 (approximately $40 CAD) for a maximum of six university choices.

You’ll also need to know when to apply to universities in the UK. These are some important deadlines you should be aware of:

  • October — deadline for any course at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry
  • January — deadline for the majority of courses
  • After June 30 — if you’ve missed the earlier deadlines, or don’t have an offer from a university by now, you can submit your application to be entered into Clearing (open spots in programs after the deadline)

Personal statements and other documents

As part of your application, you’ll likely need to submit your personal information, your high school information, written references, and a personal statement.

Your personal statement and references are among the top things that schools will look at when reviewing your application, so this is your chance to stand out from the crowd. For tips on how you can use your personal statement to shine, check out this article on how to write your undergraduate personal statement.

Getting your student visa

The next part of your journey is applying for your student visa. The earliest you can apply for your student visa is six months before your course begins, and you’ll usually receive a decision within three weeks.

So, what do you need to apply for a student visa in the UK? You’ll need:

  • To pay a fee of £363 (approx. $626 CAD), as well as a healthcare surcharge
  • To be able to pay for your course for one academic year (nine months)
  • A Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies reference number
    • You'll receive this from your school when you're accepted
  • To be able to speak, read, write, and understand English
  • Must be 16 years of age or older
    • Must have consent from your parents or guardians if you're under 18 — you'll need a copy of your birth certificate (or similar government documents) showing their names, too
  • Must have a current passport or other valid travel documentation
  • If you've received sponsorship (pdf; see pg. 5) for your course fees and living costs in the last 12 months, you'll also need written consent for your application from your financial sponsor
  • If you're doing graduate school, you may need to apply for the Academic Technology Approval Scheme certificate, depending on your course

Once you receive your visa, you can travel to the UK up to one month before your program starts if your degree is over six months long. Typically, this visa will allow you to stay in the UK for up to five years.

Working on a student visa in the UK

A great way to help cover your university costs is by working while in school. But, if you’re on a student visa in the UK, are you able to work? How many hours a week can you work? What if your program has a work placement option? Find out how much you can work depending on your degree level:

  • Undergraduate student — can work for up to 20 hours a week, and full-time outside of term time
  • Postgraduate student — can work up to 20 hours a week and full-time during the Christmas, Easter, and summer holidays
  • Postgraduate research student — can work up to 20 hours a week all year long

If your program has a work placement, you’re able to work if the placement doesn’t take up more than 50% of your program duration.

Cost of living in the UK

Your cost of living as a student in the UK will vary depending on where you live. London is typically more expensive, whereas other cities like Manchester are cheaper. So, if a cheaper cost of living is higher on your list of priorities, apply for schools in more affordable regions of the UK.

Here's a quick look at the general cost of living in the UK as a single person each month (CAD):

  • Estimated monthly costs: $1,297
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city: $940 - $3,604
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city: $800 - $2,560

So, if you live in the UK for one full year, you could expect to pay $25,164 - $58,812 CAD, not including your school costs, utilities, phone plans, etc.

In comparison, you could be spending $45,168 - $84,612 CAD in London, $34,920 - $48,276 CAD in Cambridge, and $33,072 - $50,532 CAD in Oxford for your cost of living. Make sure you do your research to find out what the cost of living is in locations you want to study.

Keep in mind that programs in the UK are typically shorter than in Canada. An undergraduate degree can be three years long, while a master’s can be one year. This means you’ll be paying for one less year of tuition and accommodation than if you were in Canada.

Funding your studies in the UK

Studying abroad can be expensive, so what are your options for funding your studies in the UK?

Did you know that many universities in the UK will accept Canadian student loans? You can apply to your provincial student loan provider, like the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and StudentAidBC, to find out how much you could receive. Make sure that your UK university is approved by your loan provider. For example, both OSAP and StudentAidBC allow you to search for your UK school to determine if it’s eligible to receive your loan.

Another option for paying for school in the UK is scholarships. Many popular UK schools will offer scholarships for international students studying at their school, or some will have specific scholarships for Canadian students, like the University of Birmingham Canada Outstanding Achievement Scholarships. There are also scholarship programs exclusively for Canadians studying in the UK, like the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund.

Make sure you check out for scholarships and awards that could help you study in the UK.

You can also earn some cash by working. Before you go across the pond for school, get a summer job with as many hours as you can manage to save up for your education. Once you’re in the UK, you could get a part-time job whilel you study to help lessen your education costs. Refer back to the working on a student visa in the UK section for more information on how many hours you’re allowed to work.

With this guide, studying in the UK seems much more feasible than you may have thought! Good luck with your studying abroad adventure!

Find the right program for you in the UK

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