The country's USP
British institutions draw students for their quality of education. All institutes are put through quality assurance checks. The Teaching Quality Information (TQI) website brings together key sources of official information about the quality of higher education in UK universities and colleges.
The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), which evaluates the quality of research in universities and colleges every four-five years, uses a process of 'peer review' where academics review the quality of work of their fellow researchers. Moreover, courses in the UK are shorter in duration and are intensive.
There are strong links between academia and employers. Britain as a destination for higher education offers a valuable cultural experience as it has a diverse student community, guess estimated to be around 300,000. Out of these, more than 23,000 were Indian in 2006-07.
The British High Commission gave out 19,200 student visas last year, up from around 16,300 in 2005 and some 15,000 in 2004.
Hot for what?
Business Management, Science and Technology, Art and Design as well as Law are the subjects of choice of Indians heading to British campuses. Top institutes The British Council says that it does not know which institutes have the highest number of Indian enrolees.
As for reputed names, it would be unfair to list just five. There are no official, general rankings. British institutions are assessed subject-wise by Higher Education and Research Opportunities (HERO), a government agency.
So, the council advises students to draw up their lists by using HERO's TQI and the RAE ratings.
Get, set and go… Follow these directions and set sail to Old Blighty.
Session commences: most undergraduate and postgraduate courses start in September/October every year and some in January/February. There may be a different timetable for research-based courses and it is best to get in touch with the institution about it. In Scotland, Bachelors' degree programmes are four years long, unlike in the rest of the UK.
When to apply:
start a year in advance. Institutions start accepting applications a year before, that is, in September/October of the previous year. Applicants should apply at least six to nine months before their course starts. Deadlines: the final date for all those applying for undergraduate (UG) courses in the UK is June 30. All applications received after this date are put into 'clearing'. The deadline for the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application to Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary courses is October 15.
The last date for applications from UK and European Union students for all courses is January 15. There are separate deadlines for Art and Design courses.
For further details, visit www.ucas.com.
There are no specific closing dates for most postgraduate (PG) courses in the UK. However, a few institutions may have application deadlines. So, confirm this from their website or prospectus.
How to apply: fill up one application form of UCAS, the UK's central organisation through which applications are processed for entry to full-time first degree, foundation degree (FD), Higher National Diploma (HND), Higher National Certificate (HNC), Certificate of Higher Education (Cert HE), and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) programmes and university diploma courses.
You can select up to six course options and send your completed form to UCAS, which will forward it to your chosen institutions. Applicants only have the option of applying online through the UCAS website. Master level aspirants need to touch base with their desired institutions as there is no centralised system of applications for PG courses in the UK. Each institution has its own application form, available from the institution or their website.
Application processing time: UCAS will send you a Welcome Letter confirming your details and the courses applied for. The welcome letter also carries your application number and user name, which you will need to access Track. You can use Track to follow the progress of your application, and accept or reject offers. Institutions will usually reply to PG applications in three-four weeks. The turnaround time is much shorter towards the end of the application cycle (October-September).
Application docket: there is no need to submit any document while applying via UCAS, since it provides an online form. The application packet for PG applications should contain….
Application form. Statement of Purpose. Attested photocopies of academic credentials such as mark sheets and certificates from your previous education institutions, plus any other recent certificates of your extra curricular activities/sports or participation in debates, seminars or lectures that you have mentioned in your application.. IELTS/TOEFL scores if your results have been announced.
Two references (academic/professional) along with the application form. Adds Ruchika Castelino, Head Education Promotion-India, Education UK, British Council,"A good personal statement is important and could help to persuade an admissions officer to offer you a place. In many cases since international students are not interviewed, this may be your only chance to make the case for your admission." You can include in your personal statement some points like why you have chosen the course, what are your career plans after completing your desired programme, any job or voluntary work you have done, particularly if it is relevant to your subject. You may want to mention the skills and experience you have gained from these activities.
“You can also include your future plans, any subjects you are studying that do not have a formal assessment, your social, sports or leisure interests,” says Castelino. A reference is also required as part of the application and should be from someone who knows you well enough to write about you and if you are suitable for higher education. It could be from your Principal, head teacher, subject teacher or from an employer.”
The reference should include existing achievements, with particular reference to subjects relating to the courses for which you have applied, motivation and commitment towards the chosen course, any relevant skills achievement, whether certified or not, powers of analysis and independent thought, relevant work experience, work placements, voluntary work and so on, and your proposed career plan,” says Castelino.
Tuition fees: the costs vary for different subjects. The ‘average’ annual tuition fee is estimated to be as given here. Cost of living: the living cost is 7,000 to 8,000 pounds a year.
Accommodation: there are several types of housing options available, but there are also shortages, particularly in London, so students should apply as soon as possible. Usually at the undergraduate level, institutions guarantee accommodation in the first year.
Besides university or college residences, there is private accommodation like student hostels, lodgings, bedsits, flats and youth hostels.
For more information, hit www.ukcosa.org.uk
Scholarships: each university has its own scholarship scheme for undergraduate students. Based on academic merit, these can range from part bursaries of 2,000 - 3,000 pounds to a full tuition fee waiver. Check your institution website for specific details. There are different sources for postgraduate scholarships. These include UK institutions and the British Council, which manages the Chevening Scholarship, the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP), British Overseas Industrial Placement Scheme (BOND) and the Charles Wallace scheme.
For more information, browse www.britishcouncil.org.in/scholarships.
The UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), announced by the Prime Minister Tony Blair during his visit to India in September 2005 and launched by him in April 2006, has up to 10 scholarships which will be available in 2007-2008 for Indians with excellent academic backgrounds to carry out doctoral research leading to Ph.D. and D.Phil. degrees in UK institutions.
For further information, click on www.ukieri.org
There is a specific application procedure and deadline for every scholarship programme.
Student visa: apply for a student visa after receiving a confirmed offer of admission from a UK institution. Remember, you will not be permitted to enter Britain as a student if the school, college or university that you want to study at does not appear on the UK Department for Education and Skills Register of Education and Training Providers ( www.dfes.gov.uk/providersregister).
The visa office will not issue a visa if your institution is not listed on the DfES register. “The purpose of the Register is to help the Home Office tackle immigration abuse in the education sector,” says Castelino. “However, just because a college is on the register does not mean that there is any guarantee of the quality of education available at that college.
There is no automatic quality assurance or accreditation of colleges on the register.” Visa applications are processed through UK Visa Application centres across 11 locations in India.
Job opportunities: the UK launched an International Graduates Scheme (IGS)on May 1, 2007. Replacing the Science and Engineering Graduates Scheme, the new scheme will enable non-European Economic Area (EEA) students, who have successfully completed and taken their first or Master’s degree, doctorate, postgraduate certificate or diploma on or after May 1, 2007, to work in the UK for up to a year.
“If they want to remain in the UK beyond this time, they can switch into an appropriate immigration category to pursue their career, provided they meet the relevant requirements,” says Castelino. This is an addition to the already existing Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland scheme. Under Fresh Talent, non-EEA nationals who have completed an HND, degree, Masters or Ph.D. studies at a Scottish university, can apply to live in Scotland for up to two years after completing their studies to seek and join work.