Study in UK: The Ultimate Guide

Want to study in UK?

Welcome to our guide! If you’re considering tertiary education in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, this is your guide. Click the hyperlinks to find the required section, or simply read from start to finish!

Table of Contents

1) Overview of the UK: A Short Introduction
2) Overview of the UK as a Studying Destination (Tertiary Education)
3) After graduation
4) Other Useful links and tips

1) Overview of the UK: A Short Introduction

  • The UK has 76 cities. 55 of these are in England; eight more are in Scotland, seven in Wales and six in Northern Ireland.
  • Scotland is the birthplace of golf and curling.
  • Unsurprisingly, tea is the most popular beverage in Britain. Many consume multiple cups daily!


Culture, Weather and Money Matters

There’s more to the United Kingdom than gloomy weather! It’s also home to a diverse and multicultural population, gorgeous landscapes, nightlife and heritage spots. It’s a top destination for international students for various reasons, including its prestigious universities.

In the UK, the skies are often cloudy: don’t be surprised if you see students sunbathing on school grounds when the sun is out! You’ll get to experience all four seasons, and weather can be slightly unpredictable It is advisable to carry a compact umbrella around at all times just in case it begins to rain cats and dogs.

The GBP is currently stronger than the Singapore Dollar (SGD) at 1:0.62 as of the time of writing. The UK is battling record-high inflation and increased costs of living, and food and drink inflation have reached a 41-year high. According to news reports, basic essentials such as fruits and low-fat milk cost 10% and 48% more than they did in October 2021[1]. Soaring energy prices (electricity and gas, for example) is also something you’ll need to watch out for.

Popular Student Cities

Each city in the UK has a unique character and charm! Here are a few examples.

  • London

London is England’s capital city, and it’s a thriving one! It is home to landmarks such as Buckingham Palace, many green spaces, museums like the Tate Modern, a bustling theatre scene, numerous pubs and some of the biggest sports clubs in the UK. There is much to do, and you’ll never get bored. (If you do, though, it’s easy to travel to Europe or other parts of the UK via train, bus or plane).

The home of 23 universities — not counting universities with branches in London — London ranks as the UK’s top student city (1st globally) in QS Best Student Cities 2023[i], based on indicators such as affordability and student mix. It is the world’s leading financial hub and is a great place to explore media and professional services careers.

Eating out can be a little costly in this city known for its higher cost of living, so learning to cook will be beneficial.

  • Edinburgh

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and a beautiful city with a medieval old town. It has a large student community which attends the University of Edinburgh, Queen Margaret University, Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Napier University. It is also the host of the world’s biggest arts and media festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Perhaps it’ll come as no surprise that Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature!

Edinburgh ranks as the UK’s 2nd top student city (10th worldwide) in QS Best Student Cities 2023. Its leading industries include software & technology, financial services, tourism as well as film & television. The Royal Bank of Scotland and Cairn Energy have their headquarters here!

  • Glasgow

Glasgow is home to the Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera, Scotland’s oldest museum (The Hunterian), Hampden Park (the Scottish national football team’s stadium) and some of the friendliest people in the UK (according to the 2022 Conde Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards). The UNESCO City of Music also boasts a lower cost of living compared to other UK cities[ii], with Oxford taking the top spot.

Glasgow ranks as the UK’s third-best student city (25th worldwide) in QS Best Student Cities 2023.

  • Manchester

The second largest city in the UK, Manchester has a large international student population.

The vibrant and lively city has a lower cost of living compared to other major cities, and has a thriving music scene. Manchester ties with Glasgow as the UK’s third-best student city (25th worldwide) in QS Best Student Cities 2023. Its key sectors include advanced manufacturing, the creative and media sectors, the life science and healthcare sector, the finance and professional services sector, and more.

Manchester offers a free city shuttle service plying three routes: it stops at the train, Metrolink and bus stations, as well as popular destinations. How cool is that?

  • Cardiff

Cardiff is the capital city of Wales, and it’s a compact city compared to its UK counterparts. It is a charming blend of old and new, with many green spaces and plenty of beaches an hour’s drive away. It boasts a thriving media sector, which is set to become even stronger after newly announced plans to develop the city into a global media innovation hub[iii].

Cardiff is home to Cardiff University, the University of Wales, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and lastly, the Cardiff Metropolitan University. For more information on how to navigate student life in Cardiff, do check out this resource put together by the Cardiff Council and Cardiff universities.

  • Belfast

Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and has a lower cost of living (and rent) for students in the UK. It has an active cultural and social scene, friendly people, and is relatively accessible. Belfast’s driving sectors are arts, higher education, business, law, and commerce — and Northern Ireland happens to be well known for its screen industry.

  • Coventry

An hour away from London and around thirty minutes away from Birmingham (also thirty minutes away from Stratford-upon-Avon!), Coventry was designated as the UK City of Culture in 2021. It is home to Coventry University and the University of Warwick. It has a large student population, thriving nightlife, and a rapidly modernising landscape due to recent regeneration projects.

Coventry also ranks as the UK’s fifth-best student city (40th worldwide) in QS Best Student Cities 2023.

2) Overview of the UK as a Studying Destination (Tertiary Education)

  • The UK is the second most popular study-abroad destination: International students made up 22% of its higher education enrolments in the academic year 2020/21 (605,130)[iv]
  • The top 5 universities popular with Singaporean students in AY 20/21 are the University College London (UCL), the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, the London School of Economics and Political Science, The University of Cambridge, and King’s College London
  • In the latest Ranking of National Higher Education Systems (2020), the UK came in 6th[v].



The UK is home to over 170 higher education institutions and has many leading universities: 10 rank within the top 100 universities globally in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings[vi], and 17 in the QS World University Rankings[vii] (2023 edition). The top 10 for each ranking are listed below.

QS Times Higher Education
1) University of Cambridge21) University of Oxford1
2) University of Oxford42) University of Cambridge3
3) Imperial College London=63) Imperial College London10
4) UCL84) UCL22
5) University of Edinburgh155) University of Edinburgh29
6) University of Manchester286) King’s College London35
7) King’s College London377) London School of Economics and Political Science37
8) London School of Economics and Political Science568) University of Manchester=54
9) University of Bristol=619) University of Bristol76
10) University of Warwick6410) University of Glasgow=82


Curious about where fellow Singaporeans are studying at? According to the latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency[viii], these are the top 10 universities with the most Singaporean students (during AY 20/21):

  • UCL (575 students)
  • Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine (410 students)
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (375 students)
  • The University of Cambridge (365 students)
  • King’s College London (335 students)
  • University of London (330 students)
  • The University of Oxford (285 students)
  • The University of Edinburgh (240 students)
  • The University of Bristol (200 students)
  • University of Durham (185 students)

University Networks

Many universities are part of a network/grouping. These networks help them gain financial and reputational advantages, share best practices, increase collaborations across member institutions, and increase the depth and breadth of opportunities they can offer students.

For UK universities, the most well-known network is the Russell Group. The Russell Group is often described as the UK’s version of the Ivy League.

The Russell Group was formally incorporated in 2007 but first began meeting in 1994. It comprises 24 of the UK’s leading universities, which together, teach one-quarter of the UK’s undergraduate population. The universities also produce much of the UK’s world-leading (academic) research, so this is something you should take note of if you are looking into the postgraduate qualification with a research focus or research-heavy component.

Other networks or groupings in the UK you can read up about include the University Alliance and the N8 Research Partnership!

Areas of Specialisation

The universities of the United Kingdom are well known for their academic excellence and for offering a huge variety of courses (there’s even a degree in Applied Golf Management!)

Which field(s) are you keen to major in, and which UK university will help you gain an edge? Here are some to consider*:

Business:London Business School
London School of Economics and Political Science
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Computer Science:University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Imperial College London
Dentistry:Queen’s University Belfast
Newcastle University
King’s College London
English Language and Literature:University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Law:University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
London School of Economics and Political Science
Nursing:King’s College London
University of Glasgow
Performing Arts:Royal College of Music
University of Cambridge
University of Oxford
Psychology:University of Cambridge
University of Oxford


*Not an exhaustive or conclusive list, compiled with reference to the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject, and The Complete University Guide (2023).

A good way to decide would be to ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the university offer a course with modules in areas I’m fascinated about, or will it help my career plans?
  • Is the school located in a city/area that may help boost opportunities and prospects?
  • Does the university culture suit me?
  • If I am exploring a field requiring registration/certification, is the university’s degree recognised in my home country or by the relevant authorities? To practise law in Singapore, for example, you must possess law qualification(s) from one of the following universities:
CountryApproved UniversityApplicable Law Degree
United KingdomUniversity of BirminghamLL.B (Honours)
University of BristolLL.B (Single Honours)
University of CambridgeB.A. Law
University of DurhamLL.B (Honours)
King’s College, London, University of LondonLL.B (Honours)
London School of Economics and Political Science, University of LondonLL.B (Honours)
Queen Mary University of LondonLL.B (Honours)
University College, University of LondonLL.B (Honours)
University of NottinghamLL.B (Honours)
University of OxfordB.A. (Honours) Jurisprudence
University of WarwickLL.B (Honours)


Credits: Singapore Institute of Legal Education

Application affairs

a) University applications

Unlike other study-abroad destinations, the UK streamlines the university application process. Everyone applies through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), listing the top 5 universities of their choice. You’ll have to submit a personal statement, and a reference provided by a teacher or someone who can vouch for your academic abilities. For mature students, you can approach your employer or supervisor.

b. Visa

To study in the UK, you will require the following to apply for a student visa (formerly known as a UK Tier 4 Visa):

  • Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies letter
  • A valid passport
  • Identification documents
    • Copy of birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, etc.
  • Proof of sufficient funds

In light of processing times, do apply for the visa as soon as you are able! The UK outsources visa application matters to VFS Global, and the earliest you can apply would be three months before your course begins.

Can I work while studying?

Here’s the good news: yes, you can! International students studying undergraduate level and above are allowed to work 20 hours per week during the semester and unlimited hours during school holidays. If you are studying a foundation course, you can work 10 hours weekly.

You will not be able to, however, take up freelance work or be self-employed. You are also disallowed from becoming a professional sportsperson or entertainer.


Before you head to the United Kingdom, try applying for some scholarships to reduce the financial strain and gain additional opportunities. Some public and private organisations offer study abroad scholarships to deserving individuals, while many UK universities have scholarships for international students. Make sure to do some research in advance so that you don’t miss their application dates!

Check out some scholarships below.

GREAT Scholarships


  • Covers £10,000 towards tuition fees for specified courses at selected UK universities. For AY22-23, scholarship awardees were required to study a climate change-related course
  •  Jointly funded by the UK government’s GREAT Britain Campaign and the British Council, open to postgraduate candidates
  • Application period varies
Chevening Scholarships
  • UK Government’s international scholarship program that funds one-year master’s degrees
  • At least two years of work experience
  • Fully funded (inclusive of flights and accommodation)

   3) After graduation

  • UK workers typically get 28 days of annual leave (this may include public holidays), and have a 35-hour work week.
  • Under UK law, employees are allowed to request flexible working arrangements (such as working from home). However, employers have the final say, and you must have worked for an organisation for at least 26 weeks.
  • The UK has a drinking culture, and some industries have a booze culture, but things may be changing with the times.


Post Work-Study Visas

Keen on experiencing UK working culture? You’ll be happy to know that there are a few interesting visas on offer! We list the options open to you below (and one you may be eligible for if you decide to study in Singapore).

1) High Potential Individual visa
  • At least 2 years stay (3 years with PhD or other doctoral qualification)
  • 3 weeks processing time from application
  • You must graduate with a degree from an eligible university, awarded within the last 5 years. This list comprises top universities worldwide (NTU and NUS make the list).
2) Skilled Worker visa (formerly Tier 2 visa)
  • 5 years stay (Family can come along as dependants if eligible)
  • 3 weeks processing time
  • You can apply for an extension upon expiry
  • Proficiency in English
  • Work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer
  • Have an eligible occupation
  • Be paid a minimum salary
3) Health and Care Worker visaFamily can come along as dependants if eligible

  • 3 weeks processing time
  • You can apply for an extension upon expiry
  • Be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional
  • Work in an eligible health or social care job
  • Proficiency in English
  • Work for a UK employer that’s been approved by the Home Office
  • Have a ‘certificate of sponsorship’ from your employer
  • Have an eligible occupation
  • Be paid a minimum salary
4) Graduate visa
  • At least 2 years stay (3 years with PhD or other doctoral qualification)
  • Apply before your student visa expires, and when still in the UK


4) Other Useful links and tips

Ready to study in UK? if it’s a yes, here are some tools and links that may help your planning!

City Guides from UCAS
Scholarship compilation (UK govt list)

The UK is wonderful to study in, and we hope you will have a fruitful student life there. We wish you all the best in your educational pursuits!



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