UK – A Great Global Ed Destination


Global education provides a great overall learning experience for students worldwide, with them being exposed to different cultures and educational systems. The demand for global destinations has seen a steep rise over time, with United Kingdom (UK) topping the list of global education destinations during 2020. Seven of its universities are featured in the Top 50 World University Rankings,2020 of  Times Higher Education (THE) ; and eight in Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Rankings 2021.

As per the statistics of Higher Education Statistics Agency for 2018-19, there were 485,645 international students  pursuing their education in UK, with international students constituting 1/5th of the total student force the UK’s higher education arena. The UK Government has stated for the year ending September 2019, international students who were granted a Sponsored Study (Tier 4) visa was at 276,889, a significant increase of 16% increase from the previous year, and was the record highest Tier 4 since 2011, indicating the increasing popularity of the UK as a global ed destination.

So, what makes the UK such a great choice for international students? We look at some factors.

  • UK’s Top Universities
  • UK’s Best Student Cities
  • Attractions in the UK for Students
  • Working in the UK
Universities in the UK

The UK education system is known for its high-quality education and global recognition. UK universities undergo regular inspection by the The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) – an independent body governing the standards and quality checks of higher education in UK. UK higher education applications have to be made through the centralized service of Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

At the higher education level, students have a wide range of options when they choose a college or university. Although there are agencies that attempt to rank colleges and universities, the concept of “fit” is also important. The GPA* of admitted students are important, but majors offered, location, number of students enrolled, and campus culture are all factors influencing a prospective student’s decision. Some colleges and universities are publicly funded, while others are privately supported.

The UK Education System is a preferred option for many reasons. Some of these include:

  • The wide array of choices with respect to courses and institutions.
  • 30% of UK university research is ‘world leading’ and 46% is ‘internationally excellent’ as per findings of the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
  • UK courses are shorter thereby reducing tuition and accommodation costs.
  • The English language support offered prepares students at language skills required at a global level.
  • Colleges and universities are both publicly and privately funded with most universities offering merit-based scholarship programs

The UK has over 150 higher educational institutions, which include universities and colleges that provide quality education and have international recognition. Courses offered by these educational institutions are very diverse, spreading over 50000 across 25+ subject areas.

To help you select the best UK educational institutions, most suited to your study needs, we’ve brought you the list of the Top 25 best globally ranked UK universities, as per the rankings given by  Times Higher Education (THE), 2020  and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) for 2021.

University THE Ranking 2020 QS Rankings 2021
University of Oxford 1 3
University of Cambridge 3 7
Imperial College London 10 8
University College London (UCL) 15 10
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) 27 49
The University of Edinburgh 30 20
King’s College London 36 31
The University of Manchester 55 27
The University of Warwick 77 62
University of Bristol 87 58
University of Glasgow 99 77
Queen Mary University of London 110 114
University of Birmingham 112 87
The University of Sheffield 117 93
University of Southampton 122 90
University of York 128 150
Durham University 133 86
Lancaster University 139 135
The University of Exeter 146 164
University of Nottingham 152 99
University of Leeds 155 91
University of Liverpool 165 181
Cardiff University 198 159
Newcastle University 201-250 152
University of Bath 251-300 173

The UK is made up of four countries England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are united under one government. Each country has its own unique cultural identity.

Best Student Cities in the UK

UK has been attracting international students due to its reputable educational institutions with their exceptionally acclaimed teaching methods, the rich culture and history of the place. London has been nominated as the best student city in the world for the second year in a row, as per  QS Best Student Cities 2019 findings. UK remains a top destination with 10 of its cities ranked in the top 100 rankings of the QS.

Top Five Student Cities of UK
City UK Ranking 2020 World Ranking
London 1 1
Edinburgh 2 15
Manchester 3 29
Glasgow 4 39
Coventry 5 47

Few global cities can match the vibrancy and diversity offered by London – which is an eclectic mix of culture, history, opportunities, and educational institutions of global repute. According to a report by Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), during the year 2018-19, London welcomed a record number of international students, 125,035 to be precise, which was 5.8% higher than that of the previous year, showcasing London’s and UK’s growing popularity as the most preferred destination for higher education by international students. Ranked No.1 by QS Best Student Cities 2019 for the second consecutive year, the city boasts of several internationally ranked universities, of which 18 universities got featured in Q.S. World University Rankings ,2021 – though London is not a cheap city to live in for international students.

Best London Universities include

  • Imperial College, London
  • University College London (UCL)
  • King’s College, London
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  • Queen Mary University of London

Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is aptly called the “Athens of the North” due to its neo-classical castles which include UNESCO heritages; and for having some of the finest universities in the UK. The city, ranked 15 by QS Best Student Cities 2019; has 3 universities that are featured in Q.S. World University Rankings,2021  is also known for its popular annual events like the Edinburgh International Festival, New Year’s Hogmanay street party, etc. 40% of the city’s total population consist of international students with 36% of them attending the ranked universities; though the average fees for them could be little on the higher side. However, for EU undergraduate students; excluding students from England, Wales or Northern Ireland; university fees are fully subsidized by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS).

Best Edinburgh Universities include

  • University of Edinburgh
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh Napier University

Manchester, the third-best student city in the UK, ranked at no 29 by QS Best Student Cities 2019, is known for its vibrant student culture, globally acclaimed universities, and its music bands like The Smiths, Joy Division, and Oasis. Three Manchester Universities have got their place in Q.S. World University Rankings – 2021, indicating the popularity of the city as a top student destination.

Best Manchester Universities include

  • University of Manchester
  • University of Salford
  • Manchester Metropolitan University

Glasgow, ranked 39 by QS Best Student Cities 2019, is Scotland’s largest and most populous city, with two world-class universities that feature in the Q.S. World University Rankings,2021. The city is one of the UK’s main epicenters for culture, commerce, research and education apart from hosting two major football clubs: Rangers and Celtic. The University of Glasgow is over 500 years old and one of the oldest universities in the world.

Best Glasgow Universities include

  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Strathclyde
  • Glasgow Caledonian University

Rated 47 by QS Best Student Cities 2019, Coventry, a metropolitan borough in the UK is reputed for its highly acclaimed universities and a vast history of being a leader in manufacturing and design. The city, which is host to several international students, who comprise 40% of the student force, gets a strong rating from employers, implying immense opportunities for students post-graduation. It is home to two internationally ranked universities.

Best Coventry Universities include

  • University of Warwick
  • Coventry University

The city is known for its innovative collaborations between educational institutions and industry for imparting knowledge in manufacturing and design through its undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

Things to do in the UK

The UK is rich in heritage and home to world-famous monuments and institutions. Here’s a quick must-do list of things to do while studying in UK.

Places to visit
  • A guided tour of London is a must-do – The city known for its diversity is home to the monumental Tower of London as well as the contemporary London Eye
  • Visit the Roman Baths
  • History buffs can have a great time by visiting the best museums in London – British Museum, Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, The National Gallery Museum, Tate Modern
  • Uncover the mystery of Stonehenge
  • Visit the famous Edinburgh Castle or Cardiff Castle
  • Catch a match at the legendary Wimbledon Stadium
  • Football fans can check out their favourite football clubs – Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool FC, Arsenal, Leicester City FC
  • Shopping at the famous Oxford Street or Covent Garden
The outdoor life
  • Visit the magnificent Cliffs of Moher
  • Explore the beauty of York on foot
  • Hike a Trek to Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park
  • For beach lovers, there is the beautiful Luskentyre Beach situated in the coastal region of Scotland
  • Hitch a hike to the highlands of Ben Nevis – British Isle’s highest summit or Snowdonia National Park
  • Take a serene walk along the famous Loch Ness lake or Killarney National Park & Lakes
  • Killarney National Park & Lakes
  • Go for the outdoor activities at The Ring of Kerry
Festivals to watch out for
  • Admire and participate in fireworks, street décor, food, and frolic at Diwali in Leicester – the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India
  • Enjoy fireball swinging and marching up to the top of Lomond Hills at Hogmanay – New Year celebrated in Scotland
  • Rejoice in the heritage at the Jorvik Viking Festival
  • Attend the annual literature festival and cultural feast at Hay Festival
  • Get the inner child in you at the Robin Hood Festival
  • Get into the carnival mood at Notting Hill Carnival
  • Visit one of the largest arts festivals at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
  • Celebrate with the Boomtown at the Boomtown Fair
  • Have a blast at one of the most famous music festivals – Glastonbury Festival

The list of is endless. The important thing to remember is to take a break when you can, while studying in the UK.

Working in the UK

UK Universities are extremely welcoming of international students and make their stay a memorable experience. The UK Government has proposed to extend the UK work visas for foreign graduates to two years. Students need a Tier 4 student visa and should have successfully graduated from a trusted UK university or higher education provider with a proven track record of complying with necessary immigration checks and other rules on studying applicable in the UK.

The UK is a great place to work even for international students who want to work part-time work while studying, even options like volunteering and internships boost your chance of working in the UK post-graduation.

Working while studying in the UK

All international students in the UK have to get a National Insurance number (NINo) once they wish to start working in the UK. Having a NINo helps such students to claim benefits or apply for a student loan.

Tier 4 Sponsor with Proven Track Record

International Students with Tier 4 Visa and who are sponsored to study for a full-time course by a Tier 4 Sponsor with a proven track record for compliance with applicable UK study laws and policies are allowed to work:

  • Up to 20 hours maximum per week during term time for qualifying at degree level (RQF level 6/SCQF level 9/higher)
  • Up to 10 hours maximum per week during term time for qualifying below degree level full time (for study across all levels)
  • Full-time (for study across all levels)
    • During vacations
    • On work placements and internships, provided such options are not that 1/3rd of the course opted for
    • After course completion
Higher Ed Institutions

Tier 4 students who are being sponsored for a study abroad program by registered sponsors from the list of Tier 4 sponsors, as a global higher education institution are allowed to work:

  • Up to 20 hours maximum per week during term time
  • Full-time (for study across all levels)
    • During vacations
    • On work placements and internships, provided such options are not that 1/3rd of the course opted for
    • After course completion
Independent Schools

Tier 4 students aged below 16 years are not allowed to work.

Tier 4 students aged above 16 years sponsored by an independent school with a proven track record and listed as a Tier 4 sponsor, can work

  • Up to 10 hours maximum per week during term time
  • Full-time (for study across all levels)
    • During vacations
    • On Work Placements and Internships, provided such options are not that 1/3rd of the course opted for
    • After course completion

For other independent schools which are not listed, students are allowed to take work placements as an integral aspect of their courses. Such jobs could be paid or unpaid; full-time or part-time depending on the Tier 4 sponsor status and whether the course allows for a work placement

Other Tier 4 Sponsors

Students cannot work if they’re Tier 4 sponsor

  • Is listed as “Private Provider”, “Publicly-Funded College” or “Embedded College offering Pathway courses” in the sponsor type column under Tier 4 Sponsors’
  • Under the status column of Tier 4 Sponsors’- “track record” is not displayed

However, students are allowed to opt for work placements that are inculcated in their courses. These jobs could be either paid or unpaid; full-time or part-time; as it pertains to the status of the Tier 4 sponsor and whether their courses give preferences for work placement.

Work options for tier 4 students
Employment options

The employment options for a Tier 4 student has been cited in paragraphs 245ZW(c)(iii) and 245ZY(c)(iii) of the Immigration Rules which include retail, hospitality, seasonal jobs etc.

Though most types of work can be done by Tier 4 students while studying,  the immigration rules strictly indicate the kind of work that is not permitted for these students.

Jobs not allowed for Tier 4 students:

  • Self-Employment and any business activity
  • Professional Sportsperson, including sports coach – Exception being students opting for work placements while doing degree level course
  • Entertainer – Exception only for students pursuing degree-level dance, drama, and music courses opting for work placements
  • Full-time permanent job unless applied under a work route or work with Tier 4 leave after completion of studies
  • As a Doctor or Dentist under training – Exception for foundation program students

Apart from the above restrictions imposed above Tier 4 students, can undertake any work as per the guidelines prescribed earlier.


A Tier 4 student can opt for volunteering, which, though not paid, is still a good opportunity to undertake various types of work and meet people across different sectors. Also, volunteering work does not come under a contract and the above work timelines do not apply to such volunteering which is usually for helping a charity or any voluntary organization for a noble cause. Such work gives an impetus to one CV’s when seeking employment opportunities.

Minimum wages for international students in the UK

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) refers to the minimum amount that employers in UK are obliged to pay their people, whether they are residents or non-residents. It also includes students who are working part-time or full-time.

The NMW for a student for 2020 is-

  • Aged between 18 and 20 – NMW is £6.15 per hour
  • Aged between 21 and 24 – NMW is £8.20 per hour
  • 25 years and above- NMW is £ 8.72 per hour
Post-study work opportunities (PSW)
During 2020

International students who have enrolled for studies in the UK during 2020 will benefit from the new post study work visa (PSW) for graduates, which has now been extended to 2 years. This means international students who began their studies in the autumn of 2020 or later, can extend their stay for up to 2 years to find work in the UK after their graduation.

Under this new visa rule, during the first 2 years after graduation, PSW visa holders can work in any type of job.

Who is eligible for a UK PSW?

Here are the eligibility criterion for staying in the UK to look for work (effective September 2020)

  • Any international Tier 4 visa student who has completed graduation
  • Applies to undergraduate (Bachelor), post-graduate (Master), and PhD graduates from all UK Universities which are recognised are licensed sponsors by the UK Government
  • Post-Brexit, EU students would also have to apply for a PSW visa to work in the UK after their studies.

From Summer 2021 – International students will be able to benefit through the new Graduate Route which allows for 2 years of work experience post-graduation, while for Ph.D. students the stay will be for 3 years.

  • The Graduate Route to be launched during the summer of 2021 – will be applicable for students who graduate either during the summer of 2021 or afterward, including students who have already commenced their courses
  • The Graduate Route to be available to international students with a valid Tier 4 visa at the time of application and who have graduated successfully at UK Government recognized “licensed sponsor” university or higher education institution
  • Successful graduated applicants of any skill level can stay for a maximum of 2 years post their graduation for work purposes. Ph.D. graduates can stay for 3 years.
  • The Graduate Route will require a new visa application which includes a Visa fee and Immigration Health Surcharge
  • Students who graduate and whose Tier 4 Visa expires before the Graduate Route is introduced will not be eligible for this
  • Students beginning their studies through distance learning for the academic year 2020-2021 are eligible to apply for this Route provided they arrive in the UK by April 6, 2021.
What if the PSW visa expires?

If the two-year post-work period and PSW visa expires, then international student graduates wishing stay longer in the UK  will have to apply for the Tier 2 Visa (skilled or general work visa). In order to be eligible for Tier 2 Visa, the current job should fit the visa requirements.

Tier 2 (General) Visa can be applied if

  • You have been offered a skilled job in the UK
  • You are from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

Eligibility Criteria for Tier 2 Visa

  • Have a valid Certificate of Sponsorship for your current job – the certificate has personal and job information
  • Earning appropriate salary at your job – you should earn at least £30,000 per year or the ‘appropriate rate’ for the offered job; whichever is higher. Exceptions being working as a medical radiographer, nurse (pre-registration nurse or midwife) , paramedic, or secondary school teacher in some subjects
  • Prove your knowledge of English
  • Have personal savings of at least £945 in your bank account prior to 90 days before applying to prove that you can support yourself. The exception being you have a fully approved (‘A-rated’) sponsor who can provide you with at least £945 for a month if required and should confirm this on the certificate of sponsorship
  • Can give your acceptance for travel and your travel history for the past 5 years
  • Provide tuberculosis test results if you come from a listed country
  • Provide a criminal record certificate from any country if you have lived there for 12 months or more over the past 10 years; in case your work requires you to work with vulnerable people
  • You can switch from any visa to a Tier 2 (General) visa before the expiry of your current visa

The UK continues to prove the best educational experience, the best standard of living, and great work opportunities making it a perennial favorite global education destination among international students.

To know more, visit the UK Immigration Website for the latest updates.

UK – The one stop for all your Higher Education needs.

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