Explore narrow cobblestone alleyways that wind through Georgia, Art Nouveau and modern architectures in Scotland. Experience stunning views of the Causeway Coast, an area of coastline pocketed with deep glens and forest parks, where outdoor enthusiasts can hike, bike and surf in Northern Ireland. In England, study the historic impact of a land whose law and government structures have influenced many societies, and continues to have a modern-day presence in world politics.



Languages Spoken:

English

Education System

HIGHER EDUCATION

While the higher education systems in the United Kingdom are similar in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, Scotland’s system is quite different, and resembles the US system.

After taking the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) , students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland may leave secondary schooling; alternatively, they may choose to continue their education at vocational or technical colleges, or they may take a higher level of secondary school examinations known as AS-Levels after an additional year of study. Following two years of study, students may take A-Level (short for Advanced Level) examinations, which are required for university entrance in the UK.

Scotland has its own qualification framework that is separate from that in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. After seven years of primary education and four years of compulsory secondary education, students aged 15 to 16 may take the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE). The Scottish Certificate of Education is recognized throughout the UK as the equivalent to GCE A-levels and is usually the entry qualification for university.

Undergraduate degrees take three years to complete in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, while at Scottish universities undergraduate degree programs last four years. At the graduate level, a master's degree is normally earned in a single year, a research master's degree takes two years and a doctoral degree is often completed in three years.

TEACHING, LEARNING STYLES, AND ASSESSMENT

The UK education system generally emphasizes independent, self-directed study over class time, attendance, and participation. Coursework may be less structured than you are used to in your country and students may be assigned significant outside reading that they will not be tested on until their final exam. Required readings and definite assignments given throughout the semester are less common. You can expect an extensive reading list covering all topics to be discussed to be distributed at the start of the course. This will be used for independent research. British students typically consult a large number of sources from the library rather than intensively studying a few books purchased by everyone taking a course. In addition, you are required to write more essays and take fewer objective tests. Because there are usually fewer assignments counting towards the final grade, a final exam or paper carries much more weight. For these reasons, you will have to have self-discipline, self-motivation, and good time management in order to keep up academically.

Modules (classes) often take the following forms: lectures, which are sometimes completely optional; tutorials, in which a small number of students meet with the lecturer; and seminars, larger discussion classes often based upon seminar essays. You should be aware that there is often less face time with professors, and that tutors are often your most hands-on academic contact.

British students often sit for final exams in May or June that cover the full year's work and determine the grades for the class. With the growth of modularization, however, there has been an increase in the number and variety of modules offered on a semester basis.

TERMINOLOGY

UK Phrase - US Translation

Course - Complete degree program or pre-set plan of the major
Module - Specific class within the course program
Joint Honors Degree - Double major (not necessarily at a higher "honors" level)
Marks - Grades expressed on a numerical scale, usually with passing grades ranging from 40-70
Postgraduate - Graduate
School - K-12 primary school, not university or college
College - High School

COURSE LOAD, CONTACT HOURS, AND LEVELS

A typical British student takes 3 to 6 modules per term. Most visiting students take 3 or 4 modules per term. The number of hours in class per week will vary by institution. In addition to lectures, you may also be required to sign up for tutorials or lab work. A full time student in the UK will normally carry 60 credits per semester or 120 credits per year. This is usually equivalent to 15 US credits or 30 ECTS credits per semester.

The idea of being "undeclared" in your major is not common in the UK. British students tend to specialize in their field of study earlier; sometimes they may even start specializing in their majors during the final year of high school. General education or basic courses are not as common place at UK universities because they have already been covered at the GCSE level. Many faculties assume that you have a basic understanding of the concepts that will be addressed in the course. For this reason, it is common for third-year international students to take first-year and second-year courses at a UK university. The curriculum in these courses is not considered introductory or "lower-level."

It may be more difficult to enroll in multiple modules across differing academic departments in the UK. Instead, you may need to focus on choosing classes within one or two departments. For specific details on your particular host institution, please carefully read the Academic Notes section of the Institutional Information Sheet.

GRADES

Assessment methods vary by institution in the UK and tend to reflect the UK teaching method and style. Written examinations are the most common form of study assessment.

It is important to note that in the UK system it can be more difficult to obtain the higher grade designations. Remember that the grading scale may be different than what you are accustomed to, and that a lower grade than you are used to may actually reflect a very strong academic performance.

Grades are given as percentages rather than letter grades. 40 percent is the minimum passing grade and high percentages are rarely awarded. A grade of 70 percent or higher is considered "with distinction." In general, percentages increase from 40 percent rather than decrease from 100 percent.

Grading
The percentage ranges for each degree class vary from institution to institution. Individual modules on the transcript carry only the percentage mark.

Degree Class - % Mark
First - 70-100
Upper Second - 60-69
Lower Second - 50-59
Third - 40-49 - (the pass mark is 40% at most UK institutions)
Pass - 30-39
Fail - less than 30
(The lower end of the scale may vary by institution.)

Visa and Residency

VISAS AND RESIDENCY

SPECIAL NOTICE: As of April 2014, the UK Visas and Immigration does not accept the TOEFL as proof of English proficiency for visa application. Non-native English speakers will need to submit an alternative English language test result with any visa application to the United Kingdom. Please see each institutional directory page for English language test information as requirements differ amongst institutions.

UK Visas and Immigration is continually updating visa regulations and procedures. It is important to refer to their website to obtain the most up to date information. As of January 2012, there are two ways in which international students can enter the UK. They are as follows:

1. Short-term Study Visa: You are eligible to enter the UK as a short-term student if:

  • You are staying in the United Kingdom less than 6 months.
  • You bring with you (if applying in person at the border) or submit (if applying in home country) the required documentation to receive the Short-term Study Visa.
  • You are not participating in internships, volunteerism, or paid employment while in the UK.
  • You are not extending your studies in UK. If you are undecided about studying in the UK for an entire academic year, you should apply for the Tier 4 Student Visa. You may only apply for a Short-term Study Visa every 12 months.

Please visit the The Short-term Study Visa webpage to decipher exactly what documents you will need to bring with you in order to enter on a Short-term Study Visa and if your nationality requires application for this visa prior to arriving at the border. Some nationalities are not required to obtain entry clearance to the UK prior to arrival and may apply for the Short-term Student Visa at the border, free of charge. You may use this tool to determine if you need to apply for entry clearance prior to arrival. Students who receive the Short-Term Study Visa should bring all supporting visa documentation with them while travelling out of the United Kingdom during their program as they may be asked to supply this upon re-entry.

Students who are able and choose to receive their Short-term Student Visa upon arrival at the UK border should avoid purchasing flights that touch down in the Republic of Ireland prior to continuing on to the United Kingdom. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are part of a Common Travel Area and there is no immigration control between the countries. Therefore, you will not be issued the correct visa upon arriving in the United Kingdom if you arrive in the Republic of Ireland first. There is no problem for someone who has applied in their home country for a Tier 4 Student Visa or Short-term Student Visa before travelling.

2. Tier 4 Student Visa: You will be required to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa if:

  • Your length of stay in the UK is 6 months or more.
  • You are considering extending your study abroad in the UK to more than one semester.
  • You are participating in internships, volunteerism, or paid employment while in the UK.

You must obtain a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from your host institution BEFORE you can apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa. The Tier 4 Student Visa requires that biometrics be submitted with the completed application. Students should refer to the PPAF they receive from ISEP upon acceptance in addition to the acceptance packet they receive from their host institution for more information on the visa procedure.

As of April 2015, the UK Visas and Immigration has implemented a healthcare surcharge for those applying for the Tier 4 Student Visa. All students applying for this visa will be required to pay this surcharge at the time of visa application and will be given access to the National Health Service (NHS) in the same way as a permanent UK resident. Students applying for the Short-term Study Visa do not pay this fee and do not have access to the NHS in the same way as a permanent UK resident.

For the most up to date information on the visa process, procedures, and Frequently Asked Questions, please visit:
UK Visa and Immigration Website
The UK Visa Application
The British Council's Entry Clearance and Immigration Packet

EMBASSY CONTACTS
British Consulate General New York
845 3rd Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Telephone: (212) 745-0200
New York Consulate Webpage

Culture

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

There’s a lot more to the UK than a stiff upper lip, tea and crumpets, and perpetually rainy weather! The United Kingdom is home to a vibrant, culturally-diverse population, and there’s never a dull moment on the British Isles.

Conversationally, topics like sports (particularly European football, rugby, and cricket), politics, social issues, movies/arts or the weather are always points of interest for locals. Commiserating on the rain or bonding over a local football club are instant ice-breakers. In return, prepare yourself to be asked about and challenged on your own personal or political beliefs. A dry, sharp wit is common among denizens of the UK, and subjects across the board are subject to scrutiny nationwide.

Multiculturalism

The UK has become a blend of various ethnicities, religions and races. Most of the population descended from varied ethnic stocks of Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. Following World War II, immigration boomed from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe has also added to the eclectic mix of UK residents. The largest groups of people granted citizenship in recent years have been from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Philippines.

History and Culture

The United Kingdom consists of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales (who together make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country and is part of the European Union. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Each of the countries within the UK has a distinct culture and a fierce sense of national pride. Although it may be tempting to spend your time with other international students, most alumni wish they had taken the opportunity to meet more locals. Proactively seek out ways to integrate with local students in your classes or join a campus organization. If you plan to travel during your spare time, don't forget to visit the regional attractions and towns near your campus. You may have more opportunities to visit the major cities of Europe later in your life, but you might miss out on the rich cultural opportunities in the surrounding areas. The UK has an abundance of sites of interest, so you’ll never be left without something to do or see.

LIFESTYLE

Student Housing

Housing in the UK may take the form of student dormitories (called "halls of residence") or shared private accommodation. Your Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) describes your host site's specific housing. However, be prepared for a few common differences. You may be sharing halls with first year students (called "freshers"), with other visiting international students, or a combination of both native and international students. This is a great opportunity for you to branch out from your ISEP peers and meet new friends from the UK or other international sites. Your halls may or may not include cooking facilities, laundry, telephone/internet, or common meeting space. More information will be given to you on your IIS.

Greetings

Hugs among friends and handshakes upon introductions are typical. You’ll hear a variety of greetings, from "how do you do" to "you alright?"

Sports

Sporting life is very active in the UK, with football (soccer to Americans) being the most popular. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries, each with their own independent National team. The English football league has hundreds of teams spread across many interlinked divisions, whereas in Scotland and Wales, only two national football leagues compete. The pinnacle of the league system is in England, with the high-stakes English Premier League.

Other sports popular in the UK include tennis, cricket, rugby and golf with such internationally recognized tournaments as Wimbledon and the Golf Open Championship hosted locally. Scotland has a particularly proud golf history, with the nation laying claim to the origins of the sport.

Alcohol

Pubs and clubs tend to reign supreme when it comes to nightlife in the UK. One can expect to find an endless amount of locally brewed beers on tap. Nightlife starts early in the UK with many bars and restaurants closing at 11pm; make plans accordingly.

Pubs, short for public houses, tend to be the tamer option of the two. Often the center of a neighborhood’s social activity, don’t be surprised to hear your new friends talk about going "down to the local" for a pint. Clubs can range from glorified pubs with a small dancefloor to sleek, multi-floor venues packed with dancing revelers. DJ culture and live music is popular.

While many areas of the UK do not have open container laws, take note of "alcohol restriction zones" which should be clearly marked. Within these zones, police have the right to confiscate any alcohol and fine you.

It is important to keep in mind that although alcohol consumption does play an important role in UK society, binge drinking is dangerous. Please be responsible in your habits, as this will impact your own health and safety, as well as the reputation of study abroad students in general. As a reminder, the legal drinking age in the United Kingdom is 18.

Daily Life

CULTURAL ADJUSTMENT

There’s a lot more to the UK than a stiff upper lip, tea and crumpets, and perpetually rainy weather! The United Kingdom is home to a vibrant, culturally-diverse population, and there’s never a dull moment on the British Isles.

Conversationally, topics like sports (particularly European football, rugby, and cricket), politics, social issues, movies/arts or the weather are always points of interest for locals. Commiserating on the rain or bonding over a local football club are instant ice-breakers. In return, prepare yourself to be asked about and challenged on your own personal or political beliefs. A dry, sharp wit is common among denizens of the UK, and subjects across the board are subject to scrutiny nationwide.

Multiculturalism

The UK has become a blend of various ethnicities, religions and races. Most of the population descended from varied ethnic stocks of Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman. Following World War II, immigration boomed from Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia. Migration from new EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe has also added to the eclectic mix of UK residents. The largest groups of people granted citizenship in recent years have been from India, Pakistan, Nigeria and the Philippines.

History and Culture

The United Kingdom consists of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales (who together make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is a separate country and is part of the European Union. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Each of the countries within the UK has a distinct culture and a fierce sense of national pride. Although it may be tempting to spend your time with other international students, most alumni wish they had taken the opportunity to meet more locals. Proactively seek out ways to integrate with local students in your classes or join a campus organization. If you plan to travel during your spare time, don't forget to visit the regional attractions and towns near your campus. You may have more opportunities to visit the major cities of Europe later in your life, but you might miss out on the rich cultural opportunities in the surrounding areas. The UK has an abundance of sites of interest, so you’ll never be left without something to do or see.

LIFESTYLE

Student Housing

Housing in the UK may take the form of student dormitories (called "halls of residence") or shared private accommodation. Your Institutional Information Sheet (IIS) describes your host site's specific housing. However, be prepared for a few common differences. You may be sharing halls with first year students (called "freshers"), with other visiting international students, or a combination of both native and international students. This is a great opportunity for you to branch out from your ISEP peers and meet new friends from the UK or other international sites. Your halls may or may not include cooking facilities, laundry, telephone/internet, or common meeting space. More information will be given to you on your IIS.

Greetings

Hugs among friends and handshakes upon introductions are typical. You’ll hear a variety of greetings, from "how do you do" to "you alright?"

Sports

Sporting life is very active in the UK, with football (soccer to Americans) being the most popular. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete as separate countries, each with their own independent National team. The English football league has hundreds of teams spread across many interlinked divisions, whereas in Scotland and Wales, only two national football leagues compete. The pinnacle of the league system is in England, with the high-stakes English Premier League.

Other sports popular in the UK include tennis, cricket, rugby and golf with such internationally recognized tournaments as Wimbledon and the Golf Open Championship hosted locally. Scotland has a particularly proud golf history, with the nation laying claim to the origins of the sport.

Alcohol

Pubs and clubs tend to reign supreme when it comes to nightlife in the UK. One can expect to find an endless amount of locally brewed beers on tap. Nightlife starts early in the UK with many bars and restaurants closing at 11pm; make plans accordingly.

Pubs, short for public houses, tend to be the tamer option of the two. Often the center of a neighborhood’s social activity, don’t be surprised to hear your new friends talk about going "down to the local" for a pint. Clubs can range from glorified pubs with a small dancefloor to sleek, multi-floor venues packed with dancing revelers. DJ culture and live music is popular.

While many areas of the UK do not have open container laws, take note of "alcohol restriction zones" which should be clearly marked. Within these zones, police have the right to confiscate any alcohol and fine you.

It is important to keep in mind that although alcohol consumption does play an important role in UK society, binge drinking is dangerous. Please be responsible in your habits, as this will impact your own health and safety, as well as the reputation of study abroad students in general. As a reminder, the legal drinking age in the United Kingdom is 18.

Health and Safety

https://www.isepstudyabroad.org/guides-and-tips/health-safety

Currency

MONEY MATTERS

Currency

You are advised to bring or have access to a sufficient amount of pound sterling to cover local expenses on site during the first few days of your program. It may take several days to open a UK bank account as a visiting student - please be patient through this process. Housing and/or meal stipend checks (if applicable to your host site) may take several days to clear the bank once you have opened a checking account.

The pound (£), also known as sterling or quid, is the official currency of the United Kingdom. Currency is issued in 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pound notes. The pound is composed of 100 pence, issued in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence coins. A gold-colored one pound coin has replaced the paper pound note. There is also a gold and silver 2 pound coin.

Although the English pound is the most common currency in circulation, banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland also issue currency in the same denominations, which mainly circulate within their respective countries. English, Scottish and Northern Irish pound notes are equal in value.

If you plan to travel to the Republic of Ireland, it is important to note that the Euro is the official currency. The United Kingdom, although a member of the EU, has not adopted the Euro.

ATMs and Bank Accounts

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), frequently called 'Cash Points', are widely available in most parts of the country. ATM cards with links to major networks (e.g. Cirrus, MasterCard, VISA) will work in the United Kingdom and are a good way to obtain cash at favorable exchange rates. However, not all cards will work at all British or Scottish banks. You are advised to carry sufficient cash on weekends when banks are closed if you are travelling to remote areas.

You may find it not only convenient to open a bank account near your host institution, but quite possibly required in order to receive any housing or meal stipend. When you go to open a bank account, take your passport and your letter of acceptance from your UK host institution as proof of your status as a foreign student. Bear in mind that many branches do not have Saturday hours. Your ISEP host coordinators can help advise you regarding the process of opening a bank account.

Make sure to contact your bank before leaving home. You will want to ask about their international services, and any fees you might incur for using your ATM card abroad. Also let your bank know that you will be studying abroad. Banks can lock your account if they see what they deem suspicious account activity, and informing them of future international charges can help prevent hassle down the road.

Use the same rule of thumb for credit cards, both in terms of looking into their services and fees as well as informing them of your plans to be abroad.

PIN for Bank and Credit Cards

In February 2005, the UK began implementation of the "Chip and Pin" security system for all bank and credit cards. Each card carries a microchip linked to a pin number, which is keyed into a pad when purchasing goods. The customer no longer signs for goods purchased with a card. However, if you have cards without the "chip and pin" technology you can still use your cards’ magnetic stripe. You are advised to contact their bank or credit card company to verify their PIN. Most store clerks will allow you to sign for goods if you do have a pin number.

Sources of Information

Plenty of research is key to getting the most out of your experience, but check out these links for all things UK!

The British Broadcasting Company - International news and radio

United Kingdom BBC Country Profile

The British Council USA

UKCISA Council for International Education: Student Pages

"The Tube:" Underground Transport for London Journey Planner

BritRail Pass (unlimited rail travel in Great Britain)

National Express (great way to travel around the UK)

Guide Books
*All links below will take you to the Amazon.com website for content and purchasing information.

Belfast & North of Ireland (Footprint - Pocket Guides)

Fodor's Scotland, 22nd Edition

Lonely Planet Great Britain

Culture Shock! Great Britain: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette

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