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:


Education System


Each region in the United Kingdom has distinct characteristics to their education systems. 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.


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.


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


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.


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 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.

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.)


Course registration will generally take place during your on-site orientation. Your host coordinator will be able to provide more information about your specific institution's policies and procedures. 


For most institutions, transcripts will be sent to ISEP Global to be forwarded to your home institution. Check with your host coordinator to ensure there are no outstanding issues that will delay the release of your transcript. 

Visa and Residency

Please note that students should ALWAYS check the website of the embassy/consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence first, as the information in this handbook regarding visa application instructions is subject to change without warning. 


Depending on your program length and nationality, you may or may not need to apply for your visa prior to arriving in the United Kingdom. Please see below (scroll down for Full Year visa information):

Information for EU/EEA/Swiss Nationals entering the UK after 1 January 2021

If you are a national of an EU/EEA country, or Switzerland, you will need immigration permission to enter the UK on or after 1 January 2021. 

If you will study in the UK for more than 6 months, you must apply for a Student visa before you travel to the UK.

If you will study in the UK for 6 months or less, you may request permission to enter the UK as a visitor when you go through immigration control at your port of entry.


If you are on a SINGLE SEMESTER program (fall or spring only), please check if you need a visa to enter the UK - whether or not you need an entry visa will determine your status as a Visa National or Non-visa National. Non-visa Nationals (USA included) do not need this entry visa, and may stay in the UK for up to 6 months for the purpose of study. For Visa Nationals, you must apply for a Standard Visitor Visa online before your arrival. Students 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. Please scroll down for further information for visa and non-visa nationals.

1. A. For VISA NATIONALS (those requiring a visa to enter the UK):

If you are a visa national then you must apply for entry clearance as a visitor before you travel to the UK, and it is a good idea to carry with you all of the documents that you submitted with your entry clearance application when you travel to the UK. The Border Force Officer may ask to see these documents when you arrive. Entry clearance as a visitor can be applied for from within any country outside of the UK (it does not have to be the country where you normally live).

Type of Visa: Standard Visitor Visa

Visa fee: £95 depending on consulate and time of application

Expected processing time: 3 weeks

When to apply: after receiving your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), and no earlier than three months before your program start date 

Note: Students intending to pursue a work, internship, or volunteer placement must apply for a Student visa (full year visa) even if they are a single semester student. Please speak to your ISEP Student Services Officer and ISEP host coordinator if you plan to find a position on or off campus, as not all institutions will approve this for single semester students.

Applying for a Standard Visitor visa: 

From 1 December 2020, the Short-term study visa route is now only limited to those wishing to study on English language courses for a period of between six to eleven months. ISEP students will be applying for a Standard Visitor Visa, NOT a short term study visa.

As a visitor, you are now permitted to undertake the following types of study under this route:

- Undertake a short course of study for six months or less

- Study Abroad programme

- Educational Exchange

Please note that you may NOT: 

- do a course that lasts longer than 6 months (except if you’re doing a distance learning course)

- do paid or unpaid work (this includes work experience or work placements, unless it is an eligible medical, veterinary or dentistry placement)

- live in the UK for long periods of time through frequent or successive visits

1. B. For NON-VISA NATIONALS (those who do not require a visa to enter the UK):

If you are a non-visa national it is not compulsory to apply for entry clearance before you travel, if you wish to come to the UK to study as a visitor for up to six months. If you choose not to apply for entry clearance then you can apply to enter the UK as a visitor on arrival at the port of entry.

If you do not obtain entry clearance before you travel, you will need to produce all the documents to support your application to enter the UK as a visitor to the Border Force Officer when you arrive at the port of entry to the UK. This includes your acceptance letter from your institution confirming the study that you wish to do in the UK as a visitor, an ATAS certificate if applicable and evidence of your finances in order to satisfy the genuineness requirement.

Type of Visa: Visitor Visa (please note there is no official stamp or card for this type of visa)

Visa fee: free at the border

Expected processing time: immediately, if applying at the border

When to apply: at the UK border upon arrival

Note: Students intending to pursue a work, internship, or volunteer placement must apply for a Student visa (full year visa) even if they are a single semester student. Please speak to your ISEP Student Services Officer and ISEP host coordinator if you plan to find a position on or off campus, as not all institutions will approve this for single semester students.

For non-visa nationals who do not need an entry visa and intend to enter the UK on a Visitor Visa at the border, please note the following:

Students who are able and choose to receive their Visitor 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. Students coming to study in the UK are required to enter directly through a UK port of entry in order to ensure that they are granted permission to stay for the full duration of the semester, which means entry through Irish airports is not a viable option. There is no problem for any student who has applied in their home country for a Student Visa or Standard Visitor Visa before travelling.

1. C. Important Notes for Single Semester Students

- It is important that you do not arrive too far in advance so that the end of your program falls outside the six-month timeframe of the visa.

- If you do not receive a stamp, either by arriving too early or by going through the eGates, you may go back and request a stamp by speaking to a Border Agent, however this is only possible if you have not yet gone through the Customs Checkpoint. 

MULTIPLE ENTRIES: If you are on a Visitor/Standard Visitor visa and plan to travel outside of the UK Common Travel Area (CTA: the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, and Guernsey), please be advised that you should carry with you copies of your final return ticket back to your home country and your host university letter of acceptance in order to present them at the border when you return to the UK. Without these documents, border officials may deny your re-entry. If you have not booked a return flight to your home country, it is recommended that you do so before you leave to travel outside the CTA. It may be useful to purchase a flexible fare in which you can change your final travel date if needed.



*Previously called the Tier 4 Visa

If you are a student on a FULL YEAR program, regardless of nationality, you need to apply for a Student Visa BEFORE you arrive. If you are a non-native English speaker, you will need to prove your English level. Please see each institutional directory page for English language test information as requirements differ amongst institutions.

Visa fee: £348

Expected processing time: 3 weeks

When to apply: after receiving your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), and no earlier than 6 months before the start of your program

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. 

Applying for a Student Visa: You will be required to apply for a Student Visa if:

- You are a non-EU/EEA/Swiss national and you will study in the United Kingdom for more than 6 months

- 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 Student Visa. The Student Visa requires that biometrics be submitted with the completed application. Students should refer to the Acceptance Package in their ISEP Portal in addition to the acceptance documents they receive from their host institution for more information on the visa procedure.

Students are required to pay a healthcare surcharge for those applying for the 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 Standard Visitor Visa do not pay this fee and do not have access to the NHS in the same way as a permanent UK resident.

NEW Passport Upload Pilot Program, Sep. 2019 - US Citizens only: students who are citizens of the United States will have the option to upload a digital copy of their passport photo page while completing the online VFS application (in the section where they are asked to upload any supporting documents). This new optional feature allows for UK visa teams to begin working on these cases ahead of the physical application package for the Tier 4 visa, however students will still need to send their passports with the application within 5 days of submitting biometrics in order for the visa to be placed in their passports and returned. Please note: students need to make sure to print off the scanning receipt provided by VFS at the end of the online application to include in the application package (this allows for quick identification). 


15 UK arrival points (airports and Eurostar) are now allowing students from the following countries to enter via eGates: Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, USA. If you enter via eGates, you will not receive a border stamp certifying the date of your arrival. The use of eGates to enter the UK as a visitor will mean that you do not receive a stamp endorsed in your passport as you do not have to see a Border Force Officer in order to use one. Following using the eGates however, you will be permitted to enter the UK as a visitor for a period of six months. In order to use an eGate, your passport must have a biometric symbol on the cover and you must be above the age of twelve in order to use one. 

- If you do use the eGate, it is important to retain evidence of your date of arrival in the UK, such as an e-ticket or paper/electronic boarding pass, as this will be your proof of entry. This will help you to remember the exact duration of your six month stay and also you will be required to produce this evidence for the institution that you will be studying at.

**RECOMMENDED**: If you would like to receive a stamp, do not use the eGate, and request to speak with a Border Force Officer so that you may receive a stamp in your passport.


For the most up to date information on the visa process, procedures, and Frequently Asked Questions, please visit: 

- UKVI: UK Visas and Immigration

- UK Council on International Student Affairs (UKCISA)

- UKCISA Advice Line (UK Phone Number)

- The British Council's Entry Clearance and Immigration Packet


ISEP students are responsible for understanding the visa application process and costs associated with this visa application process. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to your ISEP Student Services Officer.


Updated August 2023



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.


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.


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 in your ISEP Acceptance Package.


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


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.


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



The United Kingdom is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. The total population is approximately 67.3 million. 18% of the population identifies with a black, Asian, mixed, or other ethnic group. 

Religious Tradition

The UK's official religion is Christianity and churches of all denominations can be found. The other primary religions are Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and Buddhism. Many people in the UK choose to wear their religious items (such as turbans, hijabs, and yarmulkes) and observe religious festivals such as Christmas, Eid, Diwali, or Hanukkah. The UK is a tolerant country where people can choose how they want to integrate their faith into their lives. 

Food Culture

Coming Soon!


Be on Time! British people swear by good timekeeping and being late is frowned upon or seen as rude. 


Coming Soon!


Sport in the United Kingdom plays an important role in British culture. The king of all sports in the UK is football (soccer) with 45% of the population expressing an interest in the sport. Popular team sports in England include field hockey, cricket, rugby, and netball. Major individual sports include badminton, tennis, boxing, gold, cycling, motorsports, and horeracing. 


Greetings are formal. A quick, firm handshake is the traditional greeting. When going to someone's home for an event it is appreciated to bring a small gift such as flowers. 

Table manners

When dining with a group it is considered respectful to RSVP a yes or no. It is frowned upon to not respond at all. Traditional British culture includes eating with silverware and not eating with your hands, unless you are at a barbecue. It is also seen as tacky to use technology at the table. 


British humor carries a strong element of satire that is aimed at the absurdity of everyday life. Sarcasm, tongue-incheek, banter, and insults are all commonplace. 

Making friends

Coming Soon!


Tipping is becoming more common in the UK. The most common practice is to leave between 10-12%. In nicer restaurants people may leave up to 15% (provided the service charge is not included). 

Tipping in other situations (unless otherwise indicated):

  • Taxi driver: not necessary to tip, but if so, round up to the nearest pound on metered journeys
  • Housekeeping: not necessary
  • Carrying luggage: 1-2 GBP per bag


Coming Soon!


Coming Soon!

Health and Safety

Prescription Medications: If you’re planning to bring your prescription or over-the-counter medicine on your trip, you need to make sure your medicine is travel-ready. More information can be found here, and please contact your Student Services Coordinator and ISEP Coordinator with any additional questions.

General Health Guidelines: Your health and safety is our number one priority. Please read and reference our Guides and Tips section for general information regarding health and safety abroad. 

Detailed information about the United Kingdom can be found here. Please pay special attention to the Safety and SecurityLocal Laws and Special Circumstances and Health sections. 

Note: Information sourced on this page is provided by the U.S. Department of State. Non-U.S. nationals should disregard the Embassies and Consulates and Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements sections. 

Self-Defense: Items such as pepper spray, small knives, and self-defense tools may be common to carry in the United States or other parts of the world. However, any product which is designed or adapted to cause personal injury is illegal to carry in the UK. Pepper spray is considered a firearm and carries the same legal penalties as carrying a gun. Please do not bring these items with you on program. Alert whistles and other noise makers are allowed.





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. Find up-to-date information on the exchange rate.

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

UniKitOut: University student starter kits delivered to your dorm/apartment

"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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