How to apply to study at UK university, college or language school

Ofgad > Blogs > How to apply to study at UK university, college or language school
Student attending Education Fair

The United Kingdom is home to some of the world’s best universities, colleges and language schools, established in beautiful historic towns and bustling vibrant cities. So if you decided to study a degree, vocational or English language course there, it’s no surprise why. But where do you start that you can come to the UK to commence your studies?

First off, you need to know this: Ofgad (The Office of Graduate Admissions) is your ticket to getting into a UK-based institution university, college or language school for any course. We provides free advice and admissions support services to students applying to study in the UK

You will learn here the application process for admissions, visas, and all the other steps and requirements you need to go through and meet in order to come the UK to start your studies. If you are from a country within the European Union you will be treated same as a British applicant so most of these steps will not be applicable on you.

1. Ensure you meet all basic requirements

Firstly, it is also important you make sure you meet all the necessary requirements to be successful to study in the UK. You will need:

  • An up-to-date passport
  • An English language proficiency qualification such as IELTS test or its equivalent to prove you have sufficient English language skills to complete your course;
  • Proof of income/funding to proof you have enough money to pay your tuition fees and meet living expenses throughout your studies as in the UK.
  • A Tuberculosis test (to verify applicants have been cleared for Tuberculosis (TB) from certain countries)
  • And possibly more related information

Make sure you don’t miss out application deadlines. If you are applying to study medicine, veterinary science, or other courses, or applying to Oxford or Cambridge, your deadline is likely to be earlier than other subjects or universities.

2. Find a course and study location

In order to study in the UK, you need choose your course before applying for admissions to the university, college or language school.

You can search and find your desired course using Ofgad’s Course Search. You can also search and find study location (university, college or language school) where you want to study your desired course.

If you would like Ofgad to help you in deciding which subject, course, type, place and mode of study/institutions/ to choose from and guarantee you an offer from a UK university, college or language school, then choose a course level and send us your interest for admissions or apply via course pages.

3. Write your personal statement

Your personal statement sets you apart from all other students and is likely to be key to your success when faced with competitors with similar grades and backgrounds. Your personal statement provides details of what interests you, what you will bring to the university, why you chose the course and what you have done to show you are dedicated to your subject area. You can read our tips on writing a brilliant personal statement.

4. Apply and get Offer Letter through Ofgad

Applying for admissions to study at a UK university, college or language school may be time-consuming and difficult for any student. That’s the reason we do the hard work for you and give you the results you want. After you sent your interest for admissions, we’ll consult with you to decide right subjects, courses, university, college or language school to get admissions. We will put together your admission application and submit to the relevant university, college or language school to provide you with Offer Letter. Meanwhile, we will also provide you with access to Online Portal where you’ll be able to check status of your admission.

Your offer letter can be conditional that will show the conditions you have to meet to get your place confirmed. Conditions may include providing your final certificates or achieving specific academic or English grades or pay fees. Once you meet the conditions, your condition letter will change to unconditional offer letter with confirmed pace for you to study at your chosen academic institution. Now you need to accept an offer to secure your spot. Accepting your place is easy! You’ll just need to sign a form and pay any fees that are due.

After you have accepted an offer and paid the required deposit to secure your place, you will be issued with CAS letter (Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies) which is a virtual document with a unique reference number sent to you by the university, college or language school that accepted you. Keep this in a safe place (do not lose it) as you will need it to apply for your student visa. Additionally, it will have all the important information you need to know, including details of your course, start date, tuition costs and your official confirmation of a place at university.

5. Pay for Immigration Health Surcharge

You may need to pay a healthcare surcharge, called the ‘immigration health surcharge’ (IHS), as part of your immigration application to receive free healthcare for the duration of your studies in the UK. You must pay a £470 per year for a student Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS) fee. You can pay this fee online. Keep your payment receipt safe as you will need it to apply for your visa.

6. Apply for your visa

You must apply for a student visa if you want to come to the UK to start their studies. You can find out whether your need a visa to study by checking here on GOV.UK. Your student visa will allow you to live and study in the UK throughout your course.

You must apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa if you will be studying in the UK for longer than 6 months for undergraduate or postgraduate level courses. If you are heading to the UK to study this year, read our top tips on making a Tier 4 student visa application. Otherwise you must apply for Short Term Study Visa if you will be studying in the UK for six months or less or up to 11 months long for English language courses.

You can apply for visa online. You’ll need to have your fingerprints and photograph taken at a visa application centre (to get a Biometric Residence Permit) as part of your application. Be careful with your timings for this one: the application needs to be in no less than three months before your course begins but no more than six months after you received your CAS form so keep your eye on your dates. You may be able to get your visa faster depending on what country you’re in so check with your visa application centre.

Our Student Visa Application Service offers advice and assistance to international students wishing to obtain a UK Tier 4 (General) student visa or short term study visa. You can also see some top tips for securing a student visa for the UK.

7. Visa interview

You will be invited to a visa interview, at a visa application centre or possibly via video link, where you will be asked questions predominately about your university, college or language school, course and financial situation. You should have all your documents ready with you just in case and be prepared to talk confidently in English about your future plans for your studies in the UK.

You are likely to need:

  • Tuberculosis Screening Certificate from UKVI approved TB Test Centre
  • CAS Letter
  • Current passport
  • English language proficiency test mentioned in CAS Letter
  • Financial proof you can fund your studies and living expense
  • Two passport photographs
  • Academic certificates mentioned in CAS Letter
  • Original birth certificate (and translation if not in English)
  • Proof of payment for immigration health surcharge
8. Start planning your journey

Once you received your visa to come to the UK, you can begin making your exciting plans, including your means of travel, to get you safely to the UK. You can speak to your university, college or language school or let us know about getting accommodation to make arrangements for your arrival. Choosing your accommodation is one of the most exciting parts of the experience, but it can seem pretty daunting. To make things easier, we’ll take you through all the different options. Meanwhile, if you are looking for student accommodation, then our guide can help you.

You will have been given a temporary visa which will allow you to be in the UK for that period of time. Your actual visa comes in the form of your BRP which you will have to collect within 10 days of when you said you’d arrive in the UK (even if you actually arrive at a later date) and you can face high fines if you forget, so make sure you remember to collect it. You will have arranged when you applied for your visa where to collect your BRP from.

9. Arrive in the UK to begin your studies

You have done the hard part and successfully been accepted on to a course at a UK university, college or language school, and receive your visa to come to the UK to start your studies. Now all that is left to do is say your goodbyes and begin an exciting new chapter of your life by travelling to study in the UK.

You can come to the UK before up to one month before your course start date if your visa is for a course of six months or more (undergraduate or postgraduate courses) or for a pre-sessional English language course. If you are studying in the UK for less than six months, you can arrive in the country up to one week before your programme begins.  Remember to keep all your forms and documents in an accessible place in your hand luggage to give immigration if required when you land.

Arrive in the UK to begin your studies can seem challenging though, with many new experiences and social norms to adapt to. Luckily, UK academic institutions make life for new international students as comfortable as possible during the first few weeks and there are things you can do to help the settling in period go as smoothly as possible.


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