Studying in the UK: 10 Key Differences

The UK, a little island floating alone off the coast of Europe, a place of unique and quirky traditions. These traditions are what make the UK an interesting and varied place to live, work and study. Of course you’re more likely to be interested in the study part, so we asked some of our international students what they thought makes studying in the UK different:

1: Having a Personal Tutor

While certainly not exclusive to the UK, generally UK universities all provide students with their own personal tutor during their time spent studying here.


“It gives students a feeling that they have someone to turn to regarding anything about university.”

2: Being able to talk to your subject tutors

Here in the UK, you can often have a friendly chat with your tutors. In British culture it’s considered relatively polite to talk about future plans and such informally with tutors. Of course there’s a time and a place for everything.

3: Self Study

The style of learning employed by universities in the UK often focuses more heavily on a few hours a day in lectures or seminars and a much greater amount of time spent reading and writing in private. Some courses naturally cater to this more whereas other courses benefit from a more hands on approach. As a general rule however, you can be sure to spend a good amount of time reading material.

4: Online Resources

Often at university level, courses rely on lots and lots of print material: books, journals and academic papers. UK Universities are increasingly moving away from having those things in print and supplying them instead in a digital format. Laptops and Desktop Computers take up much of the library in a common UK institution, so you’ll still be reading, but you’re much more likely to be looking at a screen instead!

5: The Pass Level

Many education certificates require very high percentages in order to pass, often 70% and above, however in the UK the marks required in order to pass sit at 40%. At first this might seem negative, however what it actually translates to is a wider breadth of scores for work, meaning that those that achieve high marks get greater recognition for their efforts.

6: Casual Greetings

Part of British culture is the art of the casual greeting. Walking down the street alone you may find your peaceful silence interjected by a brief and snappy “Alright?”. In truth, this person isn’t actually asking if you’re genuinely okay, it’s more of an informal greeting. The expectation is that you’ll give a simple yes and ask the same back, often this is the extent of the exchange and for many of our international students it’s very confusing at first why so many people are concerned with their well-being.

7: Length of the Term/Semester

Here in the UK our terms are approximately 12 weeks long, in comparison to other countries this is a relatively short time frame, however, when you combine it with the extra time spent studying at home, it begins to make more sense. We have more holidays interspersed through the year however students are often assigned large pieces of work over these holiday periods that are expected to be submitted on return.

8: Societies and Clubs are huge

UK Universities have a strong culture within them made up of hundreds of different societies, whatever your hobby, background or profession, you can be sure that there’s a society of people just waiting for you to join them. On the off chance that there isn’t one, well then set it up yourself!

9: Subject Focus

Often at universities abroad, students will take classes in many different unrelated subjects however here in the UK our education system narrows down as you get to university. Sometimes students have the opportunity to undertake a combined degree allowing combination of two or more different subjects.

10: Industry Experience

Getting a degree is one thing, and an important one at that, but getting real world experience out in the workplace is absolutely invaluable and is something that many institutions in the UK choose to focus on more and more as time goes by. Often courses will offer the chance to work in your chosen industry for a sandwich year or for shorter stays during your studies and it’s these placements that combine all the learning you do in lectures and seminars with practical work.

If you have any questions for existing student ambassadors contact them here.