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What can a COBIS student expect from UK University Life?

What can a COBIS student expect from UK University Life?

For any young person, wherever they live, the move away from home to University is a major life change.

For UK based students there is now the added financial pressure that previous generations of domestic students did not have contend with, when tuition was free or heavily subsidised.

For international students coming from COBIS schools there has always been a clear understanding that the financial investment in their education is significant and having a definite view of what a UK degree can lead to in terms of both personal and career development has always been important.

However, the landscape is always changing in UK Higher Education and there are always new challenges and opportunities for COBIS students entering the UK higher education system.

The good news is that in terms of student life, UK Universities are competing like never before, in an increasingly competitive international and domestic market, to offer not only the very best education, but also the best recreational & social facilities.

·        For example, UCL, one of the universities most favoured by COBIS students (according to the 2016 COBIS Annual Research Survey) recently £280 million loan with the European Investment Bank to develop its Bloomsbury and UCL East campuses, the largest sum ever lent by the bank to a university. The 30-year loan will provide funding to upgrade and expand its historic buildings as well as finance the building of UCL East, the university’s new site at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in east London. Overall, UCL is investing £1.25 billion over 10 years.

This increased focus on developing the ‘whole University experience’ is being driven not only by student demand for clear value for money from their chosen university, in light of domestic tuition fee increases, but also because of the new TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) rankings that have been introduced this year and backed by the UK government.

·        The TEF gradings awarded either Gold, Silver and Bronze rankings to each UK University that submitted to a TEF appraisal but, confusingly for many, this ranking is not a measure of the standard of lectures and classes but is based primarily on statistics such as; drop-out rates, student satisfaction survey results and graduate employment rates. In a recent survey by Hobsons over 60% of 3,000+ prospective international students interviewed said the scheme had not been properly explained and there was confusion as to what the rankings measured


However, these rankings are important, as unless a University achieves at least a Bronze rating, it cannot increase its domestic tuition fees to £9,250 this coming academic year.

Therefore, increased focus on overall student satisfaction levels, via TEF and increasing tuition costs, can only mean that the drive to provide great facilities, alongside high quality teaching and research excellence, will be a continuing focus for UK universities and will benefit COBIS students in terms of the overall student experience they can expect to enjoy.

·        So what is UK University life like in 2017? Well, this very much depends on the University selected. On UK Education Guide we highlight aspects in University selection that are sometimes overlooked by international students, but that can make the difference to your overall enjoyment of university life.

  Close consideration of the location and layout of a University can be very important. For many students, being near an international airport should be an important consideration if they are planning to return home regularly. The UK is relatively small, but getting across the country to major airports can sometimes be time consuming and frustrating, bearing in mind the relatively small distances involved.

·         Also, considering the type of campus experience you want is important too. For many students studying in a major city, like London, is hugely attractive, but living costs are incredibly high in London and also London campuses are sometimes spread out and so having one central campus, the focus of student life, is often not the case. Plus, due to land costs in the capital, recreational facilities are often based a significant distance from the teaching campuses, outside central London where land costs are lower.

It is interesting that the latest COBIS Annual Research Survey shows that current COBIS students seem to favour either London or an historic, smaller city as their preferred University choice-with UCL and Kings College London ranking highly alongside the smaller cities of Exeter (University of) and Bath (Spa). Considering the overall student experience you want to have is definitely worth close consideration and taking the virtual tours offered on many UK university web sites is worthwhile, as well as paying close attention to distances; between campuses and University accommodation.

University of Bath, Creative Commons


Study wise, COBIS students are well placed to adapt quickly to UK University life. You will be used to the UK curriculum and this is a significant advantage. Students who come from countries where there is very little focus on independent learning sometimes struggle to make a quick adjustment to the style of UK University teaching, with its focus on lectures and smaller seminar groups where group participation and sharing of opinions is actively encouraged.

At University independent study is at the heart of academic success and there is evidence that key skill development is actually enhanced more by independent learning than via ‘teaching time’, so be prepared to be resourceful!

New teaching styles-following the lead of many US universities, some UK universities are also introducing new styles of teaching. The ‘flipped’ classroom is one example of this and involves students reviewing a video lecture prior to discussion with their lecturer. This approach again enhances the need for active participation in group discussions about the lecture content.

Also, be ready to be open to new experiences and meeting new people.  In completing your University applications it is important to stress via your personal statement what contribution you can make to the life of the University. Universities are looking for ‘well rounded’ applicants who don’t just want to study, but who also want to ‘get involved’ in all aspects of student life. The facilities that are available for students to make their extra-curricular mark, whether through sport or culture, have never been better, so make sure you explain how you are going to make the most of these opportunities. Then, when you arrive on campus, make sure you follow through on your promises to get the very best experience you can.  In an increasingly competitive world, showing development of core soft skills gained through extracurricular activity may be as important as your degree…

Good luck!


Pat Moores
is Co Founder and Director of UK Education Guide. UK Education Guide is aimed at international parents and prospective students. It gives an independent view of the UK Education System and follows a pathway of learning from Boarding schools through to Universities, with objective profiles of providers provided at each stage of the journey…Pat has worked in international marketing for many years and has worked with several Universities as a consultant, both here and in the US. Prior to her focus on the education sector, she was International Marketing Director of Sony (Psygnosis)


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