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Why You Should Study in the UK for Your Undergrad

Would it be outrageous if the costs of a four-year degree in America increased nearly EIGHT times faster than wages and DOUBLED the rate of inflation?  

This is exactly what happened between January 1989 and January 2016.[i] With the latest estimates from Vanguard, a baby born today could need almost $500,000 for a college degree in 18 years![ii] ‘”Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange'”, says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD. [iii]

Go Abroad

Quoting Bob Dylan, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”.  Go abroad for a bachelor’s degree, or more specifically, the UK.

UK not lacking in stature

Certainly, US universities offer exceptional facilities and world-class research but its counterparts in the UK system enjoy a rich tradition of education quality too.  In 2018, 28 universities in the UK are ranked in the world’s top 200 universities.[iv] The UK is also the second most popular destination for international students due to its impressive international reputation and rich social life.

A richer education—depth not breadth

Sascha Auerbach who has taught history in the US, UK, and Canada argues that, at least in the humanities, the UK university system offers a much richer education.[v] Students in the UK are often required to specialize beginning in their first-year.  As a result, they are better adept at analysis and expertise than their companions in the US.  Similarly, small-group seminars and exams in the UK are taught and graded by full-time “lecturers” who are experts in their field in contrast to the US where such discussions are handled by postgraduates with limited training and knowledge.

“Put simply, the level of expectation, in terms of critical thinking and analysis within any given discipline, is significantly lower at the most prestigious of US institutions than at their UK counterparts.”[vi]

Better Employment

American employers seem to concur.  According to a survey commissioned by the British Council, “73% of employers in the US and Canada consider degrees earned in the UK to be equal or better to those earned in North America”.[vii]

“We can now say, unequivocally, that employers put significant value on an overseas educational experience.”[viii]

Almost half the cost of leading private universities in the US

While wages are stagnating in the US, the cost of college has increased exorbitantly.  Compared to leading private universities in the US, the cost for a UK degree is approximately half of an American degree. Tuition, or ‘fees’ as they are called in the UK range from $21,000-$25,000 (17,600-20,500 pounds depending on major). Including housing and other living costs, total cost per year in the UK is about $34,000-$40,000 (27,000-32,000 pounds).  With the looming Brexit and the decline in the Sterling Pound, overall cost could be lower.

Three-year undergrad programs

To save even more money, students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (except Scotland) can earn a degree within three years. Students who want to pursue a fourth year can choose the optional “sandwich course” for study or work abroad.

Additionally, Master’s degrees (including MBAs) are one year in length compared to the usual two in the US.

Valuable international experience

According to Chad M. Gasta, professor of Spanish, his own research “shows that students who study abroad are better critical thinkers and problem solvers, more entrepreneurial and have better communication skills. They are also more tolerant and understanding. They have a greater appreciation for the arts, social issues and world events. They gain more insight into themselves and their lives. Study abroad makes students more marketable for top jobs…In fact, students who study abroad for a meaningful period of time make as much as 20 percent more money over the course of their careers.”[ix]

“Several major U.S. technology firms, such as Dell, Google and Microsoft, have stressed the need to find employees who are better-equipped to understand the global marketplace.”[x]  Perhaps it is trite to say, but 95% of the world’s consumers are outside the United States. 

Leading world institutions, tutorial method of learning, half the price of leading private US colleges, three-year undergrad programs, valuable skills for employers: For these reasons, every student in America should seriously consider studying in the UK, not just for a year abroad, but for the entirety of his or her undergraduate years.

[i] Maldonado, Camilo. “Price of College Increasing Almost 8 Times Faster Than Wages.” Forbes, 24 July 2018,

[ii] Wong, Vanesa. “In 18 years, a college degree could cost about $500,000.” Buzzfeed News, CNBC, 17 Mar 2017,

[iii] Ripley, Amanda. “Why Is College in America So Expensive.” The Atlantic, 11 Sep 2018,

[iv] Best Universities in the World 2019.” Times Higher Education, 26 Sep 2018,

[v] Auerbach, Sascha. “Don’t be seduced by the US—UK universities offer a richer education.” The Guardian, 30 Jun 2014,

[vi] Auerbach, Sascha. “Don’t be seduced by the US—UK universities offer a richer education.” The Guardian, 30 Jun 2014,

[vii] “A Competitive Edge: Value of an international degree.” The British Council,

[viii] Memis, Sharon. “A Competitive Edge: Value of an international degree.” The British Council,

[ix] Gasta, Chad M. “More American students are studying abroad, new data show.” The Conversation, 13 Nov 2018,

[x] Gasta, Chad M. “More American students are studying abroad, new data show.” The Conversation, 13 Nov 2018,

UK Education Terms Explained

UK Terms Relating to School Life:

Uni – university.  The term “college” is not used.  For example, “Are you going to uni next year?”

Reading – studying.  For example, “I’m reading history at Oxford”.  Most often used at Oxford and Cambridge.

Oxbridge – combined term referring to both Oxford and Cambridge.

Course – set of classes or plan of study on a particular subject.  The concept of “major-minor” is not used in the UK.  Instead of asking, “What is your major?”, you’d  say “What’s your course?” or “What’s your degree?”.

Modules – classes. As in, “What modules are you taking?”

First-year, second-year, third-year – “freshman”, “sophomore”, etc., are also terms not used in the UK.

Freshers – students in their first year of uni.

Freshers’ week – orientation and party week held the week before the start of uni.  Usually involves alcohol.

Societies – clubs. More prominent at some unis than others.  Can be academic, social, political, recreational, sporty, or just plain weird.  Wine societies are always popular.

Open day – a day open to prospective students to research courses, departments, and general school life.  Some “open days” coincide with Spring Break week in the US.  Some universities, such as Durham, will invite students with offers to spend a night at their residence halls.

Public schools — fee-based schools that are not run by the government. Essentially private schools in the US. They are “public” in the sense that the schools are open to the public who can afford the fees.

State schools — government funded schools that are free to the public. Considered public schools in the US.

Lectures — formal, large group (up to 200+students) classes. Usually held in large lecture halls. Generally, non-participatory.

Tutorials — intimate, small group meetings. Discussions in detail about readings and lectures.

Seminars — small group discussions (usually less than 30 students). Larger than a tutorial, less formal than lectures. Include student presentations and discussion of study questions.

Formative assessment — a non-graded assessment or feedback to gauge a student’s progress.

Summative assessment — a graded assessment in the form of essays, projects, or final exams.

Russell Group — a group of 24 public universities with a focus on research and academic achievement.  Not all included unis are prestigious and not all prestigious unis are included.

Red brick universities – Specialized schools created during the Industrial Era of the 19th century to meet labor demands such as medicine and engineering.  Often built in the Gothic style with red bricks.  The original universities are: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and Sheffield.  Cardiff, Leicester, and Hull were later added in the 60s.

League tables – a ranking of universities by reputation, courses, departments, and overall ranking.

UK Terms Relating to Admissions and Application:

UCAS – Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. System to process university applications in the UK.

Apply or UCAS Apply – name of online application system.

Track or UCAS Track – name of online tracking system after you have applied.

Single-honours degree – degree focused on only one subject.

Joint-honours or combined-honours degree — degree is equally focused on two, or sometimes three, subjects.

Foundation courses or year – preparation courses for non-native English-speaking applicants or for students who need an additional year to catch-up.

Firm choice – your first and binding choice if accepted by the university.

Insurance choice – your second choice if you do not meet the conditions of your firm choice.

Unconditional offer – an offer of acceptance with no conditions.

Conditional offer – an offer of acceptance subject to conditions, usually related to test results such as AP, IB. Common for UK acceptances to be conditional.

A level – an academic qualification in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  Comprable to AP or IB courses in the US.

Sandwich course — a year for study or work abroad.

Fees – refer to both tuition and fees. 

Point of entry – the starting year of your course.  For example, a “2” means you’d start in year 2 of the course.

CAS – Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies. Certificate that is necessary for a student visa application.

Terms Relating to Accommodations:

Catered, non-catered – accommodations with or without a meal plan.  Most universities offer both options.

En-suite rooms – accommodations with a private adjoining bathroom.

Halls – residence halls.  The term “dormitory” is not used.  Generally, first-year students are guaranteed a place in residence halls. 

Flats – apartments.  An “apartment” in the UK, however, suggests a very posh flat.

Single and twin room – one-person and two-person room.  Common in the UK to have single rooms in residence halls.