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European students in the UK

In 2008/09, there were almost 125,000 students from European countries enrolled on courses at UK higher education institutions.

With around 370,000 international students enrolled on UK higher education programmes in 2008/09, European students accounted for a third of the overseas student population.

So why is the UK such a popular study destination for Europeans? Factors such as subsidised ‘home’ fees for EU nationals, the proximity of the UK to the Continent (some European students even use the Channel Tunnel to commute to their UK institutions), the world-class British education system and the opportunity to learn in the global language of English all contribute to the popularity of studying in the UK, but one of the main reasons is that it’s such a great place to be a student.

Which European countries supply the most students?

The top ten European countries in terms of the number of students enrolled on UK higher education programmes in 2009/10 were:

England (1,728,263)
Scotland (179,715)
Wales (102,874)
Northern Ireland (64,637)
Ireland (16,597)
Germany (15,426)
France (13,778)
Greece (11,786)
Poland (8,414)
Cyprus (EU) (7,697) 

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

Get involved
The findings of a recent report into what it’s like to be an international student in the UK confirms that the more you put into your UK study experience, the more you will get out. The report, entitled ‘Broadening Our Horizons’, found that taking part in any type of activity on campus is likely to result in you making friends with more British and other international students.

A sporting life
The UK is a sporting nation, and this is reflected at many universities. Playing sport is not only a great way to keep fit, it is also the perfect way to make friends and meet new people. As a student in the UK, you will be able to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities you’ll find at your university or college – from swimming pools and gyms to athletic tracks and tennis courts.

Clubs and societies
Got a passion for drama, photography or cinema? UK universities have an astonishing range of clubs and societies, often created by the students themselves, which cover a wide variety of interests.

You will often find there will be a student society dedicated to your country or region where you can meet fellow nationals and other students who are interested in where you come from. The Greek and Cypriot Society at the University of Sussex, for example, aims to unite all the Greek and Cypriot members of the University and create an atmosphere that closely resembles that in their home countries. This is achieved by organising various cultural events to celebrate different traditional festivals. These events are also open to UK and other international students with a passion for Greek and Cypriot food, music and culture.

Likewise, the French Society at Swansea University holds an annual cheese and wine event that gives all the University’s students the opportunity to experience a taste of French culture, practise using their French language skills and meet a variety of people from different cultures.

You can easily find out about the clubs and societies on offer at an institution by checking its website or asking its International Office.

What help is available?

At what level do European students study in the UK?

A total of 2,223,134 students from the region were studying in the UK in 2009/10, broken down as follows:

  • undergraduate: 1,796,291
  • postgraduate: 426,843

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

What can you expect in terms of official support from your UK college or university? Apart from a dedicated International Office and tuition in English language if you need it, UK universities will offer a combination of support activities:

  • foundation programmes that are designed to prepare international students for studying in the UK
  • job shops, which are there to help you find part-time work to support your studies
  • careers services, which provide information and advice about employment after you complete your course
  • accommodation officers, who can help you to find somewhere suitable to live
  • buddy schemes, which pair you with a more experienced fellow national
  • student ambassadors, who lead activities for particular countries
  • dedicated facilities for international students, such as international student lounges and halls of residences
  • welcome orientations for international students, which are usually free of charge.

On top of this, there will be the student support offered by your institution’s students’ union and by volunteer societies.

The National Union of Students (NUS) is a confederation of student representative organisations in UK universities and colleges, which represents the interests of around five million students in further and higher education throughout the country. The NUS runs an International Students’ Campaign that aims to help international students with any issues they face, and represent them at a local, national or international level.

British student culture
British student culture can no longer be simply defined. The wide variety of students flocking to UK institutions from around the world has created a melting pot of different cultures – not just within the universities and colleges, but also in the towns and cities that host the institutions.

Just one piece of evidence is the huge range of European and international cuisines and beverages sold at the bars and cafes that adorn UK campuses, towns and cities. So if you’re missing the taste of home, you’ll always be able to find a restaurant serving authentic cuisine from your home country.

Student newspapers have debated the new meaning of what it is to be British, since the quest for an international education has brought so many nationalities to UK shores. The landscapes of the UK’s university towns and cities are coloured with young and fresh faces – in the shopping arcades, on the streets and in the bars, pubs and clubs, you will find an eclectic mix of faiths, nationalities and races.

And it’s not just the UK’s educational institutions that are welcoming Europeans. It is estimated that around 700,000 people have come to work in the UK from the eight nations that joined the European Union in 2004.

A unique student scene
The student scene in the UK is lively, unique and interesting. Wherever you study, you’ll find an extensive and exciting social aspect to your study experience, and many activities to keep you occupied both on and off campus. The choices for students coming to the UK from Europe are vast and growing. If ever there were a time to be a student in the UK, it is now.

Useful links for students from Europe


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