Why ISSH graduates should consider universities in the UK

The University of Cambridge Campus building, UK Image credit: Pixabay
The University of Cambridge Campus building, UK Image credit: Pixabay

Recently, the University of Cambridge visited the 11th-grade class to talk about the admissions process in the UK. And on March 22nd, ISSH will host the second UK university fair, allowing students to understand how UK universities function. As high school students, deciding where to go to university has become a big topic of conversation, and going to an international school broadens students’ university options. Ultimately, people choose either the UK or the US for their English-speaking environments and abundant post-university opportunities. 

But what makes the universities in these countries different, and why is one better? 

Even though the UK offers more specialized majors, and has a more selective application process, the UK is a better option for studying due to its safer environment, lower costs, and the less time it takes to graduate. 

Choosing the UK for university is more beneficial for graduates of ISSH as it offers a distinctive advantage of safety in contrast to the US, where gun violence poses a significant threat, the UK’s strict gun laws contribute to a safer environment. For instance, according to EveryTownResearch, 120 Americans are killed with guns every day, whereas the UK has significantly lower rates. Even though knife crime remains a concern in the UK, it remains less prevalent compared to gun violence in the US, as shown in the chart. 

This heightened safety reduces students’ stress and enhances their focus on their studies. Research indicates that a secure learning environment positively impacts academic performance and attendance as there is no unnecessary excessive stress. Therefore, selecting the UK for university offers students a safer setting for achieving their academic goals. Especially for students who have lived in Tokyo – the safest city in the world– as it won’t be as dramatic of a change once leaving for college. Going to a foreign country is already difficult, and concern for safety makes it even more difficult. 

Euronews comparing knife crime in the US and the UK (2016-2017) Image credit: Euronews


Not only is the United Kingdom safer, but it is also much cheaper to live in. According to the LivingCost, the average cost of living in the UK is 18% less expensive than in the United States. This shows that the UK on average is cheaper to live in compared to the US, making it more convenient for college students. Additionally, as well as the cheap cost of living, college tuition doesn’t reach the dramatic prices of the US college tuition. The chart below shows that the most expensive bachelor’s degree in the UK is still cheaper than the cheapest US bachelor’s tuition fee.


The average cost of tuition in the UK compared to the US.


All these factors like the cost of living and tuition indicate that the UK is a much cheaper place to live, which makes it a beneficial place to study, especially since students or parents don’t have to worry about finances as much as they would if studying in the US.

Not only is it cheaper in the UK, the application process is transparent. The UK has a more focused application process that ensures transparency and a clear understanding of the requirements. This promotes a specific approach to education rather than a broad, scattered one. The student is aware of exactly what needs to be done to get accepted. This means that the student needs to have one clear goal in mind, which is easier to achieve, rather than attempting to excel in all areas like it seems you need to do for the US.  

With the more direct application, students are encouraged to do super-curricular activities. These are extracurricular activities that connect to what you want to study. The University of Oxford says super curriculars “show genuine subject interest, self-motivation, and good critical thinking skills.” ISSH provides ample opportunities for students to do super-curricular activities by providing Options courses in journalism, wheel throwing, photography, filmmaking, debate, and robotics so that people can go into depth about what they want to do, which is what super-curriculars are all about. 

As a result of the direct application requirements, it becomes easier for students to choose their courses as the only thing they need to do should revolve around a particular subject that they enjoy, rather than doing several random things to appeal to colleges. For example, the University of Cambridge requires scores of “5” in five AP courses that relate to the course of study that students wish to apply to. 

It’s important to recognize that the UK has more specialized programs, which allow students to focus primarily on their chosen field and focus on what the student would like to study. This means that students don’t have general education or liberal arts requirements. Students apply knowing exactly what they want to study and don’t get the option to apply undecided or change courses easily. With that in mind, the UK doesn’t offer students the opportunity to pursue both a Major and Minor in their studies. Instead, universities in the UK offer joint honors. 

According to UCAS, joint honors provides students with the ability to study at least two subjects, sometimes even three at the same time. For example, students might be able to study a course in both English and History, or an even more common course taken by many people in many universities called “politics, economics, and philosophy.” However, each university offers different courses; therefore, it’s not guaranteed that you can find the same joint honors everywhere. 


Merton College Chapel, University of Oxford Image credit: Wikimedia commons


The UK is also more beneficial for students who are looking forward to studying for less time. Not only is the UK cheaper, but because most colleges and majors are only three years for undergraduates, it’s more cost-efficient, meaning that you can save more money rather than if it was four years. This means that students can spend more time focusing on their area of study and begin their life outside of education more quickly. Students don’t have to spend their time or tuition yen, dollars, or pounds to fill general education requirements; instead, they specialize in an area of expertise. 

Furthermore, Universities in the UK also offer an optional fourth year or an apprenticeship year where the college connects the students to a company and the student works as a paid intern. By the time the student graduates, they already have experience in the workforce, and they have the knowledge gained from their studies.

An example of this is Abdaljawwad Nassar who was previously an International School student in Tokyo but now goes to the University of Manchester. Between his second and third year of college, he had an opportunity to work as an intern for Amazon. Before graduating, he was able to enter the workforce, gain experience, and even save money. He also applied what was taught to him in university to real life. He claims that the internship “helped me understand what life would be like once I graduate. I have the experience, so entering the workforce won’t be such a foreign concept to me once I start working full-time and not under an internship.” The short degree length gives students more time to experience the real world as well as study the work that’s valuable to them, rather than broad, general information that they don’t need. 

The UK system also provides a quicker entry into the workforce, allowing students to start their lives directly after university. Even if students are unable to find a job after graduation, they can stay in the UK for up to two years after they graduate to look for a job.


St Mary’s University Graduation Ceremony in Westminster Cathedral, Twickenham London Image credit: flickr


Students worry that the UK doesn’t have the same communities that the United States has. However, this is false. While in the US many social events are emphasized in the students’ college life, the UK also has events that encourage students to form a connection with each other. Universities in the UK offer a variety of clubs and societies that students can join to meet other people and build connections, similar to the US.

While deciding what university in the UK to attend, make sure to consider every aspect that comes with it. Whether it’s social, academic, or living, the right university for people depends on what the universities offer. 

The UK offers a variety of things that other countries do not offer, therefore make sure to continue to research to find the one for you. For the UK, the UCAS provides all the information needed to find your perfect match.  


Oxford University campus, UK Image credit: Public Domain Pictures
More to Discover