3 Reasons American Students Should Consider Attending College in the UK

And a look at the differences between degree programs
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Even the brightest and most worldly college-bound American teens are not usually able to name more than a handful of universities in the United Kingdom. Sure, there’s Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and … well, the list dies off after that. 

Yet, there are close to 400 universities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and plenty of them crack lists of the top schools in the entire world. The Imperial College London, University College London, University of Edinburgh, King’s College London, University of Manchester, University of Bristol and University of Southampton are among the top institutions of higher education anywhere on the globe. 

So, how do you know if studying in the U.K. might be an appealing option for your student? We’ll cover three main topics that strike at the core differences between an American degree program and one in the U.K. 


Earn a Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree 

Believe it or not, the four-year bachelor’s degree is primarily an American phenomenon. Thanks to the Bologna Declaration, an agreement signed by 29 European countries (including the U.K.) in 1999, the three-year bachelor’s degree is standard practice across the entire European Union. Students considering studying in Europe are often drawn to the “cheat code” aspect of a three-year degree, which affords them more options for gap years or to gain work experience after graduation. Of course, a three-year degree also comes with significant financial implications, which brings us to our next factor. 


It Can Be Cheaper Than Attending College in the U.S. 

There are 169 private colleges and universities in the U.S. that cost more than $60,000 per year to attend (including tuition, room and board, and other fees); and 79 institutions cost more than $70,000 per year, which equates to $280,000 for a four-year bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, many more affordable public options exist that allow residents to take advantage of in-state discounts. While universities in the U.K. actually average higher tuition than their American counterparts, the ceiling price tends to be much lower, even for international students (such as your student), who are charged a higher rate. Non-EU students (again, your student) are generally charged somewhere between $9,000-$31,000 in annual tuition. This includes some of the best schools the continent has to offer, such as the University of Glasgow or University College London, which each charge around $20,000 per year, roughly $15,000 less than the average private American university.  


Greater Emphasis on One’s Major 

In the U.S., plowing through a series of required courses in areas that may be of little interest is an immutable staple of the college experience. For better or worse, American students who want to study communications are usually forced to take a couple of science courses, and engineering students must dip their toes into poetry and sociology. While a well-rounded education has its merits, those who prefer to immerse themselves more exclusively in their chosen area of study will greatly prefer the structure of a U.K. degree program. Unlike in America, where students can wait until after sophomore year to declare a major, EU students enter the university with their major already selected. Of course, this is a compelling reason for those entering college as “undecided” to remain close to home. On the other hand, those students who know what they want to study will love being able to delve right into their concentration area as first-year undergraduates. 

Adventurous American high schoolers should explore the possibility of spending three years abroad pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the U.K. It’s far less cost-prohibitive than many believe, and those who enter college 100 percent certain of their path of study can immediately begin an in-depth study in their area of interest.


Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. He is also co-author of “The Enlightened College Applicant: A New Approach to the Search and Admissions Process.” Learn more at collegetransitions.com.


Categories: College Planning, College Transitions, Travel