Studying abroad for a semester or one academic year is quite a common thing nowadays. Doing your fulltime degree abroad is a different story. And yet here I am, finished my third year in England and my second year at English university doing an English and Creative Writing degree. It’s been quite difficult at times but I’ve never regretted my decision.

My journey to higher education in England is probably a bit different than the “normal way into higher education for an international student”, but I didn’t have the right qualifications to get into university straight away. I will tell you my story and will give some advice if you are planning to do a full degree in England, too.

After dropping out of my higher education course in the Netherlands, I decided I was going to follow my heart and study English literature in England. Easier said than done. The school systems in my home country and England are very different. You need A-levels to get into university in England and the Dutch school system doesn’t have A-levels. After the English admissions department looked at my diplomas, I was very disappointed to find out that my diplomas weren’t good enough to get in straight away. I was recommended to follow A-levels at an English college, which would take two years.

I didn’t like the idea of adding two extra years to my higher education plan and I wasn’t too keen on being in a class with 16 years olds, being almost 19 myself at the time. After doing the necessary research online, I came across the “Access to Higher Education” (HE) diploma. A course designed for mature students who want to get back into education. Anyone over 19 can apply and gain the diploma in one year, instead of two. As I was turning 19 that September it seemed like the perfect alternative.

However, it was quite difficult to get into the Access to HE course. I applied to over 10 different colleges in the Manchester/Liverpool area, most of which didn’t even had the decency to reply. The few that did reply told me that a non-native English speaker would be unable to keep up with the fast pace of the course. In the end, only one college decided to give me a chance; Stockport College.

The Access to HE course was indeed intense. They fitted two years of A-levels into one. At any point during that year I was working on three separate assignments, 18 in total. It was hard work but I managed to finish the course with three merits.

The access course also helped me with my university application. From start to finish my tutors helped me getting into my dream course. After securing my HE diploma I finally received an unconditional offer from my dream course at Manchester Metropolitan University; English and Creative Writing.

For those who want to study a fulltime degree in England too

  • First you have to decide what course you want to do and what universities would be in your top 5. After that you should contact the university and see what the requirements are for foreign students. Most universities are very exciting to have foreign students on their courses and are able to find equivalents for their A-levels. If you are able to go to university in your home country, you are almost always able to do this in England too. You might have to get a certificate to proof your level of English, but you should be okay!
  • If your preferred university doesn’t accept your diplomas, like mine did, you can always look for the access to HE course. It can be tricky to get into but if you start applying on time (and not a few months before you’re planning to move, like me) you should be fine! There are also options to get the equivalent to A-levels in your home country before moving abroad.
  • Applying for English universities is done via UCAS.com, which I experienced as a very easy and accessible website. It’s pretty straightforward but if you have any questions you can either get on the help chat with UCAS or send me a message via my contact page and I’ll try to help you as well as I can!
  • One year at English universities usually costs about 9250 pounds in tuition fees. I know, it’s a ridiculous amount… As a European student I am still able to get a loan from the English government. I don’t get any maintenance loans, so with the help of my parents and my part time job I pay for my rent, food, etc. The loan I have with the English government only has to be paid back one I earn over a certain threshold every year and if I haven’t paid it back in 30(?) years I won’t have to pay back the rest. It’s a weird system, but it’s quite doable in my opinion. I’m not sure how things will change once the UK leaves the EU, because I don’t think EU students will still be able to get the tuition loans, but maybe you can get some kind of loan from your home country that contributes to the fees you have to pay in England.

I am starting my third and last year at university in September and I am very excited for it. I definitely think the access to HE course has helped me perform better at university because I got used to the English standards in essays and exercised me to study in my second language. So far I’ve enjoyed my university experience so much. I love my course, I love living in Manchester, I love the friends I’ve made and I’m very happy to be able to do what I love!

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