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What to expect from university in the UK

What to expect from university in the UK

by Peter Jackson

The standard of education in the United Kingdom is very high. In fact, the UK is known for having some of the highest ranking universities in the QS World Rankings, Times Higher Education Ranking and Academic Ranking of World Universities. This is why a degree from the UK is recognised and preferred by employers all over the world.

If you’re interested in studying in the UK, but still deciding if it’s the right choice for you, we’ve answered some of your biggest questions.

In this blog:


What are the term times for UK universities?

UK universities usually split their terms into three.  

Term one will be in Autumn, and usually starts at the end of September for most universities and ends in the middle of December, when you will have a winter break. 

The second term, the Spring term, starts in January and goes into late March. And the Summer term starts in April and ends in June. 

Many universities will have ‘reading weeks.’ These are short breaks that usually come part-way through a term or semester, and are there to give you time to catch up on reading. 


What is studying in the UK like?

When you study at a UK university, you will get a timetable of lectures and seminars for each module to go to every week. A module is just another way of saying a subject. 

For example, if your main degree is dentistry, you might have a module about the anatomy of the head and neck, and a different module about nutrition and diet.



Your lectures will take place in large halls, and will often have lots of students from different courses in there. They can be as short as an hour, but sometimes longer for more in-depth topics. 

The lecturer will present to you, and teach you about their research topic, and students are expected to take notes. As the semester progresses, the lectures will get more in-depth and detailed.

It’s unlikely that you will need to talk or interact during a lecture. However, you may be asked to do some reading beforehand to help your learning.

If there’s anything you don’t understand, you will usually get the chance to ask questions at the end. Or, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of talking in front of people, you can always stay behind after the lecture has finished, or even email the lecturer at another time. 



Seminars are a bit different from lectures, as they’re a lot more interactive. This is your chance to talk about the things covered during the lecture, and talk with your fellow students. 

You will often have to do some seminar preparation. This can be anything from reading, answering some questions or even preparing a presentation.

Don’t let this part scare you! Seminar groups are usually very small, with students from all walks of life and backgrounds. They are a safe space for you to share your ideas and ask questions about the teaching material or upcoming assignments. 


How are students assessed?

Each semester, you can earn up to 120 credits.

BA students usually have 6 modules, worth 20 credits each.

How you build up credits is by doing your assignments. You will have assignments for each module, and they can take any of the below forms: 

  • Coursework
  • Exams 
  • Group work 
  • Essays 
  • Reports
  • Presentations 
  • Dissertations
  • And more 

How you will be assessed is up to your module leader. But you will find out all the details of your assignment with plenty of notice, so you have time to plan and prepare. 


How do UK grades work?

When you finish your degree, you will walk away with some kind of honours. This is based on what marks you get at the end of each semester. 

The below system is used to assign grades:



First-Class Honours


70% or above

Upper Second-Class Honours



Lower Second-Class Honours



Third-Class Honours






For most universities, your first year doesn’t count towards your final mark. This is to give new students a chance to understand the way degrees work, to perfect their essay-writing skills and get in the right mindset to study at degree-level.



What are the benefits of studying in the UK?

There are lots of benefits to studying in the UK. Just a few of these are: 

  • UK courses are generally shorter than other countries, which means you save money on tuition fees and accommodation costs
  • UK universities are inspected regularly by QAA to assess the standards of teaching, learning and research to make sure students are getting the highest standard of teaching possible
  • Most UK universities offer merit-based scholarship programs and funding opportunities to international students to support their studies and cost of living
  • Many countries like to follow the UK’s education system, as its quality is considered as the best in world
  • Degrees from UK universities are appealing to employers

Read our blog on the benefits of studying at Newcastle University for international students


We hope you find this blog post useful. For students coming from another country, there are so many questions and unknowns about UK university life, including how to get your application right. If you’re working on your university application, why not download our guide to writing the perfect personal statement? 

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