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Here’s why you should enrol in January.

November 26, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Many UK university courses start in September, but for a lot of international students who want to study in the UK, enrolling in September is not an option: your course back at home finishes at a different time, for example, and you want to get started soon and not have to wait until next September. That is totally understandable, and in order to help you out, these days it is possible to enrol in January instead.

There are lots of courses that you can enrol on in January now, from foundation courses, to pre-master’s courses, and even some undergraduate and postgraduate degrees start in January. You can check which degrees are available on the university’s website, as not all courses have both September and January start dates; or, you can check with your agent, as they will be able to give you some more options and make the process smoother.

If you need to study a foundation year or a pre-master’s course, then a January start date is really useful. You will start in January and finish in July or August, which means that you will have a lot more options when you choose an undergraduate or postgraduate degree. Your summer holiday won’t be as long as other students’ holidays, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem: a big part of a foundation degree and pre-master’s programme is learning study skills for a UK degree, so you don’t want to forget everything that you have learned!

Choosing an English course, a foundation year, or a pre-master’s course can be complicated, as there are lots of options. It is best to have a clear goal of which degree you want to study and why, and then find the foundation or pre-master’s that fits it, and that allows you to progress to the degree of your choice. That way, you will get the most out of your study in the UK. If you’re still not sure about which courses are best for you, check with your agent, as they will have more advice, and will help you map out a study plan.

If you’re looking for advice on your study plan, or you’re interested in coming to the UK, why not get in contact? January enrollment is now open!

How to … win at Immigration Control

November 10, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

When you arrive in the UK, you’ll probably arrive at one of the international airports close to London, especially if you’re coming from outside the European Union (EU). Your most likely arrival destination is Heathrow Airport, though you might also land at Gatwick. As Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world, it is more likely that you’ll land there. It is now quite convenient to get to the centre of London from Heathrow, so definitely aim for that airport if you have a choice.

After you land, you’ll pass through Immigration Control, which is also called Passport Control. If you’re an international student, you will need to prepare a few things for this before your flight to the UK, as the border force officer who will check your passport and visa or entry clearance, will also ask you a few questions about your study and how long you plan on staying in the UK.

So, you should keep these things in your hand luggage:

  • Your passport, obviously
  • Your offer letters and confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS letter)
  • Copies of your financial documents
  • Address of the place you’re going to stay

Many students will only buy a one way ticket, so the border force officer will ask you how long you’re going to stay in the UK. You can show him your CAS and offer letters, and tell him that you’ll be returning home after your course finishes.

This is especially important if you’re going to enrol at university in the UK, but you’re first studying a pre-sessional course or English course that requires a separate visa. You will need to show your offer letters for your university course, which will explain your situation clearly.

There are usually two lines at immigration control: one is for European Economic Area and Swiss nationals, and the other line is for everyone else. Make sure you join the correct queue! The border force officer will then stamp your passport, usually on the visa page, and this will be the date that you arrived in the UK. This date is important for future visa applications.

However, if you’re coming to the UK for a course that is less than 6 months, then the officer will stamp ‘short-term student’ in your passport. The guys at Immigration Control don’t usually make mistakes, but check your passport to make sure everything is in order.

After you’ve got through immigration control, you can go and collect your luggage. The immigration lines at Heathrow can get pretty busy, but hopefully you won’t have to wait too long. After picking up your luggage, your final destination is Customs Control, which is where the officers ask if you have anything to declare. Well, they used to ask this, but now there are colour-coded lines and signs for you to look out for.

These are the colours you need to look out for, and what the mean:

  • Green: you have nothing to declare
  • Blue: you have arrived from an airport in the EU and have already cleared all your baggage through Customs Control there
  • Red: you have goods to declare

Having goods to declare means that you have certain items in your luggage that are controlled in the UK; also, if you are carrying the equivalent of 10,000 euros or more in any currency (and that can be in cash, banker’s draft, or any cheque), then you will need to declare it too.

Other items that you need to declare at customs are illegal drugs; weapons; self-defence sprays such as pepper spray; rough, uncut diamonds; and personal imports of meat and dairy products. Obviously you’re not going to be carrying any of these – hopefully – but it’s good to know, just in case.

One final issue that you will need to declare is if you have gone over your duty free allowance. All passengers coming from outside the EU are allowed to bring a certain amount of duty free alcohol and tobacco products into the UK, and you can see the limit here.

It is possible that your luggage will be searched at Customs Control, so make sure that you declare any items that you need to. If you have items that need to be declared, then depending on what they are you may be asked to pay tax or duty, give up the banned goods, or show documents such as permits of licenses that allow you to have possession of certain restricted goods or items.

The UK Border Force has a list of Customs Control and Immigration Control tips for students, and you can see them here.

Your brief guide to… Fireworks Night

November 3, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »


We don’t have many festivals in the UK, though we get a couple in Autumn for everyone to enjoy: Hallowe’en at the end of October, which you might remember from blogs such as this one, and Fireworks Night on November 5th. Fireworks Night is also known as Guy Fawkes Night and Bonfire Night, and even though it’s a fun, family-oriented festival now, the history behind it all is quite dark – so if you don’t know it, it’s time to get illuminated.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot

On November 5th 1605, Guy Fawkes (also known as Guido Fawkes) and other Catholic plotters tried to destroy parliament and kill King James I of England by planting and blowing up barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords in London, which they hoped would return England to Catholic rule. They very nearly managed it, too, as Guy Fawkes himself was caught under the parliament building in the area the plotters had rented, with matches and touchwood in his pockets. The barrels of gunpowder were found nearby, hidden under wood and coal.

The intelligence service in England was quite sophisticated at the time, and they were already onto the plot. They found out most of the names of the plotters through questioning servants, and tortured Guy Fawkes into confessing and finally giving up his fellow conspirators. King James I himself gave the order for Guy Fawkes’ torture, despite being impressed with his bravery and manner, and even gave a list of questions for him to be asked.

Guy Fawkes suffered terribly in the infamous Tower of London, most likely on the rack. His fellow conspirators were also captured, tortured, tried and sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered – a gruesome execution. The prisoner is dragged through the city by a horse, hanged until nearly dead, then cut up into four quarters, and the pieces of his body sent around the country as a warning. Executions were a kind of entertainment back then, and people were encouraged to celebrate the King’s escape from the assassination attempt by lighting bonfires around London – which is a tradition that still exists today.

An effigy of Guy Fawkes – called a guy – is often made and put on the bonfire these days, and in local villages and towns the guy used to be taken through the town, much like Guy Fawkes himself was dragged through London, before being burned on the bonfire. At first, this effigy was a model of the pope, but these days it is usually an effigy of Guy Fawkes that is burned. People use old clothes, newspapers, and make a mask for his face. Most famously, we also set off fireworks with the bonfires, which has been tradition since the 1650s. Local people gather round the public bonfire, watch the fireworks, and children play with sparklers. Around Guy Fawkes Night we also eat toffee apples, which are a sweet, sugary treat, and are something that you can make at home.

It is possible to buy and set off your own fireworks, but you need to be careful and make sure you’re using them safely. There are always lots of events going on around the country, especially in London, so why not find the one closest to you, and check it out?

Your brief guide to… Hallowe’en

October 29, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

The days are getting shorter and the evenings are getting darker, which means only one thing – that it will soon be time to listen out for things that go bump in the night, as October 31st and Hallowe’en are almost upon us. Traditionally the time when spirits and ghosts come out to ruin the crops before harvest, Hallowe’en (which is the shortened name of ‘All Hallows’ Eve’) is by many people no longer seen as the pagan and Christian festival it really is, but more a time for trick or treating, donning costumes, and for embracing all things horror.

The classic symbol of Hallowe’en is the pumpkin lantern, or the jack-o-lantern, with a pair of eyes and a wicked smile carved into it, and a candle inside to really give you a fright when the night draws in. Jack-o-lanterns look scary because that was their original purpose: to scare off the evil spirits and ghosts that threatened the crops. They’re now used as decoration and are a fun thing to make. You can buy pumpkins from supermarkets in the UK, and can find some great designs to carve into them. Instead of scaring away evildoers, pumpkin lanterns are something that you and your friends (or family) can make, and can be used to decorate your house or apartment and get into the Hallowe’en spirit.

One particular American tradition around Hallowe’en is ‘trick or treating’, which involves children dressing up in costumes and collecting sweets (or candy, if you must) from neighbours. The children dress up in suitably scary costumes, knock on their neighbours’ doors, and ask them, ‘Trick or treat?’ Usually the neighbour will say treat, and hand over some sweets for the children to take home, but sometimes they will ask the children to do some kind of trick in return. This is not very common in the UK, it has to be said, as we think ‘trick or treating’ is a kind of American export. There are other things for adults to do on Hallowe’en, of course, from the traditional to the non-traditional, and it’s always fun dressing up and heading out with your fellow students for some costumed fun.

There are loads of things to do for Hallowe’en in London and across the UK, and here is a selection of some of the best. Your university will probably have some events going on that you can participate in, or you can simply organise some with your friends. A Hallowe’en themed house party? That could be just the ticket.

How to … register with a doctor

October 28, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Don’t wait until you’re ill to see a doctor – make sure it’s one of the first things you do when you arrive in the UK. You see, you can’t just turn up at the doctor’s office and get an appointment, as you need to register with a local doctor first. This is why it’s important to get it done as soon as possible.

Firstly, you’ll need to know a fee new words. A ‘GP’ is what we call a family doctor (it means General Practitioner), and they can check you out for all sorts of different illnesses, both physical and mental. After they have done that, they’ll issue a prescription, which you take to the nearest chemist (the name for the drugstore or pharmacy in the UK), or if you’ve got a serious illness, or need more specialised care that your GP can’t offer, then they’ll refer you to a hospital.

That’s the usual process, but you’ll need to register at your local GP surgery first. Don’t worry, ‘surgery’ is just what we call the GP’s office – you don’t have to have an operation. There are lots of doctors with whom you’ll be able to register, so finding one won’t be difficult.

Obviously you should choose somewhere near where you live…

Registering at the surgery is pretty simple, and you’ll need to remember to bring a letter from your university or college that proves you’re a student, as well as your passport and biometric residence permit. You might also need a proof of address, such as your contract for your accommodation. Registering with a doctor means that you won’t be charged for using the National Health Service. In fact, you’ve already paid for it, remember? That immigration health surcharge fee that you had to pay when you applied for your visa is meant to cover most of your health-related expenses, so make sure that you don’t end up paying even more because you forgot to register with a doctor.

This doesn’t mean that all your health and medical expenses will be free, and you’ll have to pay for certain treatments and procedures at hospitals. But your initial appointment with your GP will be free, and for students on courses of any duration in England, Scotland, and Wales can have free appointments. In Northern Ireland, only students on courses of 6 months or more can get free appointments, so you’ll need to make sure that you don’t get a surprise bill at the end of the appointment.

After you register with your local GP, you’ll receive a medical card through the post with your NHS number. Make sure you take this with you when you visit the doctor, and don’t lose it! And that should be everything. Hopefully you won’t need to visit the doctor very often – or at all – during your stay in the UK, but make sure you’re prepared.

Key dates for UCAS 2016

October 12, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

It’s that time of year again, when students all around the world start thinking about where they want to spend the next few years of their life. For many of you, that means choosing a university and subject to study starting September 2016, and trying to work out how to apply for it. If you want to study a bachelor’s degree in the UK, you will need to use something called UCAS, which is an online system through which you can make applications to the university courses of your choice. The UCAS system is fairly strict, especially for UK students, but for international students it is a little more flexible. There are a number of important dates that you need to be aware of, however, which can have an impact on your applications if you’re not careful.

Let’s have a look at those dates in more detail:

October 15th 2015 – This is the deadline for applications to Oxford, Cambridge, medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science. It is much earlier than other universities and other courses, and these applications also require a great deal more work.

January 15th 2016 – This is the application deadline for most undergraduate courses if you’re a home student (someone from the UK). It’s basically inflexible: miss this, and you’ll have to apply through clearing. As an international student, however, universities are far more flexible, so you don’t need to worry about this particular deadline. International students will still be able to make an application right up until September 2016 at some universities.

February 25th 2016 – If you don’t hold any offers from your course choices, then you can use UCAS Extra to add another choice. It opens on February 25th.

March 24th 2016 – Deadline for some art and design courses.

May 4th 2016 – If you receive all your offers by March 31st, you will need to reply by May 4th. If you don’t, they’ll be declined and you’ll have to use UCAS Extra or ‘clearing and adjustments’.

May 5th – If you completed all your applications by January 15th, the university deadline to respond to them is May 5th. Once you receive all those offers, then the next date is an important one…

June 8th – This is the deadline for responding to all those offers you received by May 5th. Make sure you don’t miss this one.

June 30th – This is an important date for all students, as it’s the last date that you can apply to university for September/October 2016 entry. If you make an application after this date, then you’ll have to go through clearing.

July 4th – This is the last date you can add on Extra choice on UCAS Extra.

July 5th – The International Baccalaureate results are released today. Good luck to everyone taking them!

July 14th – If you applied by June 30th, this is the deadline for university and college decisions to make a decision and make an offer.

July 22nd – This is an important deadline, as it’s the very last date for replying to offers that you received by July 14th. Make sure that you don’t miss this one, as UCAS don’t send out any reminders! If you do miss this date, then you’ll enter clearing and adjustments.

August 18th – A Level results are released on August 18th, which means that adjustment and clearing opens. If you’ve missed your target universities, then you can go into clearing and apply for your course that way. You can only apply for one at a time, and as some courses fill up quickly you will have to move fast!

September 20th – This is the last date for September 2016 entry applications through UCAS. Applications should arrive by 6pm.

October 20th – This is it: the very last date for adding clearing choices, and for universities and colleges to accept students through clearing. Hopefully you won’t have waited until the middle of October to make your applications, but if you need to know it, then this is the very last date.

That is quite a lot of dates to remember, of course, and it’s not easy to remember all of them! For international students, you will have to apply for undergraduate courses through UCAS, but your deadlines are different. The January 15th deadline is only for home students, so you can still make applications after January, but you will have to respond to any offers you get by July 22nd. That is the key date, as after July 22nd you will have to go through clearing; this can be confusing and frustrating, so it’s best to get your applications completed and everything replied to by July 22nd! Of course, it is much easier if you ask an agent to make the process smoother for you, and if you don’t achieve the grades you were hoping to get, your agent will be able to give you some more options and advice.

Are you ready for Freshers’ Week?

October 9, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Sometimes Freshers’ Week doesn’t last a week – it lasts a fortnight. That’s 14 nights – and days? – of hard partying, socialising, and not much else. It all sounds pretty good, really, and many people will tell you it’ll be some of the best weeks of your life. Don’t worry if it’s not, of course, and don’t worry if you don’t seem to make loads of new friends, either, as you’ll have 3 or more years to do that. If there is one thing guaranteed, though, it’s that you’ll get Freshers’ Flu, which is basically just a cold you’ll get from meeting people from all over the country, made worse by all the excitement and not resting properly. You can blame it on all those boozy club and pub nights you’ll be going to, but everyone gets it and it’s nothing to worry about. Just make sure that you get some rest, and try not to spend all your budget in those first few weeks.

Believe it or not, there are things to think about during your first few weeks at university other than going out and having fun. The whole going out and having fun thing is of course the main point of Freshers’ Week, and it would be remiss of us to encourage you to do anything other than have fun and meet people. But there are certain essential chores that you need to do when you move in to your accommodation for the first time, such as checking the inventory that your university provides you. You’ll need to have a look at this and make sure that everything listed is indeed in your room. You can also check your room for any damage – if there is any, take a photo of it, and let the university housing department know about it. You don’t want to be charged for damage that you didn’t cause, which is what might happen if you’re not careful in those first few days. It’s important to take care of those first few housekeeping chores, and then start thinking about meeting people and heading out into university life.

Not everyone is bouncing-off-the-walls sociable, and some are just plain scared of this big new university world they’ve stumbled into. If your neighbours or roommates are not keen on going out, or doing the same things as you, then don’t think anything bad of them – everyone goes at their own pace, and being able to develop and live at your own speed is one of the great things about university life. If you’re one of those who doesn’t like going out, and doesn’t want to get involved in all those crazy events with music you don’t care for, then don’t worry – there will be many, many more opportunities to make friends throughout the year. The hard truth is that the people you meet in your halls of residence probably won’t be your best friends throughout university, and a year – or 3 years – is a whole lot longer than Freshers’ Week.

One of the great things at Freshers’ Week is having the opportunity to join all manner of societies, like those that match your interests and those that you just like the sound of. After you’ve joined up, you’ll be able to meet new people, learn new things, and get involved in different activities. It is probably tempting to join as many as possible – as you’ll be able to meet lots more people and do things that might be outside your comfort zone. All of which is good and healthy, of course, but you don’t need to go crazy and join every society and club that you see. You could join a sports society to get some exercise, or a music society, and meet people who have the same interests. You don’t need to spend all your time at Freshers’ Week going to the drinking events, as there are many more ways of meeting people, making new friends, and getting involved in university life than just going to the Guild of Students or various student nights in the town centre.

It’s not just other people that you’ll need to get to know, as you should spend some time getting to know your surroundings and the campus. How to get into town and back, for example. What are the best bus routes? Where is the train station? And try to learn your address and postcode – that always helps.

And lastly, you’re at university to do some work, most likely on a computer. Don’t forget to back it up.

The 4 truths of choosing a PhD supervisor.

July 21, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

A PhD is a lot of hard work. In fact, it’s a lot of hard work even applying for a PhD, what with all the proposal writing and application to go through. Even after doing all that, there is no promise that you’ll even get accepted to the PhD programme, as you will first need to find an academic to supervise your studies. This can be the toughest part, as it will involve speaking with academics in the department you’re applying to, sending out your proposal for feedback, and – if disaster strikes – there is even the possibility that you won’t be able to find anyone willing to be your supervisor.

That would indeed be a disaster. And let’s face it, academics don’t always make it easy for prospective students: if you contact the wrong guy, he probably won’t take the time to point you in the right direction. So it’s important to be on the money from the start, and not waste anyone’s time. To make things easier, and help you find the right target, we’ve got 4 truths that you can follow, and that will lead you down the path to postgraduate enlightenment.

1. Find someone who knows about your research area.

Let’s start with the obvious one: your supervisor will need to be someone with an interest in the topic you’re going to research, and will have already supervised other PhD students in a similar field, written papers on a similar topic, and basically be ready to share his expertise and impart his wisdom. If you try to choose a supervisor who doesn’t have an interest in your particular field, then be prepared for them to say no. Not all economists have research interest in every aspect of economics, for example, though some academics have quite niche interests which could benefit your own research. Universities have staff lists online detailing each academic and their interests, so that is the best place to start looking. These staff lists also have contact details, so you can reach out and begin talking to your chosen supervisor that way.

2.Find someone who will be available when you need them to be.

It will be tempting to find a supervisor who is a star professor, a stud academic who will be able to take your research to the next level, and sprinkle magic dust on your career. This may well be the case, and good luck if you can find one. But being supervised by a famous academic – or any academic, in reality – could in fact have pitfalls, the most pressing one being, Will they be able to commit as much time as you need? If they’re a well-known academic, they might be off at conferences, going to book launches, or even jet off overseas on a regular basis. That won’t be very helpful to you – especially when you consider that you should ideally be meeting your supervisor at least once a week!

Every meeting you have with your supervisor is valuable, and when you have the opportunity to speak with them you should take it. They are your guides, as much as anything, so make sure that the supervisor you choose is well-regarded, but is also going to be available when you need them. It would be great to have that famous academic supervising you, and have their name next to yours on your thesis. You will be able to say that he or she supervised you, but what did they actually do? If they’re genuinely famous, not much, probably. Don’t forget: it’s your time, not theirs.

3. Find someone with experience.

When you’re trying to choose your supervisor, you need to consider their track record, and their past successes. An academic supervisor guides students through the process of a research degree that can last 3 or 4 years: some students don’t perform as well as they hoped, some finished late, and some don’t finish at all. So you’ll need to ask, how did your supervisor’s previous students get on? Did they finish in time? Were their doctorates successful? A great supervisor will have a great track record of seeing students complete their degree both on time and successfully.

You’ll need to make sure that your supervisor is experienced, and knows what they’re doing. If they’ve only recently started taking on their own PhD students, they might be doing so with supervision from other academics, and so they will be feeling their own through the supervision process. If they are the only academic with an interest in your research area, then you might not have any other option, but getting someone experienced is the best route. An experienced supervisor will already know what effective supervision is, and will be able to anticipate issues before they even arise.

4. Find someone who you can get on with.

A doctorate is the pinnacle of studying at university. It is another 3 or 4 years of ups and downs, with struggles and new discoveries on the way. You will be relying on your supervisor to help you navigate your way to completion, and you will spend time with them each week, discussing ideas, talking about new research, arguing, laughing, and going through the whole range of emotions together. One of the most important questions you’ll have to ask yourself is: Can I get on with them? Are they a decent person? This could be difficult to judge, and you will need to speak with your potential supervisor in order to find out. Many universities encourage students to send in an application, and let the administrators match them with a suitable member of staff. This could save you time, but it’s an inefficient process in reality, as the administrators sometimes don’t know what they should be looking for in an academic profile. It would be far better if you looked for a supervisor yourself, as you will be able to gauge their willingness to supervise you, their interest in your proposal, and then inform the admissions team of their commitment.

Of course, finding a supervisor by yourself isn’t easy, and ECA UK can help you with the process. It will be far more rewarding than being supervised by someone who was chosen for you by admissions, just because they had a slightly smaller workload. Being supervised is a personal process, so finding a supervisor should be a personal process too. Follow ECA UK’s 4 truths, and make it that way!

Even when you have submitted your carefully prepared documents, your Tier 4 Student Visa application is not over. If you come from the Middle East, Africa, China, or other parts of Asia, you will have to take something called a Credibility Interview.

The UK Home Office – we should really call them UK Visa and Immigration, or just UKVI – have decided that they will interview almost every Tier 4 applicant coming from those locations, so you should expect an invitation to a Credibility Interview. These interviews are a very important part of the Tier 4 application process, as they are increasingly being used to UKVI to refuse applicants who otherwise meet all the conditions. If you have an interview, then you need to be prepared for the different types of questions, and make sure that you practice. Remember: practice makes perfect.

Before we look at the questions in more detail, let’s look at the Credibility Interview itself. Depending on from where you are applying, it will either be in person or over Skype, or a similar service. And it will be one-on-one, as you can’t get a family member or a friend to come with you and help out. The interview should last around 10 to 20 minutes, though it could last longer – and it is worth remembering that these details are just general details, as UKVI have quite a lot of freedom to choose what they ask you.

The interview is the UKVI’s method of testing that you are a ‘genuine student.’ The problem is that they don’t offer any exact definition of what they mean by genuine, but the basic idea is that they will check that you know what you are coming to study, where you are going to study, and why you want to study in the UK. They are also interested in whether you can afford to live and study in the UK without needing to work, even if you are often allowed to work part time as a Tier 4 student.

Now, the questions. The UKVI officer will usually ask you about your study plans, your motivation, and also why you chose to come to the UK. These questions might be quite basic, such as: What are you going to study? Why did you chose that course? Where are you going to study? They will probably also ask you how your chosen course fits in with your career path, and what you expect to learn from it – similar to what you had to write in your personal statement. The general rule to remember is that more information you can give to each question in your Credibility Interview, the better your application will be.

If you’re applying for a post-graduate course, then you will probably get a couple of extra questions thrown in. We all know that studying in the UK is expensive, so they might ask you why you chose to study overseas rather than staying at home to study. This is a great chance for you to talk about how great you think the UK is, and all those nice things! If you have had a break between studying your previous degree and the one you will study in the UK, you will be asked about what you have been doing in that break. If you’ve been working, you can tell the UKVI officer about that, and also demonstrate how your Master’s course will help your career.

Those are the general questions, but you will need to prepare for some extra ones. You can never tell what the UKVI officer will ask, but they sometimes ask about who will pay for the course, and even how much your parents or you earn. There could then be questions about anything the officer wishes to know which they believe a genuine student should know. Those can be quite tricky to answer – and not being able to answer them clearly might make the UKVI Officer doubt you are a ‘genuine’ student. This is of course not really fair – so what can you do?

You should do plenty of research beforehand, ask your school or university for any advice they can give you, and perhaps look for professional advice. What you can do is work with an immigration advisor, as they will be able to give you thorough interview practice, as well as help you if you have problems caused by certain questions. Speaking with someone who has experience preparing Tier 4 Student Visa applicants will be really useful for your application, and will give you the confidence to be able to answer everything the UKVI Officer throws at you. They should also know about what information or documents UKVI might expect you to have at your interview, particularly those that don’t appear in the Tier 4 guidance. When choosing an immigration advisor, you should always check that they are qualified and permitted to work as an immigration advisor. In the UK, this means being regulated by the OISC as an immigration advisor, or by the SRA as a solicitor.

Have you had a Credibility Interview? Did you get any strange or difficult questions to answer? Or did everything go smoothly? Share your experiences in the comments section!

Did anyone see this article on the BBC website recently? Immigration is a hot topic in the UK at the moment, but there is definitely a negative climate around it. Many political parties are saying that the UK needs to reduce the number of people immigrating to the UK – and one way they are doing this is through UKVI being stricter on immigration and visa rules, which has already started having an impact on the number of overseas students coming to the UK to study.

The head of Cambridge University has complained about this situation, however, as he thinks it is short-term and short-sighted. He’s right, too. In the eyes of politicians, international students are an easy target to enforce cuts and reductions on: the UKVI interviews could get tougher, or they could suddenly change visa regulations to make it more difficult to apply. This will cause an obvious drop in the number of international students coming to the UK, and because those numbers decrease, the government can say that it is meeting its immigration targets, and that immigration is under control.

This strategy is not fair, as it is using international students as a means of avoiding the larger issue of immigration control. International students bring a great deal to the UK – both academically and monetarily, all of which should be of interest to political parties. International students contribute a great deal towards postgraduate research, for which the likes of Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Imperial College London are rightly world famous. These universities would not be consistently ranked as the best in the world without the contributions of their international students, and so to try to deny international students the opportunity to study in the UK for the sake of politicking will be very damaging.

Applying to a UK university is now definitely more difficult than it used to be, especially when it comes to visas. Regulations are tight and getting tighter, and knowing someone who can navigate the treacherous application seas is becoming more and more important. You shouldn’t let the current atmosphere put you off, though, as the UK still has so much to offer international students. What you need, however, is for someone to look at and help you with your university and visa applications. Making your application as perfect as possible is the best way to avoid these kind of issues – so get some help before you start.

If you have any questions about immigration or visas, let us know in the comment section, or send us an email.