Undergraduate category

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!

Study tips – how to study at a UK university.

November 20, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Studying in the UK will be a whole new experience for international students, from the new lifestyle, to making new friends, and trying exciting new things. It’ll be a great time for all of you, but don’t forget about the reason you have come to the UK – studying! UK universities are well-respected around the world, and there is a reason for that, as academic culture in the UK is quite unique and specialised. If you’re feeling a bit nervous about the studying side of things, here are some study tips and facts to help you on your way.

  • Independent study is important: most students will have to study on their own at university, and will be expected to make decisions for themselves and to come up with their own ideas. This means no plagiarism!
  • You will need to be critical: it’s not enough to just learn facts in the UK, it’s more important to be able to criticise facts and arguments, so that you can see if it is true, and if it is supported and makes sense.
  • Learn how to argue: a key part of studying in the UK is learning how to argue, and how to construct your own arguments in your essays. This is almost more important than being able to learn the facts themselves – and it is something that you’ll have to practice.
  • Take notes in lectures… but not too many notes: Lectures are place where you’ll get a lot of your learning done, and you’ll be introduced to a lot of new info. You will need to make notes, but you should write everything down – just the main points. You can learn different tricks and skills for note taking to make all that simpler, such as abbreviation, different coloured pens, and making sure everything is written concisely. Make sure that you write up your notes after each lecture, as that way you’ll make sure that you understand everything clearly, and can check those things you don’t.
  • Get involved in seminars: it might be a nervy at first, but those seminars are a great place to talk about what you’ve been studying, and learn different interpretations from other students. Make sure you’re familiar with what you’re going to be looking at before each seminar, and do the reading in advance. This will really help, and you won’t look foolish when you get asked your opinion! It will also give you face-to-face time with your tutor, which is very valuable, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about things you don’t understand.
  • Words, words, words: you’ll be given a list of books (texts) at the beginning of your course, and even though you don’t have to read every book, you will have to make the effort to buy the essential texts. All those books can be expensive, though, and sometimes you’ll find that you won’t have to read all a book – just a few selected chapters. This is where the library comes in handy, as you can get the books for free, or pay a little and photocopy the key chapters. Photocopying is really useful, as you will be able to make notes in the margins, highlight the key lines, and not have to worry about returning the book in good condition. Second hand books are also really useful, and there will probably be a second hand bookshop near your university that sells a lot of the books you need at a reduced price, or you can check Amazon Marketplace for used books.
  • And finally… Reading is itself a skill, and skim reading is a great ability to have when your reading list is piling up. Focus on the key chapters, and read the first and last lines of each paragraph first – this will introduce the topic of the paragraph, as well as the conclusion – and then you can quickly look through the rest of the paragraph for key words. This will save you a lot of time, and obviously works best for reading text books and academic material, rather than novels!

That is a lot of things to think about, but don’t let it put you off! A foundation year or pre-master’s course not only teaches you about your chosen subject, but it also prepares you for study in the UK. You’ll learn how to think critically, how to problem solve, and get practice in the academic culture that we have here in the UK. Understanding what is expected of students at universities in the UK is incredibly important, so ask your agent for more advice about a foundation year or pre-master’s course.

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 »

From https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwarby/

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.

How you can deal with culture shock

October 27, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

Studying overseas is a great experience. You’ll meet friends from all over the world, visit new places, and be stimulated by something different pretty much every day. It’s not always plain sailing, though, and there will be challenges along the way that you will need to prepare for, not least the culture shock that will affect all of you at some point.

When you’re feeling uncomfortable about experiencing a new way of life, this is culture shock: it is usually talked about when someone has moved overseas to study or work, and they have difficulty adjusting to their new way of life, their new surroundings, or have trouble adapting to the language barrier. You can also experience culture shock when adapting to a new social environment, or another type of life. Culture shock comes from trying to manage cultural contrasts, and is that attempt to adjust to surroundings or an environment that are completely foreign. If you are feeling culture shock, it is not just you who is suffering from it, as it is something that is very common, and happens to everyone.

You can look at culture shock as a kind of psychological condition, where you feel disoriented by your new, unfamiliar surroundings. It doesn’t always start like that, however, as the first stage of culture shock is usually a ‘honeymoon period’, of finding everything about your new home great. The food, the people, the culture, everything about the new experience seems great. You’ll be spending time with people who speak your language – but who you might discover you don’t have many things in common with – and you’ll be respectful and friendly towards your new hosts. This honeymoon period usually lasts for about three months, by which point all those things you started to like have in fact started to annoy you, and those friendly locals don’t seem so friendly.

This change in opinion is where you start to see culture shock taking shape. The differences between your old culture and your new one become more and more visible, and the excitement that you used to feel has turned into frustration. This period is known as ‘negotiation.’ You will start to feel homesick, and notice that there are cultural and language barriers between yourself and other people. Homesickness can be especially bad if you are missing birthdays, Christmas with your family, or other religious festivals and family time. For international students, the negative aspects can be heightened even more, as you won’t have your family to support you, and you will be outside your usual network of friends. Having to use English in an academic setting can also make the communication and language barriers seem worse than they are, as there is more pressure to use English correctly.

After the three month honeymoon period, you’ll hear lots of people moaning and complaining, about the food, the locals, the trains, in fact pretty much anything. It is easy to be negative and to complain as well, but try not to. And if you can manage this, then you’ll be in the ‘adjustment’ phase or culture shock. This is the light at the end of the tunnel, as you’ll be in a new routine based around your new life, and you’ll have learned new problem-solving skills. You’ll also have learned a lot of new information about the UK to share with others, which makes the whole experience easier to handle. Adjustment doesn’t mean that you’ve ‘gone native’, but it does mean that you have come to learn what to expect in most situations in your new home, and that you have adjusted and to life here.

Once you have learned how to adjust, then the final stage is ‘adaption’, which is seen as being ‘bicultural.’ Not everyone can reach this stage, however, as no one will truly leave their old culture. But adjustment and adaption are the goals, so those who suffer from culture shock need to look at how to reach them.

Everyone is different, of course, so the time frames for each stage will be different, and the things that set off culture shock will be different for each person. The methods of coping will be similar, though, and the first step is research. You need to know what to expect, in terms of life style, food, where you can buy things from home, and also safety. This will make your initial few months, and the transition to your new life, much smoother. It’s always a good idea to keep learning the language, and to try to make friends who are not from your home country. This will help you integrate more into your new surroundings, and you’ll also find that you’ll learn about new cultures and new perspectives, which is one of the reasons people want to go overseas in the first place.

If you find it difficult to meet new people, then try joining societies or clubs at university, where you can learn more about the UK. You’ll also be able to share any difficulties you’re having with your new friends, and that will make them all easier to handle. Of course, try to stay in contact with your friends and family back at home, and try calling instead of messaging. This is much more personable, and you’ll be able to maintain relationships easier. You’ll also be able to meet any new family members that you missed out on, even if it is remotely.

Striking a balance between your old and new life isn’t always easy, and it is a challenge of living overseas. There is a lot to take in, and it will be tempting to hang out with people from the same country as you. The most important thing is to try to enjoy yourself and stay positive, as your study abroad experience is something that you’ll be able to remember for the rest of your life.

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.

A few things about council tax

October 7, 2015 | Posted by ECA UK | No Comments »

People in the UK are famous for their dark humour, and we often say that there are only 2 certain things in life: death, and taxes. Now, we’re not going to talk about death, but we are going to talk about tax. In fact, there’s one tax in the UK that you should be aware of, and that is council tax.

Firstly, don’t panic: not all students will have to pay council tax, and if you’re an international student it is likely that you will be exempt. However, it is better to be safe than sorry, and to know just what it is that you may or may not have to pay. Council tax is something that most people living in the UK have to pay based on the value of their property (called a ‘dwelling’), and that money goes towards paying for services provided by the council, such as the fire brigade and rubbish collection. The bigger and more valuable your dwelling is, the more council tax you have to pay. Similarly, if you live with one or more working adults (people over 18 with full time jobs), you will also have to pay council tax.

However, the good news is that not everyone has to pay council tax, as some people – and some properties – are actually exempt. This means that if you meet certain requirements, you don’t have to pay any at all. Yes, that’s nothing at all. Zero. Zip. Nada. Having those extra pounds in your pocket can make all the difference to students trying to survive on a budget, and it is definitely worth knowing who is exempt, and who is not.

The people who have to pay council tax are those who are ‘solely and mainly’ resident in the UK. This means that any of you who are international students studying English for a short period of time, or if you’re a student studying another kind of short course, then you won’t have to pay council tax, as you are not regarded as long-term residents in the country. In the case of university students, you also don’t have to pay council tax. Even if you’re writing your dissertation or thesis, so long as you are still enrolled at your university you will be considered a student – which means no council tax.

Some courses have work placements as part of them, and this can affect your status as a student. Basically, the length of your work placement can’t be longer than the period you spend studying; if it is, then you are no longer regarded as a student. This is going to be a rare occurrence, but it shows that you need to remain enrolled as a ‘student’ for the majority of your stay in the UK in order to be exempt from council tax.

Some universities will give you a certificate stating that you’re a student, and you can show it to the local authority if they ask to see one. Other local authorities have online forms that you need to complete, and then they check your student status directly with the university. Each local authority is different, so it is worth checking when you arrive in the UK.

When you’re choosing who to live with, as a full time student who will need to be a little careful: this is because, if you’re living with a person or people who are not full time students, then you might have to pay council tax. As a student, you will be able to apply for a student disregard discount, but this will still mean that you have to pay some council tax. You can apply for a discount with your local council.

If you are an international student in the UK with a spouse or dependent who is not a British citizen, and they have leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK, but are not able to get employment here and ‘no recourse to public funds’ on their visa or Biometric Residence Permit, then you will be exempt from council tax. You will have to show a copy of the passport or BRP to prove it, of course.