FAQs for International Students gives answers to the questions international students ask us most often. cife is very happy to give international students advice, so if the answer is not here, do contact us for help!

What qualifications do I need for a UK university?
UK universities expect qualifications at two levels – GCSE level and A level. They will usually accept overseas qualifications (such as High School Graduation) instead of GCSE, but there are only a few overseas school-leaving qualifications which they accept as being fully equivalent to A levels. Some universities may accept you solely on the basis of your overseas qualification but the very well-known ones will not. Because the top UK universities have many applicants to choose from, they will expect you to have an extra, UK-based qualification, as well as your High School results.

The two main ‘extra’ qualifications you can get are A level or Foundation Course. Both of these will involve extra study. A levels are accepted by all British universities, whereas Foundation courses are only accepted by some. Our advice page on A levels or international foundation compares A-level and Foundation courses. If English is not your first language universities will want a recognised English language qualification. There are several which they will accept: GCSE, IGCSE, the Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English, Academic IELTS, etc. Some but not all universities accept other English-language exams, such as TOEFL. Academic IELTS is one of the most popular qualifications. Most universities will accept a mark of 6.5, some will accept 6.0, and a few require 7.0, especially for courses such as Law which require very good English. Our advice article on recognised ESL qualifications tells you more about the different sorts of English qualification. The UCAS website has a great deal of information about the entrance requirements for each UK university course.

How can a cife college help me?
cife colleges will give you accurate and honest advice. They have lots of experience helping international students adapt to life in the UK. They are very flexible and are used to helping students settle in to their new surroundings. Their class sizes are small making it easier to ask questions and to develop a positive relationship with your teachers. And of course, their record of results and university entrance is excellent.

What qualifications do I need to join a cife college?
Each college has its own admissions policy, so you will need to email the colleges you are interested in. However, colleges’ main concern is that you have enough knowledge to start your course successfully. They will also want to see a report, from someone who knows you well, to say that you are serious about your studies, and they will want to know that your English is good enough. If your English skill is below IELTS 5.5 or Cambridge First Certificate level you will find A-level work difficult, and you probably ought to take a full-time English course before you start. If you need a visa to study in the UK (see below), you will have to convince the visa authorities that your qualifications (including your knowledge of English) are acceptable for the course you want to take.

How many international students study in cife colleges?
In some cife colleges most of the students come from other countries, in others most students are UK nationals. If you join a college with many students from your own country it can be easier to settle in, but you may find you don’t learn English so fast. Colleges will be happy to tell you about their nationality mix if you ask them.

How can I apply to a cife college?
Just contact the colleges you are interested in. They will send you details of their application process and requirements. A college will tell you if it needs to meet you for interview in person, or if you must first talk to an official college representative in your own country. If you can’t visit the college, most will be happy to interview you via video link. Indeed, most colleges now require this, partly so you can find out more, and partly to check your English skills.

If the college then offers you a place it will explain what you must do to accept the place. That may include sending some money as a deposit. Please note that colleges will generally not give you your deposit back unless there is a very good reason why you can’t join them: they certainly won’t return the deposit if you just change your mind! Make sure you find out whether a college will give money back if you can’t get a student visa.

What are the best subjects to study?
Your college will be able to give you good advice on subject choice. They can tell you if universities expect you to take particular subjects to join the degree course you want, and can help you decide which subjects suit your academic background and language skills. UK universities prefer students to take subjects which don’t overlap too much: Accounting, Business Studies and Economics is not a good A-level combination for top universities. Of course it is also important that you like the subjects you will study! Our advice articles on choosing the right A level subjects and FAQs about A-level choice will help you. Or read our article on how to choose a University Foundation programme if you are thinking that might suit you better than an A-level course.

How can I improve my English?
Ask your chosen college about the courses they provide to help you get the right English Language qualification for university. You should also find that living in England and using English every day, in and out of class, will rapidly improve your speed and confidence. But beware of spending all your free time speaking your own language with class-mates from home. It’s good to do some of that, but too much will slow down your language learning!

Can cife colleges help me to get a visa?
If you are not a citizen of an European Union country you will need a student visa to study in Britain (see information on the UK Visas and Immigration website) . You cannot apply for a student visa while you are in the UK, you must apply in your own country. This is usually straightforward, but can take some time – six or more weeks, so make sure you apply early! You will need to supply personal and financial details, and you will need to attend an interview. You will also need a firm acceptance letter from the college where you will be studying. cife colleges can provide a proper  ‘Confirmation of Acceptance’ (CAS) letter, though they will not do so until you have completed the college’s enrollment formalities.

The great majority of cife colleges hold ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ status which can help you get your visa more rapidly. Here’s a link to the UKBA list of Tier 4 (Education) sponsors. The regulations dealing with student visas are quite complicated and change regularly, so it is important that you use the most up to date information. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) is an excellent source of advice. The UKCISA information on visas is detailed and up to date. Colleges can also give you good advice about visa applications. It’s really important to fill the visa application form in correctly and to provide all the information required. If you get this wrong you will probably not get a visa, and it will be more difficult if you apply again later.

How much does it cost to study in the UK?
Each cife college sets its own fees. These might depend on the details of the course you take, so you will need to ask them to find out the true cost of your teaching, including any extra costs which might include language classes, examination entry fees etc. Then you will need somewhere to live during term time and during holidays too. Some colleges expect you to live in college accommodation, especially if you are under 18 years old, and may also be able to help with holiday accommodation. Finally you will need to work out how much spending money is necessary and how much it will cost you to travel to and from the UK. Do ask for your college’s advice on costs. Our Fees at cife colleges page includes links to the Fees page on each college’s website.

Can I get a scholarship from a cife college?
Most cife colleges provide scholarships and bursaries, though there are very few scholarships which pay for the full course cost. Each college has its own criteria for whether to award a scholarship, but you will need to prove that you have exceptional academic ability and that you cannot afford to pay fees. If you need financial assistance you should apply directly to the college of your choice as early in the year as you can. You can find more details in our advice article Help with fees at cife colleges.

Do I need to have a guardian in the UK?
Ask your college about this. If you are 16 or older, most colleges will not insist that you have a ‘Legal Guardian’ in the UK. However, most colleges expect your family to appoint a UK resident who has the authority to look after your interests while you are studying here. This person can be a family member, a friend or a business associate who is willing to visit the college if necessary. There are good professional guardians who will do this for a fee. Your college will be able to recommend guardian organisations if need be.

Our Advice page links to more cife articles.  

Related site articles

A levels or international foundation?

English as second language qualifications

Article updated: 29th June 2021

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