Studying for a master’s degree in the United Kingdom has consistently been the choice for many international students. The UK trails just behind the USA in the number of incoming graduate students yearly. Universities in the UK have a diverse niche of specializations ranging from the ancient to the modern fields of study.

UK universities, most of them the oldest worldwide, have consistently placed at the top of most international university rankings. Financing one’s studies while in an established UK university is generally reasonable as various scholarships and grants are available for students showing field excellence or for students needing financial assistance.

One of the advantages of studying in the United Kingdom for graduate studies is the opportunity to learn English, also known as the Queen’s English or BBC English, used in the UK. The Queen’s English is characterized by its focus on pronunciation and perfect grammar, distinctly different from American English. Studying in the UK is deemed as a rewarding experience due to the cultural richness of British society that is made even more diverse and more colorful by the influx of students from all over the world. Another great reason to study in the UK is the architectural marvels and attractions spanning ancient to modern times.

Below, we guide you through the process of applying for a master’s in the United Kingdom.

Master’s Degree Admission Requirements

International students applying for a master’s degree in the United Kingdom are asked to submit basic application documents by the British Government and their chosen university. University requirements do vary depending on the policies of the UK university offering the master’s degree.

The general application documents include the student’s birth certificate, passport, bachelor’s degree diploma, transcript of records, recommendation letters from two to three previous professors, English proficiency documents, filled-out application form, and cover letter. Some universities do require additional requirements such as aptitude tests, a personal statement, stating your reason for choosing the program and why you should be accepted, and at least one research proposal. It is always best to check with the university’s website or to get in touch with the institution’s admissions team for complete details.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Master’s Studies

Studying for a master’s degree in the United Kingdom means acquiring the minimum English language proficiency requirements. Even international students outside the UK with English as their native language are sometimes required to submit English proficiency exam results or language certificates; other universities provide exceptions for native English speakers. Some universities offer pre-sessional English programs such as in the Imperial College London.

Some of the standard English proficiency exams accepted by UK universities include the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic, and the Cambridge Assessment English (C1 and C2). It should be noted that some UK universities accept similar certifications from other recognized institutions.

The minimum English proficiency scores vary per university and course; hence, student applicants wishing to study for a master’s degree in the UK should always clarify the passing scores with the university’s website or admission personnel. The University of Cambridge’s minimum English language requirements, for example, ranges from 7.0 to 7.5 (IELTS) and 100 to 110 (TOEFL) depending on the chosen course program’s requirements.

Master’s Degree Application Process

Applying for a master’s degree in any of the United Kingdom’s prestigious universities may seem like a daunting task for aspiring graduate students. However, the application process can be manageable if you check all the application details and policies of the UK government and university.

Step 1. Finding Your Program and University

The application process starts with searching for your chosen master’s degree program, and the UK university offering said program. It is uncommon to apply to more than one master’s degree program to increase the chances of admission. The usual process is visiting the chosen university’s website and directly applying online, but some universities can be reached via the UCAS system. Some university websites require creating an online applicant account to start the admission process.

Step 2. Completing and Submitting Your Admission Requirements

As soon as you have chosen one or more graduate programs, aspiring students should carefully check all the admission requirements as they vary per course program, university, and applicant’s country of origin. Submission deadlines should also be noted since they vary per university. Application periods usually occur around June, during the summer admissions, and January, during the winter admissions. Fortunately, some universities have rolling applications that accept submissions year-long and process the applications upon completion of the minimum requirements. Aspiring master’s degree students should consider applying for any one of the many scholarships and grants during this time to ensure financial support if needed.

Step 3. Finding Accommodations

The great thing about studying in well-established universities in the UK is the option to apply for campus accommodations. Applicants should get in touch with the university as soon as possible as student housing is usually on a first-come, first-served basis and has a definite application deadline. If campus dormitories are unavailable, there are also options for shared, rented flats or private apartments. The university can also provide information for accredited or university-approved housing owned by private landlords.

Step 4. United Kingdom Visa Application

International students wishing to study for a master’s degree in the UK can apply for a Tier Four (4) UK Student Visa online as soon as they receive the confirmation of their acceptance into their chosen university. Always check the UK Government’s online information for the latest requirements and procedures as there are requirements for master’s degree students such as the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificates in certain areas of study. The United Kingdom also requires international students, except those from a few exempted countries, a Tuberculosis Test before entry into the UK. There are visa application fees and a mandatory National Healthcare Service contribution for your stay in the country.

Step 5. Tasks upon Arrival in the United Kingdom

Upon arrival to the United Kingdom, international students will seek clearance from the UK Border Force by presenting their supporting documents such as passport, visa, proof of study, proof of finances, and proof of accommodations. Applicants can then personally visit their universities to register or for further processes included in their admission to their master’s degree program.

The University of Oxford and University College London state the same processes for admission; including student visa requirements and ATAS certificates for international students seeking to study in their universities. Some of their course programs, however, require interviews conducted by the host department. It is best to contact the university or the graduate program coordinating team for the latest and most relevant procedures.


Hopefully, this article on how to apply for a master’s in the United Kingdom was informative. Make sure to also check out the United Kingdom Programs for International Students to learn more!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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