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Difference between studying in the UK vs the USA

By Olivier Guiberteau• Last updated: Oct 30, 2023
Difference between studying in the UK vs the USA
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Choosing between the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) for higher education is a significant decision for Indian students.

Both countries offer world-renowned universities, a diverse range of programs, and unique cultural experiences.

However, each destination has distinct advantages and considerations, making the choice crucial to your academic and personal growth.

In this guide, we will comprehensively compare the UK vs US for Indian students as study destinations, considering factors such as eligibility criteria, program diversity, cost of education, post-study opportunities, and quality of life.

USA vs UK: Top universities

The US and the UK boast some of the world's most prestigious institutions, each offering a distinct academic experience.

1. Top universities in the US

The United States is home to a plethora of world-class universities renowned for their academic excellence, cutting-edge research, and diverse educational opportunities.

The best universities in the US, according to the QS rankings 2024, are:

UniversityQS Ranking
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)1
Harvard University4
Stanford University5
University of California, Berkeley (UCB)10
University of Chicago11
University of Pennsylvania12

Also Read: Cost of university in US vs UK

2. Top universities in the UK

The UK has a rich and storied tradition of higher education, with universities that have been shaping the world for centuries. The best universities in the UK, according to the QS rankings 2024, are:

UniversityQS Ranking
University of Cambridge2
University of Oxford3
Imperial College London6
University College London9
The University of Edinburgh22
The University of Manchester32

Both countries offer world-class universities with unique strengths. So, choosing between studying in the US or UK depends on your academic and career goals, personal preferences, and financial considerations.

Also Read: UK vs US universities, which should you choose?

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The US and the UK are renowned for offering various programs catering to diverse academic interests and career aspirations. 

Popular Courses in USPopular Courses in UK
Computer Science and I.T.Business and Finance
Business and ManagementLaw
EngineeringEngineering
Healthcare and MedicineSocial Sciences
Data Science and AnalyticsCreative Arts and Design
Finance and EconomicsMedicine and Life Sciences
Artificial Intelligence and Machine LearningInternational Relations and Politics
CybersecurityEnvironmental Science and Sustainability

Also Read: The best undergraduate courses in UK for Indian students

USA vs UK: Eligibility for courses

Eligibility criteria for courses in the US and the UK can vary depending on the specific university, program, and level of study. However, here are some general guidelines for eligibility in both countries:

1. Eligibility for courses in the US

1. Academic qualifications

  • For undergraduate programs, students typically need to have completed their secondary education with a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification.
  • For graduate programs, a bachelor's degree or its equivalent is required. Some programs may have additional prerequisites or specific undergraduate degrees.

2. Standardised tests

  • Many US universities require standardised test scores as part of the application process. The most common tests include the SAT (for undergraduate) and the GRE or GMAT (for graduate).
  • English language proficiency tests like TOEFL or IELTS are often required for international students.

3. Letters of recommendation

Graduate programs may ask for letters of recommendation from professors or professionals who can speak to the applicant's academic and professional abilities.

4. Statement of Purpose (SOP)

Graduate programs often require applicants to submit a statement of purpose outlining their academic and career goals.

5. Financial documents

International students may need to demonstrate sufficient funds to cover tuition and living expenses through bank statements or financial affidavits.

6. Visa requirements

Once admitted, international students must apply for an appropriate student visa (typically the F-1 visa) to study in the US.

2. Eligibility for courses in the UK

1. Academic qualifications

  • For undergraduate programs, students need to have completed their secondary education with qualifications equivalent to UK A-levels. International qualifications are often assessed by the university or through organisations like UCAS.
  • For postgraduate programs, a bachelor's degree or its equivalent is required. Some programs may have specific prerequisites.

2. English language proficiency

Proficiency in English is essential, and universities may require students to provide English language test scores, such as IELTS or TOEFL.

3. References

Postgraduate programs often require academic or professional references. Check the specific requirements of your chosen program.

4. Personal statement

Applicants for postgraduate programs often need to submit a personal statement outlining their academic and career objectives.

5. Visa requirements

International students must apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to study in the UK. Visa requirements may include proof of finances, a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from the university, and health insurance.

6. Interviews

Some courses, especially in fields like medicine, may require interviews as part of the selection process.

UK vs US for Indian students: Cost of undergraduate courses

The US and UK boast world-renowned universities that offer a variety of undergraduate courses.

Here's a comparison of undergraduate course costs in the US and the UK.

CategoryYearly Fees in US (USD)Yearly Fees in UK (GBP)
Tuition Fees$15,000 - $25,000£8,000 - £20,000
Living Expenses$15,000 - $20,000£9,000 - £12,000
Books and Supplies$1,500 - $2,000£800 - £1,000
Healthcare Insurance$1,000 - $3,000NHS for most students
Visa Fees$160 - $200 (F-1)£363 to £490
Looking to study in UK?
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UK vs US for Indian students: Cost of postgraduate courses

Postgraduate course costs can vary widely depending on the specific program, university, and location. Here's a comparison of postgraduate course costs in the US and the UK.

CategoryYearly Fees in US (USD)Yearly Fees in UK (GBP)
Tuition Fees$20,000 - $50,000£10,000 - £30,000
Living Expenses$15,000 - $20,000£9,000 - £12,000
Books and Supplies$1,000 - $2,000£500 - £800
Healthcare Insurance$1,000 - $3,000NHS for most students
Visa Fees$160 - $200 (F-1)£363 to £490

Scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities may be available to help reduce the overall cost of education in both the US and the UK.

Also read: Why are UK universities so expensive?

US vs UK for Indian students: Student visa

A student visa for the US and UK is the gateway for international students to embark on their educational journey, allowing them to immerse themselves in these nations' academic, cultural, and social cultures.

1. Student visa for US

The United States offers three types of student visas for international students who wish to study in the country. 

  • F-1 Visa
  • J-1 Visa
  • M-1 Visa

1. F-1 visa

The F-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued to international students who wish to pursue academic programs in the US. It is designed for full-time students who want to enrol in universities, colleges, or other academic institutions in the United States.

2. J-1 visa

The J-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the US government to individuals who wish to participate in cultural exchange programs or to obtain training in a specific field. It is issued to individuals participating in student exchange programs, internship and training programs, research scholar programs, and au pair programs.

3. M-1 visa

The M-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa issued by the US government to individuals who wish to pursue vocational or technical training in the United States. It is specifically designed for international students who want to enrol in vocational or technical programs, such as vocational schools, technical schools, and community colleges, to learn skills to help them in their professional careers.

Also Read: Types of US student visas

Looking to study in UK?
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2. Student visa for the UK

The UK offers two types of student visas for international students who wish to study in the country. 

  • Tier 4 (General) Student Visa
  • Tier 4 (Child) Student Visa

1. Tier 4 (General) student visa

The Tier 4 (General) student visa is the primary student visa category for international students coming to the UK for higher education. This visa allows students to study full-time and work part-time during term-time (typically up to 20 hours per week) and full-time during vacations.

2. Tier 4 (Child) student visa

This visa category is for children aged 4 to 17 who wish to study at independent schools in the UK. It requires a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from a licensed Tier 4 sponsor and proof of parental consent.

The US provides F-1, J-1, and M-1 visas, with the F-1 visa being the most common for academic programs. Meanwhile, the UK offers Tier 4 (General) and Tier 4 (Child) student visas.

Also read: Guide to applying for a UK Student visa 

UK vs US for Indian students: Post-study requirements

The requirements for Indian students after completing their studies diverge significantly between the US and the UK. 

1. US post-study requirements

1. Optional practical training (OPT)

After completing a degree program in the US on an F-1 student visa, international students can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). OPT allows students to work in their field of study for up to 12 months (or up to 36 months for STEM fields) without needing a separate work visa. Students must apply for OPT before graduation.

2. H-1B visa

Many international students in the US aim to transition from F-1 status to H-1B status, which is a non-immigrant visa for skilled workers. They typically need an employer to sponsor their H-1B application to do this. The H-1B visa can provide long-term employment opportunities in the US.

3. Change of status

Some students may explore other visa categories, such as the O-1 (for individuals with extraordinary ability) or the E-2 (for investors), depending on their qualifications and opportunities.

4. Green card (Permanent residency)

Some international students may pursue a Green Card (permanent residency) in the US through employment-based immigration programs, family sponsorship, or other eligible pathways.

2. UK post-study requirements

1. Post-study work visa (Graduate route)

The UK introduced the "Graduate Route" in 2021, allowing international students who have completed a degree at a UK institution to stay and work in the UK for up to two years (or three years for doctoral graduates) after graduation. This route provides a post-study work opportunity without requiring employer sponsorship.

2. Tier 2 (General skilled worker) visa

If international students secure a job offer in the UK and meet the eligibility criteria, they can switch to a Tier 2 (General Skilled Worker) visa. This route requires sponsorship from the employer and can lead to long-term work and potential settlement in the UK.

3. Entrepreneur or investor visas

International students with significant financial resources or plans to start a business in the UK can explore the Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) or Tier 1 (Investor) visa routes.

4. Family reunification

If international students have family members who are British citizens or settled in the UK, they may be eligible for family reunification visas.

Thinking of studying abroad? Why not explore the Edvoy website to find all the information you need to make a decision on your future.

Conclusion

Whether one chooses the US or the UK for their education, both nations offer a transformative and enriching experience that can open doors to a world of opportunities. The key is to make an informed decision that aligns with one's unique aspirations and ambitions, ensuring a rewarding educational journey that leads to a brighter future.

Frequently asked questions

UK or USA which is better for Indian students?

The UK offers shorter, more focused programs, while the USA provides a broader range of universities and programs. Consider factors like your field of study, budget, and desired cultural experience when deciding.

What is the difference between the UK and the USA?

The UK and the USA differ in various ways, including education systems, program durations, and immigration policies. UK programs are typically shorter and more specialised, while the USA offers longer degrees. Immigration requirements also vary, so research thoroughly to choose the best fit for your educational and career goals.

Is UK education better than the USA? 

The quality of education in the UK or USA is not inherently better; it depends on the university and program. Both countries boast prestigious institutions, so focus on program specialisation, faculty, research opportunities, and location when assessing educational quality.

Which country is better to settle down in, the UK or the USA, for Indian students?

Choosing between settling in the UK or the USA depends on your career aspirations and personal preferences. The USA offers a larger job market and more diverse opportunities, while the UK has a shorter post-study work visa period. 

How is the UK better than the US? 

The UK may be better in some aspects, such as shorter program durations and lower tuition fees. Additionally, the UK provides a culturally rich experience with proximity to Europe. 

Is the cost of living in the USA higher than in the UK?

Generally, the cost of living in the USA is higher than in the UK, with variations depending on the city. Tuition fees and healthcare expenses are higher in the USA, but income levels can also be higher.

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Oli lives in London and is a writer and photographer.

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