For students who are thinking of studying in Britain, there are numerous opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Thousands of students flocked to the annual UK Universities East Africa Education Exhibition that started at Sarit Centre, Nairobi on Friday through Sunday and which will also be held in Mombasa, Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Kigali over the coming few weeks.
A total of the 36 UK universities are participating in the expo organized by an education consultancy agency, Uniserv. The 36 universities have sent their representatives who are at hand to answer questions about studying at their universities. The British Council and the British High Commission are also presented to give guidance to the students.
Kenyan students have previously complained how difficult it is to get a visa to study in the UK or the US. So we sought to get some answers from different officials. Here are some of the things you need to know about studying in the UK.
1. Visa application
The Home Office UK Border Agency handles all visa applications and processing. All students outside of Europe need a tier 4 student visa which costs Sh 41,000 to process. But you can add Sh10,000 for a priority visa, which will be fast tracked in case you need to go to UK on short notice.
“We usually process visas within 15 working days. But due to the number of applications we get, it is advisable that students apply way in advance…three months in advance if possible,” explains Chris Feist, Entry Clearance Manager at the British High Commission.
Chris further clarifies that issuance of visas is based on a point system.
“You must have the letter of acceptance from the UK University, which constitutes 30 points and proof of financial ability makes 10 points. This is the bare minimum.”
Most students fail to secure a visa because they either apply too late or don’t have all the required documents when applying. The visa application is done online but the candidate also has to present himself/herself to the Agency officials at the commission for biometric data application. Contrary to popular belief, the choice of degree does not determine whether a visa will be issued.
For more details of the application process, visit http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/
You will need a letter or financial statement showing that you can pay tuition fees for at least one academic year and also cater for your living costs. UK, like most countries in the west is expensive, so choose your university carefully. Living and studying in London will be more expensive compared to other cities. You also have to proof that the money has been in your bank account for not less than 28 days. The average annual tuition fee is ₤12,000 – 14,000 plus an additional ₤8,000 for maintenance. Basically, you need a minimum of Sh2.5 million, but that’s the average in most universities abroad.
Compared to US universities, UK universities offer fewer scholarships, but you have to be on the look out for the scholarship opportunities.
3. Kenyan student visa approval rate is higher than most countries
According to the UK Border Agency, 84 percent of Kenyan applications are approved compared to the global average of 73 percent. On average the agency receives 2,000-2,500 student visa applications from Kenya, the highest in the region. This includes pre-university students, undergraduate and post-graduate students. Uniserv estimates there are 5,000-5,500 Kenyan students studying in the UK, with 3,500 being undergrads.
4. Get help and advice provided by Uniserv
Uniserv represents 65 UK universities and they provide advice and help Kenyan students apply visas. The service to students is free of charge, which is noble especially for not-so privileged students. Amin Esmail, Uniserv Chief Executive, says his organization helps prospective students in the online application, personal statement, medical and dental examination.
“We also advise students on career choices and smart studying tips. Before students join their University, we do a detailed pre-departure briefing where they are briefed on what to expect in UK, the weather, culture and other living essentials that may not be familiar with,” adds Mr. Esmail.
5. Research, Research and more Research
It is advisable that you do a thorough back ground research before you apply to a UK university or before the visa application. Research on your preferred course/degree, post-graduate and employment prospects, tuition fees, work-study rules, cost of living, financial aid etc. In summary, get as much information as you can before making your final decision. Most of the info is available online.
The UK University Expo will be in:
Mombasa – Nyali International Beach Resort, Monday 29th April
Kigali, Hotel Des Mille Collines, Wednesday May 1st.
Kampala – Imperial Royale Hotel, Thursday 2nd May
Dar es Salaam – New Africa Hotel, Saturday 4th May
Zanzibar – Grand Palance Hotel, Sunday 5th May