The word ‘college’ means different things in parts of the world. In the USA, it’s often used as another term for university. In the UK however, it means institutions that offer further education courses, higher education courses and trade qualifications. In short, UK colleges, or ‘FE colleges’ offer lots of different courses to lots of different people. There’s something for everyone at college.
So, what makes a college a great place to study at? I currently work for the Association of Colleges (AoC), and we represent publicly-funded (i.e. government/state-funded) colleges. From my own experience both studying and working at colleges I can safely say that international students can expect to be part of a welcoming, diverse community when they come to college. Here are some of the reasons why:
The Study Experience
More often than not, you’ll join a class with local students, so you’ll get to meet students living in the local area. If you’re taking an English language course, this will include students from different countries whose first language is not English.
Classes tend to be for 20-30 students at college, with groups of only 15 or 16 students in some workshop and kitchen-based subjects. You can expect a good level of contact with your tutors and to be in class for an average of around 15 hours per week, with additional time you’ll spend studying independently.
You’ll be usually taught by lecturers who have worked in the industry you’re learning about. They will have links to employers and will often organise industry visits for your class. Some courses may have the option for a short work placement.
If you choose a traditional academic course at college, such as A Levels, you’ll be taking a recognised qualification for university entry. You will be supported to decide which degree programme and which university are right for you.
When you come to college, should you feel unwell or encounter any personal problems, support and advice is available from colleges staff.
The Living Experience
Colleges are located in big cities, small towns and rural areas, all across England and the rest of the UK. There’s the right location for everyone depending on the kind of experience that you would prefer. Colleges have cafeterias and coffee bars on site, WiFi, quiet areas to study and a library.
It’s affordable to study at college, with the annual course fees costing on average £7,000. You’ll need money for your accommodation too, and whilst some colleges do have student residences onsite, others offer the chance for their students to live with a local family whilst studying. ‘Homestay’ is a really great way to see what British life is like and to improve your English (if it isn’t your first language).