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Universities in the United Kingdom

The ParentsThe Parents Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
Our daughter has begun her college search and is determined on traveling to the United Kingdom for school. She is currently at a well-regarded preparatory school, achieving solid marks, and is highly active with debate, student government, and journalism. It seems that her school sends a few students to the UK each year, mostly Oxford and St. Andrews. She is seriously looking at Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, and Durham. Though she is not committed to a course of study, she seems to be leaning toward international business, political science/international relations, or international law. Our specific concerns are: high quality academics, reputation in the United States, intimate learning environment, research opportunities, unique atmosphere (she loves Harry Potter).

Any advice would be much appreciated and thank you for your time.
Post edited by The Parents on

Replies to: Universities in the United Kingdom

  • Phoenix WrightPhoenix Wright Registered User Posts: 100 Junior Member
    If she's into the International scene and I take it money isn't an issue, tell her to look into the London School of Economics as well. Research opportunities generally won't come until the graduate level, but it does, of course, have a high quality of academics and a reputation that speaks for itself.
  • warblersrulewarblersrule Super Moderator Posts: 9,497 Super Moderator
    She'll have to decide between Oxford and Cambridge; you're only allowed to apply to one of them. The deadline is in early October, so it's not too soon to be deciding. Unlike US admissions, the UCAS application limits applicants to six choices.

    The schools she's considering are great for what she's looking for. I would also recommend Bristol, York, Warwick, Bath, Essex, Newcastle, King's, SOAS, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, and Glasgow.
  • r6miler6mile Registered User Posts: 228 Junior Member
  • MattEisnMattEisn Registered User Posts: 408 Member
    Also look at London School of Economics if she wants intl. business and she took a bunch of APs
  • Carpe AeternumCarpe Aeternum Registered User Posts: 721 Member
    How familiar is she with living in the UK? It is quite different than it can be made out to be, so help her prepare diligently for the differences. It is a shock going to college and for many people (especially those who have read about it in books like HP) going from the US to the UK is a huge shock as well. :)

    St. Andrews is well known for its close-knit atmopshere. Oxbride is more spread out, and it is VERY difficult to get into. The top students in England (AAAA at A-levels, great stats) are sometimes turned down from Oxbridge, and students who don't seem to be up to par are let in in their places. It is hugely dependant on the colleges, although one can apply with a general admission. As someone mentioned, only one or the other can be applied to.

    Durham, St Andrews, and Oxbridge are hugely different from each other. I am not familiar with Durham, but St Andrews (no period after St :)) is a very small community that is not known for lively weekends but is still has partying. It has an entirely different feel to Oxbridge, but all three of them have a very distinguised feel. I have known American students to be highly successful at St Andrews, but that is going to depend on her life now. Because St A's is so small, she may feel very isolated being that far away from home and in such a tight-knit space. Unless a student gets involved straight away at St Andrews, it can be very difficult to adjust and get friends, because it's so isolated. A student from a large city or large school can find finding a way to fit in at St A's challenging. That school is a prime example of getting out what you put in. :)
  • bruno123bruno123 Registered User Posts: 1,390 Senior Member
    Our specific concerns are: high quality academics, reputation in the United States, intimate learning environment, research opportunities, unique atmosphere (she loves Harry Potter).

    The first thing she will have to learn if she wants to go to the UK is that real life in Britain has nothing to do with Harry Potter ! If she moves to Britain with that kind of expectation, she'll probably end up being terribly disappointed.

    Anyway, if she's interested in international relations, economics, political/social science, or law, I'd strongly recommend the London School of Economics (very tough to get in though and as un-Harry-Potter-like as it gets !). Oxford and Cambridge on the other hand probably have a more "initimate learning environment" (because of the collegiate system) and are closer to traditional American stereotypes of British universities (though not quite like what most Americans think). I'd pick Cambridge for mathematics, engineering, physical sciences (physics, chemistry, astronomy, etc.) or economics, and Oxford for humanities and most other applied social sciences. For law or biological sciences (including medicine), either one should be fine.
  • The ParentsThe Parents Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Thank you all for the comments offered thus far. A few specific questions:

    Phoenix Wright, MattEisn, and Bruno123: We had considered London School of Economics, as it seems to have a good reputation here in the United States. It looks like it meets our criteria for academics/research, reputation, but the atmosphere may be too big city university. It looks like Oxford and Cambridge are the most difficult to get into, followed by St Andrews and London School of Economics. The first three seem to meet all our criteria, including a more traditional atmosphere. Does the London School of Economics offer any great advantages over the others?

    Warblersrule86: We will take a look at the other universities you mentioned, but most are unfamiliar. Do you think that any of the others would hold as much weight as Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, or London School of Economics in the United States? Some of our friends in investment banking/finance/government seem to only know these four universities and Warwick, which was also mentioned. Do you think going outside this group would limit her prospects in the US?

    Carpe Aeternum: She is familiar with living in the UK to the extent that we spend about a week there, per annum. Thanks for the correction! The smallness and remoteness of St Andrews is appealing because it seems like a special, old-world place where she can dedicate herself to study with a unique, though homogenous, social environment. A few of the other parents, who have sent their children to St Andrews, have compared it to the feel of a top liberal arts college in the US. Do you agree with this characterization?

    A question for everyone: do you have any experience with Durham University?
  • r6miler6mile Registered User Posts: 228 Junior Member
    I am also lookimg for universities in the UK, specifically to study International Relations. Oxbridge is always on everyone's list, but as it is extremely hard to get in, I am not even considering it. LSE and St Andrews are also pretty hard to get in to as well, but they seem more realistic options. Other universities that you might consider are the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which was the first university IN THE WORLD to have a department in International Politics, and offers a wide range of degrees, and joint-degree and major/minor combinations that I have never seen before. It is the university that I am now considering the most. You will find that intimacy that you want in Aberystwyth: a town of 12,000, during 9 months the population raises to 22,000 because of the University, so it is a town dominated by 18-22 year old students. It is right on the sea, there is a beach, and you can sail. It has a unique atmosphere as it is dominated by Welsh culture. I don't know about the reputation in the US, but I think it's an option that you should consider.
  • inshallahinshallah Registered User Posts: 528 Member
    St Andrews is well recognised in the US but it is not AS good a university as Warwick, Durham, Bristol, UCL, LSE, Edinburgh etc.

    IMHO, if your daughter wuld like to move back to the US after completing her course, it is best to do her undergrad atleast in the US. AS many top universities (As i mentioned above) are not well known in the US. If she would like to continue working in the UK/Europe after graduation then any of these universities have great reputations.
  • The ParentsThe Parents Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    Inshallah: I am not really sure what you mean by good, but in what ways do you feel that the other universities you mentioned meet our needs better than St Andrews?

    We have been looking at schools in the US (mostly East Coast), but she is excited about studying abroad for a few years. It looks like some of the UK schools do have exchanges, though, if she wants to come home for some time. Accordingly to the literature/websites, Oxford and Cambridge have programs with a number of Ivy League schools, MIT, Stanford, and others, while London School of Economics exchanges with Columbia, and St Andrews with Princeton, Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania and Emory. I do not have any information on Durham, but do any of these others offer exchanges? Do you know anything about exchange programs? What do you think?
  • inshallahinshallah Registered User Posts: 528 Member
    I mean that though St Andrews is a good university is not at the same level as Oxford or Cambridge. The perception in the US of St Andrews being on par with these institutions is false. There are many colleges higher ranked than St Andrews that are academically better.


    These rankings are the UK equivalent of US News Rankings in the US.

    Also, a number 10 in the UK would roughly be equal to a 25 in the US as the number of universities and various other factors are different.
  • The ParentsThe Parents Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    I am not so sure that relying too much on rankings is the best way to decide on a university, but St Andrews does seem to be ranked highly. The rankings that you posted include a small sample size and the universities that rank from 6 to 10 have roughly a 25 point spread out of over 1000 possible points. It seems that the numerical differences between those universities may be negligible. Further, from what I gather St Andrews is a very small institution and that may affect its ranking. Williams and Amherst are great liberal arts colleges in the US, but they would not fair as well in a ranking with some of the major research universities. Also, according to the US News Rankings, the national universities at roughly 25 are Georgetown University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Virginia, and University of Michigan. These are all well-regarded universities in the US.

    A number of our friends whose children went to either Oxford or St Andrews reported that they are similiar, but different. Oxford was an academically challenging research university, while St Andrews was an academically challenging liberal arts college with alot of research. I am thinking that Durham might be a little of both.

    Aside from the rankings, do you have any first-hand experience with any of these universities?
  • inshallahinshallah Registered User Posts: 528 Member
    I have visited UCL, LSE, Imperial and Manchester. I have offers from all these universities except LSE ( which I didn't apply to) as well as Edinburgh, Sheffield and Loughborough.

    Obviously St Andrews is a great university, but I have heard from people who have visited as well as attended them that it is overrated.

    EDIT : I am also PMing you another website you can use
  • Carpe AeternumCarpe Aeternum Registered User Posts: 721 Member
    St Andrews is a good school, and the oldest uni in Scotland. However, it is important to remember that a lot of its prestige comes from Prince William's attendance there. The competitiveness from before William applied to now has literally doubled- but that doesn't mean the academics have all followed along with that competitive edge. It is important to keep that in mind while considering it.

    (The Parents: I'm still deeply pondering my answer to your question about the feel, expect a response soon. :))
  • Carpe AeternumCarpe Aeternum Registered User Posts: 721 Member
    TP, it seems like she has a pretty good idea of what it's like to live there. I thought for a moment she had just read about it and maybe visited and was intent to study there, and I thought, Wow, culture shock!

    I've never been to America's top colleges, such as Harvard or Princeton. St A's is definitely an old-world feel. I deeply pondered your question, and came back to type an answer without realising I didn't have anything to compare it to (laughs)! It is definitely a very scholarly place.
This discussion has been closed.