Thousands of international students study in the UK each year without incident, but like anywhere in the world, there are some simple safety precautions you can take to help you be safer during your international studies.
Much of the advice for international students is the same as that given to British students when they go away to university for the first time – and you might find some of your British friends are going through similar experiences to you, once your university course starts.
Don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you about what you are going through. There is lots of support available to help make the decision to study abroad an exciting adventure and to keep you safe while you study in the UK.
Five rules to stay safe in the UK
There is a huge amount of advice in this area for students, so if you decide to study abroad in the UK, listen to the advice you are given during your first few weeks in the country. A good starting point to stay safe in the UK is this list of five simple rules:
- It’s best to avoid being alone after dark – stay with friends or take a taxi instead of walking alone.
- Exploring unfamiliar places is always better with friends– if you want to discover the city, do it in a group.
- Keep your valuables safe – make sure your phone and money are hidden in a pocket or bag.
- Keep an eye on your locks– if your bedroom has its own lock, keep it locked and secure.
- Make sure you carry just enough cash– get an international student account with a card to use at ATMs.
Some of the best universities in the UK are in the biggest cities in the country. That means you will meet all kinds of people – including many who are happy to help you if you feel unsafe at any time.
It’s a good idea to make sure your spoken English is good enough to ask for help when you need it, and that includes being able to understand the local accent in the city where you choose to study.
Access to UK healthcare for international students
The UK is famous for the National Health Service, which provides free healthcare when it is needed, and international students are able to get access to this service as long as your course lasts for over six months. You will normally have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge for each year of your course, which is paid as part of your Tier 4 student visa application.
If you want to know more about the UK law in this area, then you might want to read about the National Health Service (Charges to Overseas Visitors) Regulations 2015, which introduced the Immigration Health Surcharge.
You can also take out private health insurance for the time you spend studying in the UK. This can help to cover the costs of any private medical treatment you receive, any NHS treatment when your Immigration Health Surcharge has expired or if you choose not to pay it, and other work like private dental procedures.
There are also lots of exemptions depending on what home country you come from, and some of these will cover basic costs like helping you to get home if you suffer an illness or injury during your international studies in the UK.
Managing money as an international student in the UK
Knowing how to manage money as an international student in the UK can seem challenging at first, but most of the major British banks will offer support and accounts that are designed to meet your needs.
Apart from that, you should quickly learn how much cash you need to carry – for example, if you need some coins to pay for a bus ride to university each day, or £10-20 to pay for lunch and other daytime costs.
Try not to carry more cash than you need to, just in case you lose it or somebody steals your purse, wallet or bag. It’s a good idea to have a bank account with a UK bank to avoid paying foreign exchange fees and to carry your bank card in a secure pocket so even if you lose your cash, you can still withdraw some money to get home.
Find out more
NCUK’s student services team can give you more advice on any of these issues during your time studying an NCUK qualification and as you progress on to a university degree programme. You should find the best universities in the UK each have their own international students support services with good local knowledge too. Take a look at the universities that you can get guaranteed access to after successfully completing an NCUK qualification: