With a world-class academic and social reputation, it's not surprising that more and more students are choosing to study in the UK. By Wendy Berliner

You may be coming to Britain because of its world-class reputation for higher education, its value-for-money courses or because you came here on holiday once and fell in love with the country. Whatever your reason for choosing the UK for your education, you have chosen wisely and can expect a warm welcome.

You may be coming to Britain because of its world-class reputation for higher education, its value-for-money courses or because you came here on holiday once and fell in love with the country. Whatever your reason for choosing the UK for your education, you have chosen wisely and can expect a warm welcome.

The UK has a long and distinguished history of welcoming international students, both as undergraduates and postgraduates, and courses taken here are recognised worldwide. They can be a bargain compared with many other English speaking countries, particularly undergraduate courses because the intensity of them means they can be completed in only three years.

The numbers of students coming to study in the UK has been rising significantly. Latest figures from UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) show that nearly 11 per cent of the accepted applicants to higher education in the UK are now from overseas; the majority are postgraduates. There are more than 300,000 international students from more than 180 countries in the UK currently and the British Council believes this could rise to more than 800,000 by the year 2018.

Some UK universities recruit huge numbers of overseas students - more than half the students at the London School of Economics are from overseas, for example, and other universities, including world-famous ones, are keen to recruit more. Oxford University has recently disclosed a plan to gradually increase the numbers of overseas students it accepts. Some universities have students from more than 100 countries on roll.

Universities have international offices on campus to support foreign students, and some universities have offices throughout the world - Middlesex University near London has 14 around the globe.

You might be able to get financial support to study here because some universities give bursaries to overseas students who would otherwise not be able to afford to come. One of these is Westminster University in London which gives bursaries worth £1.2m a year, many of them to overseas students. Awards range from £1,000 off fees to a package worth up to £20,000 including visa and flights. The university looks for academic excellence, financial need and confidence that the student will return to their country and contribute there before awarding a bursary.

There are many other reasons to come here. For one thing, the UK has not clamped down on its immigration system in the way the US has done in the wake of September 11 2001, which has caused significant falls in the numbers of overseas students admitted there.

Then there is the huge plus of studying in the original home of a language which is spoken throughout the world. If your English could be a bit better, you will be able to take advantage of English language classes which many UK universities provide free of charge to overseas students.

UK higher education institutions have a long tradition of caring for their international students. You may well be collected from the airport or your port of entry and transported to your university or college. Once there, you are likely to be given a welcome party and an orientation tour of the area. You will also have a personal tutor to turn to plus support staff in the international office should you need any kind of help.

Some of the teaching will be in large groups but you also get the chance to study in much smaller groups with your tutors. Most universities will offer free internet use and you will have access to superb computer suites, libraries and other resources, free of charge.

Universities and colleges with international students on roll generally have an international society so that you can meet people from your own and other countries. Societies such as these are likely to put on social events and trips out to some of the most beautiful parts of the UK.

The range of societies and clubs that you will find at a typical UK university is extraordinary, covering all kinds of interests from mainstream sport to some more obscure interests. To give you an example, one university has a cocktail club. There will be clubs and bars on campus too but nothing is compulsory - the social activities are there if you want to take part in them. If you want to just study, you can - although it would be a pity to miss seeing at least some of our beautiful country.

Higher education institutions make real efforts to ensure the safety of students and you can expect late-night transport to be provided by the university or college where it is needed, particularly for women. All the major religions are catered for and prayer/worship facilities will be available to you. The multicultural nature of much of Britain's towns and cities will ensure that you should be able to buy a plentiful supply of the ingredients you need for a taste of home cooking.

One other major bonus of your stay will be to qualify for free health care under the National Health Service if your course lasts longer than six months.

The UCAS application system is also very straightforward. It allows you to apply to up to six universities or higher education colleges for one low fee and everything is then handled centrally - a boon to students in far flung parts of the world. Entry forms can be filled in online and the progress of your applications tracked there too.

As for options, of course, you could be spoiled for choice. A lot of overseas students in the UK choose vocational degree courses. These can form the first part of the training necessary to enter certain professions - like accountancy, engineering and international law, which can exempt you from some professional exams - although be sure that they are accepted in your country. But the choice is yours. Take a look online at www.ucas.com at the range of courses on offer and you may well be astonished.

Whatever you choose, be assured that the UK higher education system offers cutting-edge and world-leading research opportunities, internationally recognised degrees and relevant high-quality, high-standard training. It's all there for the asking. Welcome to Britain!

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