All the right connectionsOverseas-education | Crystal Wu 17 Nov 2020
Thinking of applying to British universities but don't know where to begin? The British Council has got you covered with its new Study UK Connect platform, which aims to help East Asian students learn more about UK institutions for free.
Though university representatives have been unable to meet students face to face due to travel bans and social restrictions brought about by the pandemic, they can still do so online.
"The platform provides the opportunity for live two-way communication between students and institution representatives through online chat tools, delivering a more stimulating, interactive experience," said Anna Lee, head of education services at British Council North East Asia.
The first-of-its-kind platform, which allows parents and students from Hong Kong, Macau, mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia to look at over 30 UK universities and colleges, is available upon registration until December 17.
"Students should start to research and plan their UK study and choose the right university and courses," said Lee, noting it is that time of the year.
With the Study UK Connect platform, students can interact directly with university representatives for in-depth counseling and message them if they have any further questions regarding the school and application procedures.
The platform is also conducting virtual open days so students can explore different UK universities from the comfort of their homes.
Other than Study UK Connect, Lee also suggests parents and students use the official UK university guide Discover Uni (discoveruni.gov.uk) to compare course data for tertiary education.
Students can look for courses they are interested in and compare them side by side on the website against a number of criteria, from student satisfaction and entry information to earnings after the course.
Check out university rankings or league tables, she said, but warned that rankings by the various organizations could differ as they look at different criteria with different proportions.
For example, while some look at an institutional or subject level, others look at universities' environmental and ethical performance.
To apply for UK universities, one needs to fill in an application and submit a personal statement via the UK's Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
"This is the chance for students to stand out from the crowd by explaining why they are interested in the course, the skills they have that make them suitable, and their life experiences and achievements," she explained.
Aiming to help students with the whole application process, Study UK Connect also provides webinars to help students write an excellent personal statement.
Aside from the statement, the written reference is also a vital component of the UCAS application.
Hence, students should ask ahead and not plan their application at the last minute, as referees may need time to write their references.
While the deadline for most medicine, veterinary and dentistry courses as well as Oxbridge universities was in October, the main deadline for most undergraduate courses is January 15.
"While students will be able to apply after the January deadline right up until June 30, it is better to apply early," said Lee.
"They will still need to arrange their visas if they need one, as well as things like accommodation and flights."
With a recent change for student visa applications, students will now have to apply through the Student Route rather than the original Tier 4 Route.
They will also have to meet the minimum points criteria under the UK's new points-based immigration system. This change means that students may have different documentation requirements and changes in visa maintenance.
Moreover, the uncertainty brought by the pandemic may also affect students.
While there are no travel restrictions for Hong Kong residents to the UK, some may be worried about their health and safety traveling abroad.
The British Council has been conducting a rolling survey to explore the pandemic's effects on prospective international students' study plans and has collected over 2000 responses from East Asia.
Around 23 percent of Hong Kong respondents indicated that they were "very likely" to cancel or delay their overseas study plans.
This is lower than their other east Asian counterparts. Nearly half of Taiwanese respondents said that they were "very likely" or had already canceled their study plans.
The survey also found that prospective mainland Chinese students have higher uncertainty levels compared to Hong Kong's, with over a quarter indicating a neutral answer to the same question.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of Hong Kong respondents said they are "not at all" or only "somewhat unlikely" to cancel or delay their studies abroad in the following academic year.
"Although admissions processes and modes of teaching might look different this year, the UK's world-class universities are continuing to recruit international students," said Lee.
"UK universities remain open to international students and a warm welcome awaits."