UK University Fee Status Assessments Myths and Assumptions

UK University Fee Status Assessments Myths and Assumptions

Myths and assumptions made by expatriates

So, the UCAS application is in at last and now you are receiving emails from individual universities asking you to fill in a Fee Status Questionnaire (FSQ). In this blog we tackle some of the myths that expatriate families may have about fee status.


Universities are part funded by the UK Government. They have to undertake due diligence in identifying students who have a right to UK/EU tuition fees (and subsequently student loans). Particular scrutiny is given to students applying for costly degrees such as lab-based courses, veterinary, dentistry and medicine. Fee status forms are sent to students who are based overseas and some who are based in the UK to establish which category of student they are and whether they are entitled to UK/EU fees. The FSQ forms are for prospective undergraduate and postgraduate students.


Myth: a UK/EU passport is enough to entitle my son/daughter to Home/EU fees.


No, British or EU citizenship is just one of the factors for consideration. It is not enough to have a British or EU passport, you also need to show that you maintain your ‘ordinary residence’ in your home country by visiting as a family often enough and for long enough each year.


Asylum seekers, ‘Leave to Remainers’ and Refugees may also be entitled to UK/EU fees.


Myth: being overseas on a visa means that I have to return to my home country and therefore should be entitled to UK/EU fee status.


Thousands of expat families are based overseas on a visa which is re-issued every two years or so. Being on a visa does not mean that your son/daughter is automatically entitled to UK/EU fees when starting university in the UK. Universities want to know how you maintain your connections to the UK/EU – do you return to the same place, as a family (at least one parent, student and siblings) for a number of weeks each year?


The actual time recommended to spend in the UK/EU is not specified – this is one of the many questions open to interpretation by a Fee Status Admissions Team. While one admissions person may think that six weeks a year is required, another may be of the opinion that three weeks a year is sufficient.


Myth: owning property in the UK/EU should ensure Home/EU fee status.


No. In actual fact, you don’t have to own property in the UK to be eligible for Home/EU fees at a UK university. It does help though if you do have a property and even better if you have a property that is vacant for sole family use each year.


Myth: returning to the UK for long enough each year for the three years before the university application will ensure UK/EU fee status.


Simply returning to the UK may help but it is important to show that you have a single ‘home base’ in order to establish a pattern of ‘ordinary residence’. The universities may also ask for evidence of visits back to your home base before the three years prior to university entry. Some may want to go as far back as the student’s birth.


Establishing UK/EU fee status is not a simple tick box exercise. It is necessary to demonstrate commitment to your home country, showing that you maintain strong family links with a clear intention to return at some point in the near future.

Why apply for a foundation programme as an international student?

International foundation courses prepare international students for study at a UK university when they do not meet all the necessary academic or English Language requirements. Sometimes there can be a misconception that foundation programmes are for students whose school results are not high enough for direct entry. In reality many international students with excellent grades need to complete a foundation course simply because of the differences in school education around the world. Some countries have 12 years of pre-university education, followed by 4-year undergraduate degrees. If these students want to go to university in a country which has 13 years of pre- university education followed by a 3-year undergraduate degree (such as the UK), they will usually be required to take a foundation programme.

Most UK one year foundation programmes are offered either directly by a university or through a partnership with a corporate provider such as INTO or Kaplan. Corporate providers may deliver the programmes either on the university campus or use their own centre facilities. Student attendance will be monitored and plenty of weekly contact hours provided. Completion of a foundation programme does not result in a formal qualification. Instead, most providers form partnerships with universities to allow progression onto an undergraduate degree (subject to achieving required results during the foundation course).

Unfortunately there is no standardisation in the way foundation courses are named or marketed, however the most common terms used are ‘foundation programme’, ‘foundation year’, or ‘undergraduate pathway’.

All foundation programmes generally have 4 main strands: academic content, English language tuition, study skills and cultural adaptation but the proportion of time allocated to each differs significantly between programmes. In addition, most foundation courses aim to prepare students for a specific area of study – the most popular disciplines are Business & Economics and Engineering & Technology. This is done in a variety of formats e.g. some market one programme in which the student can select different modules in order to focus on a particular area, whereas others market multiple programmes where the study content is controlled by the university and the subject focus is pre-determined.

Some foundation courses will also accept international students who have studied A-levels or IB but who haven’t quite achieved the required grades to apply for direct entry to an undergraduate course.  King’s College, for example, will take students on some of their specialised subject pathways but not all of them.

The variety of courses on offer by a multitude of providers means it is necessary to really do your research in order to select a programme that is suitable for you as an individual and that is likely to give you the best opportunity to gain entry to your preferred undergraduate degree course.

Have further questions or queries regarding foundation courses?  Contact the UKSO team for informed and independent advice.



Applying to a postgraduate level course. How does it differ from undergraduate level?

Applying to a postgraduate course in the UK is very different to applying to an undergraduate course. For a start, very few universities use a generic application system such as UCAS. Instead, most universities require you to apply directly to them and they differ widely in terms of admissions process and entry requirements. Therefore, when applying, it is crucial to really do your research. Look at each postgrad course separately and understand what they are looking for in a student. You’ll need to tailor everyone of your documents (CV, personal statement, entry essays etc) to each course. You might think this is a lot of work, and it is! But it is necessary to compete at postgrad level where the stakes are higher. Having worked on Admissions Teams for some of the UK’s top universities, the UKSO team is trained to guide you through these demanding application processes and maximise your chance of success.  

The other major difference between undergrad and postgrad is the expectation that you will be accomplished in a number of areas. Universities expect you to have used your undergraduate time wisely. They want to see, not only academic achievement but some work experience (have you completed an internship or held a weekend job?), extra-curricular activities and responsibilities (are you the treasurer of a society or have you dedicated a lot of time to learning a skill?) and volunteering and projects (are you passionate about a certain cause?). Accomplishments outside of your degree show motivation, dedication, commitment, time management skills…the list goes on! What university wouldn’t want that kind of student?

When we work with you, UKSO takes time to learn about you and uses that information to help you develop a competitive profile that universities will take notice of.   



What university admissions staff look for when considering applications

Admissions staff at leading universities have an in-depth knowledge of what type of applicant is likely to be a successful student on their course.

Admissions staff will consider the predicted grades, the personal statement and reference regarding a student’s suitability for the course. They may also use tests and interviews at one or more stages of the process.

  1. Admissions staff will check that the applicant is predicted to meet the entry requirements.

Staff look at each application and at the predicted (or actual) results in individual subjects and qualifications. In some cases this may include details of marks rather than just grades.

For many leading universities, there is also a minimum requirement for GCSE grades (or equivalent), particularly in mathematics and English.

Predicted grades and GCSE (or equivalent) grades are important in helping admissions staff assess an applicant’s academic potential.

  1. Admissions staff will look for evidence that the applicant has good subject knowledge and is enthusiastic about the course. The personal statement should demonstrate this.

Admissions staff look for a personal statement that clearly outlines why the applicant wants to study that particular subject, what interests them about the subject and what they know about it.

Students only have one personal statement and it should be relevant to all five choices.

The personal statement can be used in different ways depending on the university and the course applied for. Some university admissions teams score a personal statement against set criteria, while others will check that it is broadly satisfactory.

For many competitive courses, it is the personal statement that can make the difference between an offer and a rejection.

  1. Admissions staff will look for an appropriate and supportive reference from the applicant’s school.

The reference should be written by someone who knows the student and should concentrate on his or her academic ability and suitability for the course that is being applied for.

  1. Many courses do not use interviews or additional tests. However, interviews and tests may be used for courses that receive a very high number of applicants or have additional professional requirements.

There are many different approaches. Interviews and tests may be used to differentiate between very strong applicants or to assess professional suitability, for example, for the medical profession. Some courses may require other types of additional information such as a portfolio of work. The key is to do your research and plan ahead so that if you are required to sit an additional test or provide additional work you are prepared.

Applying for a masters at a top UK business school

Top business schools in the UK such as Imperial, UCL, LSE and LBS are extremely competitive. Business courses at these institutions are often individually ranked which means that they attract 1000s of applications each year and therefore, the entry requirements are high and very strict. So how do you compete with the 100s of candidates applying for the same position on the course?  

Apart from ensuring that you meet the basic entry criteria detailed on their websites, you need to present yourself as the right ‘fit’ for the institution and the course. There are some general characteristics that business schools are looking for which you need to demonstrate in your personal statement and CV: 

  1. Leadership – business courses at postgraduate level are designed to develop the leader in you but they need something to work with. You have to show them that you already have the hallmarks of a leader and that they merely have to tap into this to bring it to fruition.  
  1. International exposure – business schools are international places just like the world of work. They want to see that you are not phased by the mixing pot of ideas and approaches that come from multiculturalism and that you can thrive in such environments. By drawing on some of your international experiences you demonstrate that you can contribute to their diversity. But note: they are not interested in your beach holidays; your international exposure must have purpose!  
  1. Self-awareness – business school courses often focus on developing your soft skills (team-work, communication, project and time management etc) but to develop in these areas, you need to be able to observe yourself, take criticism and improve. A lack of self-awareness inhibits this goal so show the admissions teams your ability to self-assess, overcome challenges and learn from your mistakes in education, work or life.  
  1. Give back – Business schools don’t give something for nothing. They are looking for students who ‘give back’ to the school by immersing themselves in the student experience (societies, conferences, research groups, networking events), encouraging the next cohort of students to join the school and ultimately, becoming an accomplished alumnus/a who will go on to do incredible things. In a way, you have to pitch yourself to them through your career aspirations, your personal goals, your future achievements and give them something that they want to put their name on.  


UKSO knows what business schools are looking for. We will help you pitch yourself successfully and get a place on a world-leading masters course.  

Differences between US and UK university degrees

Differences between US and UK university degrees

UK v US applications – the Application Schedule and Process  


The vast majority of UK universities are publicly funded to some extent and subscribe to UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) – the UK’s ‘common application’ process for all university applications. Students can do a course search through the UCAS portal to identify suitable degree courses but you should also check the actual course requirements, grades and information about your course on the individual university websites.  

The UK – UCAS applications  

  • UCAS opens each year on September 1st. 
  •  Students apply to five institutions or courses on one UCAS form  
  • There is only ONE Personal Statement of 4,000 characters for all applications 
  • You can only apply to either Oxford OR Cambridge in any one academic year 
  • Competitive institutions or subjects have an early application deadline of 15th October – a year before entry –  this includes Oxbridge, Medicine, Veterinary and Dentistry 
  • Medical applicants can only choose four medical schools and one other non-medical choice 
  • Most other applications have to be submitted by the second deadline of 15th January.  
  • Art and Design applicants can apply until 24th March.  
  • Applications received after the 15th January deadline will be marked as LATE and may not even be considered.  
  • Students who have applied by January 15th deadline, may receive offers as early as 24 hours following their application but also may not hear until early May.  
  • Offers are usually conditional on students achieving grades specified by each university.  
  • Students then have to accept or decline their offers: usually accepting one FIRM choice and one INSURANCE choice – deadline 7th June for the January deadline applicants. 


US – Early Decision 1, Early Decision 11, Regular Admissions, Common App applications  


US Universities are either Public or Private institutions. Applications can be on a financial needs base as well as academic and extra-curricular. US students can apply via the Common App or a Coalition Application or to an individual institution.  

  • Application portals open on 1st August 
  • The US Early application season is usually between November and January each year 
  • Regular application deadlines are between January and March  
  • Students apply to the University, College or School as an undergraduate, not to a specific degree 
  •  Common App students can choose between 7 essay prompts and submit two or three essays  
  • Essays can be much more Personal than the UCAS Personal Statement 
  • Students need to register for SATs, ACTS or any other tests they are expected to take 
  • Offers are not specifically conditional and will not specify grades.  
  • Students need to accept their offers by March