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The big decision – UK or USA?

Making the decision to study abroad is one thing. Deciding where in the world you want to go is another. For many students who want a globally recognised qualification, the choice comes down to the top two international education providers: the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

But which really is number one? Here, we explore the pluses and minuses of both. And you can take our quick quizto see what might work best for you.

The recent StudentPulse survey found that the UK is about to take over from the USA as the most popular study destination for international students – despite perceptions that it is more expensive. The main criteria students used to make their decision were (in order of importance):

  • Personal safety and security
  • Reputation of the country’s qualifications
  • Cost of education
  • Ease of obtaining a student visa

But there are many other factors which affect your overall study experience. So, let’s take a look at how these countries really compare…

Prestige and reputation

Both countries have their fair share of prestigious, or ‘Ivy League’, universities and colleges, as well as globally recognised qualifications. Where do you want to work after you study? An American company may be more impressed by a US qualification, and a European or British company by a British one. But that’s not always the case – reputation also varies between qualifications and individual institutions.

Study style

There is a real difference in the way you are taught. In the USA, undergraduate students experience a more general education, often studying academic subjects outside their intended major or field of study. You may find a historian taking a course in astrophysics, for example. You’ll get a broader education – but you may also have less depth in your chosen area.

In the US, you are also able to change colleges during the course of your study – so if you’re not really sure what you want to study there is a lot of flexibility.

In the UK, students are expected to specialise as soon as they start their higher education (less so in Scotland). If you’re not sure what you really want to study, it can sometimes be difficult to change later on, or to change universities. However, there is an enormous range of choice in terms of study options. If you know what you want, you are bound to find exactly what you are looking for.

Also, the US offers a more structured style of education, where students are expected to hand in work regularly. The UK has intensive periods of assessment work and exams or final dissertations, with frequent less busy periods. This is quickly filled by social activities – the driving force behind British university life.

The true cost of education

In general, the cost of tuition is reasonably similar. Overseas student fees in the UK vary between £4000 and £18,000 per year. US student fees (which are similar to the fees paid by local students), vary between US$5000 and US$35,000 a year.

The cost of living is generally higher in the UK, especially when you compare living in London with living in a smaller city in the US. Petrol, transport, food and clothing are certainly more expensive in the UK. But you may find it more affordable to live in a smaller, rural town in the UK – which could also only be a short train journey from London or another major city.

Most undergraduate degrees take three years to complete in the UK – compared with four in the US. So you can save a year’s tuition (and start earning sooner). However, many students in the UK choose to stay and complete their Masters qualification in that fourth year.

Don’t forget to budget for health insurance when you study in the US. In the UK, you get free medical care under the UK National Health Service if you are studying for more than 6 months.

Scholarships and other funding options are available in both countries.

You can use this handy study costs calculator to work out what you would spend on education in either country.

Work opportunities

To help cover those higher costs of living, it is easier to work in the UK while you study. Your student visa allows you to work up to 20 hours per week during term time, and full time during the holidays. In the US you can work for up to 20 hours per week on campus, which places restrictions on the type of work you can do – and therefore your potential earnings.

Once you graduate with a UK degree, you should qualify for the new Tier 1 Post-Study Work Visa, which lets you to work in the UK for 2 years once you graduate. To stay on and work in the US, you’ll need your employer to sponsor your visa – so you need to get that job first, and prove to them you’re worth the effort!

Location, location, location

Both countries offer a vast range of lifestyle choices. From the hustle and bustle of London or New York, to the relaxed rural charm of the English countryside or Virginia. In both countries, campuses are located in big cities and small towns, and the real decision may be which of those choices appeals to you more.

There are different cultural opportunities while you are there. While studying in the UK, you may find yourself listening to a different dialect (or language, which is the case in some parts of Wales) just one county away, exploring castles that are over 1000 years old, or going across the channel to Europe.

The US itself is so big, you may never leave the state you study in – and that in itself may have enough to see and do. Or you can take up some of the many outdoor adventures available – skiing in Colorado, learning to surf in Malibu, or hiking through the Grand Canyon.

Find out more about studying in the UK and the USA on the StudyLink website. Or email one of our StudyLink student counsellors for more specific information.

Still not sure? Take our quick quiz and see where you should go…

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i like to give exam to join us and uk academy.

my choice is USA

I have done my graduation with Business Management in 2002 and I have 6 years managerial job experience but i am not getting desired growth because I am not an MBA. So i wish to do MBA from UK. Please suggest me about good universities and way of getting admission, Thanks.

thank you for your help

I want to study in USA,please help me to search good university and the step to take in order to have admission. Thank you.

I am graduate of Endlish Arts, so I want to pursue my Master degree in the USA. therefore, help to get University and get admission to study there.
Best Regards

I have been for long time with this website,but in fact i got noe benefit at all!!.
I am looking for a scholarship to either US or UK to study postgraduate.I hope you finally can help me at this regard.

All the best!

The thing is important to me hava a scholarship and there is no diffrence between UK or U.S.A but I would rathe studying in U.S.A

lots of love

Kindly help me to get a scholarship and upgrade my ugandan Diploma in Accounting to a degree in USA.May almighty God bless those who would read and help me get through.My Country Sudan has been in war for 21 years and i did not have time to study


Hello! How are u!I would like to get an information for myself! I have been study Advance Diploma and got the diploma.I want to further my career. I hope you will help my career which I want to. Thanks

Best regards,


I really like to study in UK

my name is sharshah i would like to study IT in UK i want to have complete details about it

i really want to uk

I am a medical doctor.I have 10 years experiances,I want to improve myself and I wish to study in usa.It is my dream.I studied immunology and pathology and I like to get degree at these fields with grant or fellowship. I hope to find the best way.


My name is Mouk Sokrina I live in cambodia i want to study continue in your country in the subject Master of IT.


My name is Mouk Sokrina I live in cambodia i want to study continue in your country in the subject Master of IT.


no need check when if it is usa

My name is Rupan khab.I live in Bangladesh, I am running CSE student.iwish to complet in,i wanted to credit transfer in the purpose of study.After compliting my CSE study,i want to study continue in the subject MBA.

i jus graduate...i dont know wheather i should continue to study or not...cos the cost to study at oversea is so expensive(only for me)one day i hope i can study at oversea which country also can...mostly i wish study at australia,italy

to go in sep-2008,wht we should to ge admission and visa

my major is metallurgy(material science). i want to get degree master in my major. how can i continue? in australia

i am a part time music producer with diploma in computer science i want to futher my education in Uk or US as an audio Engineer because i am crazy about the entertainment industry. i need info on the best university that offer this course

pls help

We want to continue my education.

I am interested in studing in UK.

Best Regards,

Hussin ali karimi

i like Uk for a long time
so i wish i can go to that place...
i think it's great...
cause i can improve my english...

Whenever i see the post like your's i feel that there are helpful people who share information for the help of others, it must be helpful for other's. thanx and good job.

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