Who are we?

Hands On Education Consultants is a professional and friendly company offering advice about studying in the UK. We were established in February 2005.


 What countries do we represent?

We specialise only in the UK because of our extensive experience there.


 What experience do we have?

One of our Directors has 13 years’ experience working in the International Office of several UK universities, and all of our counselling staff have studied in the UK themselves. The Counsellors all visit the UK regularly to get first hand experience of our partner universities.


 How are we different?

At ‘Hands On’ we are very proud of our reputation for providing a professional and friendly service. We realise that studying overseas is a major commitment and investment. We aim to offer you independent advice and let you consider your options carefully and to keep you up to date about the progress of your application at all times.


 Why use an agent?

Applying to study at a university in the UK is relatively straightforward, and only a few universities charge a fee. However, choosing the right university and course, following up your application and keeping contact with the university can be more difficult. Hands On can help you through this important process, making sure that you are planning ahead and doing the right things at the right time. Using our experience and close contacts with our partner universities, we can help you through any unexpected events.

Once you have an offer there is still lots to do in order to accept it; we will help with all the administration involved (accommodation, Visa, English, Travel, etc).We can introduce you to other students, those already studying at your university and those going at the same time as you and offer full pre-departure briefings and advice. Remember all of our services are free so it won’t cost you any more to use our help.

Our Office is open 10am – 6pm Monday – Friday and 10am – 4pm on Saturday and is easy to get to. We are often available at other times so call to see if you can make an appointment.


 Do we charge for our service?

All of our services for students are free.

Why study in the UK?

There are many reasons to study in the UK and each year over 100,000 students go there to further their education. The main reasons are:
The quality of the teaching and research – the UK government monitors the quality of teaching and research in all the government universities so the standards are guaranteed. The UK has the strongest ‘Quality Assurance’ systems for Higher Education.
The value of English Language – after studying in the UK your English Language is going to be much better which will be useful to you and make you more attractive to employers.
The style of teaching and learning – the emphasis is on a critical approach to thinking and developing your learning skills. You will be expected to participate in classes and research topics for yourself. The courses will help you to develop a set of ‘transferable skills’ which will help you in your future career.
The courses are shorter than other countries – in the UK degree courses are shorter than in some other countries which means you can get your qualification and come back to your career in less time. This makes the UK a cheaper option in many cases.


 Are there different kinds of University?

Although all universities are funded and monitored by the government there is one common difference between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ universities. Traditional Universities – These were created before 1992. The purpose of these universities was to carry out teaching and research, and this means they will usually get higher scores in the government Research Assessment Exercise and other league tables and that more staff will have more academic and less vocational qualifications. They can be more expensive and have higher entry requirements. New Universities – These were polytechnics or colleges that were given university status 1992 by the British government. They have a reputation for focusing more on practical or vocational skills and preparing students for business, rather than research. Often staff may not have PhDs in their subject but have years of ‘industry experience’ to share. Fees and entry requirements are usually a little lower and there may be courses starting in January.


 What kinds of degrees are there?

There are several types of programmes in the UK

Undergraduate Degrees – these are usually 3 years. They can be Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) or LLB (for Law degrees). Some Undergraduate degrees allow students the chance to have a work placement to gain valuable experience while they are studying.

Postgraduate Degrees – there are several types of postgraduate degrees but the most common are: Taught and Research degrees

Taught:

Masters Programmes (MA, MSc, LLM) – these are one year programmes that involve a mixture of taught courses, assignments, exams and independent research. You will be expected to participate in classes and add your ideas to the discussions. You will also have to write a ‘dissertation’ or project which is a substantial piece of your own research and is usually worth around 25-30% of your marks.

Postgraduate Diplomas / Certificates (PGDip / PGCert) – these are often the same course work as the Masters programmes but without the dissertation. Some programmes will allow students to go on and complete a dissertation to qualify for a Masters Programme but some may not.

Research:

A Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated to PhD, is the highest degree you can earn and is based on you writing a thesis. Once you have graduated with a PhD you can call yourself ‘Doctor’. The PhD thesis is expected to add to existing knowledge, and to do this you must explore, investigate, and contemplate your chosen subject and then extend the knowledge in this subject area. The scientific community uses the term research to capture the idea.

You will start by doing a literature search and review to find all the published work relevant to your subject. Usually you will start with general reference works but will also have to search journals and publications that the academic world uses to report, share and debate information. Then you will test your hypothesis and carry out your research, before ‘writing up’ your findings. Each university establishes general guidelines that a student must follow to earn a Ph.D. degree and you will need to check these with your supervisor.

On a traditional PhD you will not usually be required to study any classes although you will have training in research skills and methods. The programme will last for a minimum of 3 years. Usually the first 2 years will be spent researching and planning and the thesis, which is then written up in the third year. As a general guideline a thesis will be about 80,000 – 90,000 words.

The NewRoutePhDTM scheme is fully equivalent to the highly regarded traditional British PhD and consists of a flexible framework that combines a proportion of taught subject specific and interdisciplinary modules designed to enhance students` knowledge and skills. New Route PhDs last for 4 years.

During a PhD you will be expected to work mainly by yourself but under the guidance of a supervisor, with whom you should have regular meetings.

To apply for a PhD you will need to prepare a research proposal and this document will form the plan for your thesis, but will also act as a basis for discussion with potential supervisors about the focus and scope of your intended research.

Each year about 800 Thai students are studying PhDs in the UK in many different subject areas and at nearly all UK universities. Many students are funded by the Thai government or their employers. The UK government also has some scholarships for international students, called Overseas Research Scholarships so check when you apply how you can be considered for these scholarships.


 Why are UK degrees shorter than other degrees?

Degrees in the UK are shorter than in other countries because of the way the UK education system is structured. Generally in the UK students specialise in their chosen subjects at an earlier age (around 16). This means Undergraduate degrees are aimed at students who already have some subject knowledge and are designed to specialise further in the subject. In some countries students study a range of subjects during their undergraduate degrees.

Masters degrees aim to build on the knowledge of an undergraduate degree so usually require students to have already studied in the subject area (although there are some conversion courses that allow you to change your major)


Is the UK style of teaching different?

The style of teaching in the UK is different from many countries as the students are encouraged to develop an approach to learning rather than simply learning what they are taught.

Whatever kind of course you study you will find it challenging and the styles of teaching very different from those that you are used to. Perhaps the biggest difference will be the amount of independent study you will be expected to do and that you will be encouraged to develop your own ideas and question all that you learn. If you are studying more technical subjects you will spend lots of time in laboratories or workshops developing your skills.

In all degrees you will be expected to study independently, that is spend time in the library and on the internet reading around the subject you are studying. Rather than simply report what you have found you will be expected to analyse and critically review your findings.

You will be expected to participate in class and contribute to the group discussions, giving your ideas and thoughts. You will be expected to challenge what you are told and what you read if you do not agree, but remember you will have to ‘defend’ your opinions and findings in any academic debate as well.


 Are British degrees recognised ?

British Degrees are recognised around the world and have a very good reputation because of the monitoring and quality assurance systems across UK universities.


 Will I need a visa?

Yes – Thai students require a visa see www.vfs-uk-th.com for the latest information

What are the entry requirements?

Higher Education in the UK has a worldwide reputation for quality and maintains high entry standards. It is important that you complete your application form clearly and correctly to make sure you have the best chance of getting an offer to study at your first choice university.

Remember what you put on the application form is all the information the University has about you and they will use this to decide if they can offer a place to you.

Usually each course has a person who is charge of the admissions, as well as being a lecturer, so they are very busy. They will look at all the applications for that course and will decide if you get a place. It is important to make their job as easy as possible by making your form clear and easy to read.

Remember for popular courses many students will apply so there will be lots of forms to read. These courses tend to fill up early so make sure to check about any deadlines for applications, or for scholarships. Also make sure you provide all the information that is asked for in the form.

When deciding who to offer places to they will usually look at 3 main things:

   your academic background
   your English Language
   your experience

Of course these are not the only things to think about as each application is considered on its merit, but these are usually the key factors.


What documents will I need to apply?

To give them the information they need you will have to provide several documents with our application:

   – Your transcripts and certificates of our previous course of study. (even if you are applying before you have graduated you should provide the most up to date transcript) Where possible this should include an explanation of the grades and marking system.
   – Evidence of an English Language qualification, usually IELTS or TOEFL (or state clearly that you are waiting to take a test)
   – 2 letters of recommendation or references, at least one from your lecturers (some universities provide special forms to be filed in)
   – A statement of purpose, introducing yourself and explaining why you want to study this course
   – It is a good idea to enclose a resume or CV giving details of any work experience or other information you want to give about yourself
   – If you are being sponsored it is also a good idea to enclose a copy of any letter you have confirming this

All of these documents should be in English, and if originals are not available then all copies can be attested (we can do this at Hands On).


What are the English Language requirements?

Being confident in English, (reading and writing, as well as speaking and listening) is one of the most important things about studying overseas.

All international students going to study in the UK will need to demonstrate their English Language ability by taking an internationally recognized English Language test. Sometimes if you have already studied in English this can be enough.

The most common tests are the IELTS test offered by the British Council and IDP, or the TOEFL test. As a general guide this table gives you an idea of the levels required to study in the UK.

If you are thinking about studying overseas then we advise you to take a test as soon as possible, even if you are not confident. The test result will show what level your English is. More importantly it will tell you how much more work you will have to do to get the score you need. You don’t have to have already got the score you require when you apply but will need to get it in order to get an ‘unconditional offer letter’ – one of the documents you need to get a student visa.


Should I take IELTS or TOEFL?

Only IELTS is accepted by the UK Visa & Immigration service so only IELTS or another Secure English Language test can be taken.


What are the application deadlines?

For most courses there are not application deadlines but the popular courses do fill up quickly. Remember most courses start in September but you can apply at any time of the year. We would advise you to apply as soon as you know you are interested in the course. Sometimes the universities are not as quick as you would like to reply to your application so it is best not to wait too long before submitting your application. It is also a good idea to apply early if you have not yet got the English Language score you require as you will have time to take the University’s intensive language courses if you need to.

If you are interested in applying for scholarships then remember they usually have deadlines which can be as early as February so do remember to check.


How long will it take to get an answer?

This depends on which university and which course but usually it takes 4-6 weeks to get an offer and can sometimes take longer. PhD applications usually take longer than this.
What if I don’t meet the requirement

There is such a range of universities and courses that there is usually something for everyone. Our counsellors will be able to advise you on the kind of courses that will accept you. Many Universities have Pre-masters or other academic preparation programmes available for students who don’t quite meet the entry requirements.


What if I dont get a good enough English Language score?

If you don’t get the score you need then you will usually be able to take an intensive English Language summer course, usually called ‘Pre-sessional’ course. This is designed especially to prepare international students for academic study in the UK, and many students who have already got their English qualification still choose to take a month’s course.

Courses are usually available for 12, 8, or 4 weeks depending on your English level and cost around £700—£1000 per month. As a rough guide you can expect to improve half an IELTS point every 6 weeks of intensive study.


What happens after I apply?

Once you apply you have to wait to hear back from the University and this sometimes takes longer than you would like. They will usually say:

   Conditional offer – this means there is a place on the course for you but you still have to get some qualifications to enter the course. The most common condition is an English Language qualification, but you may also find conditions about your final GPA if you haven’t graduated yet.
   Unconditional Offer – if you have already got all the entry requirements then you will be sent an Unconditional Offer which means there is a place waiting for you on the course.
   Rejection – if your qualifications are not suitable for the programme then the university will send you a letter to say you cannot study on this course.

Once you have heard from all of your applications you will have to decide which offer to accept and inform that university. Then you can start making arrangements for your accommodation and visa.


What about applying for a PhD is that different?

When you are applying for a research degree, like the PhD, you will have to write a research proposal as a part of your application file. A PhD is awarded mainly as the result of your making a genuine contribution to the state of knowledge in a field of your choice. The research proposal is perhaps the single most important part of a PhD application and should be prepared carefully in order to maximise your chance of successfully securing a place to study.

The proposal is a guide to what you intend to research, rather than a detailed plan that you must follow for your entire thesis. However it is the basis on which potential supervisors will decide if they are willing and able to supervise your research, and it will often prompt further discussion. It is important to focus on the specific area of your research and try to avoid large general subject areas as these would not be suitable for a PhD and you will not usually be offered a place if your research topic is too general. As a general guideline try to keep the document short and focused, limiting it to no more than 1500 – 2000 words – within the proposal, address the following questions:

1. Identify clearly the subject area for your research, provide a key research question and provide an outline of the subject matter. This section may also include a working title for your research.
2. Show evidence of a basic literature review by listing researchers who have made major contributions to this field. Suggest how your work will add to this body of knowledge.
3. Describe a conceptual/theoretical framework or approach for your research and give details of your proposed methodology, what research techniques you will use. This may include a timescale for your work as most doctoral work will include some quantitative or empirical research and require data collection. Show evidence of research planning.
4. What specifically do you hope your thesis will discover or explain that will make it an original contribution to knowledge?
5. A bibliography including work you have used in preparing the proposal

You may also want to include details or references to any other work you have done in this field.

Also remember your proposal will not only be judged on the content but your presentation as well – make sure it is a well presented, professional document.

How can I chose a course?

There are so many different courses available and deciding which one to study can be a very difficult choice, especially as it is not easy to visit the Universities. Which course and where are most important decisions you have to make as picking the right course for you can mean you will have a very enjoyable and rewarding experience, but choosing the wrong one can affect your experience in the UK.

Perhaps the most important thing is to make sure you do lots of research and find out as much information as you can about the course and the university you are interested in. Don’t just look at a university league table and use this to decide where you want to study but find out what you will be studying, how you will be taught and what the university is like. A year is a long time so it will be better to live and study somewhere you like!

It is best to think about what is the best course for you, rather than just what is the best course. Different students perform differently in different environments, with different levels of support. Even courses with the same name can have quite different content so you will need to check exactly what you are going to study. The best thing is to think about why you are going to study, and then make sure that the course you choose fits in with your longer term plans.

There are different ways to start looking at courses. Some subjects will be very common and taught at nearly all universities so you can decide where in the UK you want to live, while other courses may be very specialised and only taught at a few universities so you will have less of a choice about where in the UK you want to live. Some students even decide that the city is the most important thing to them, they must study in Manchester or they must study in London, and they look for a course in that city.

When you are looking at your options, be realistic. The entry requirements for each university will be different but often the most popular courses at the most popular universities will have the highest entry requirements, so they will be the hardest to get onto. Check to make sure that your qualifications are suitable to apply for the courses you choose.

Try to consider the strengths of different universities for that department, and look at more than just the newspaper rankings. The top ranked university may not always be the best option for every subject.


Are there different types of universities?

Although all universities are funded and monitored by the government there is one common difference, between ‘traditional’ and ‘new’ universities. Traditional Universities – These were created before 1992. The purpose of these universities was to carry out teaching and research, and this means they will usually get higher scores in the government Research Assessment Exercise and other league tables and that more staff will have more academic and less vocational qualifications. They can be more expensive and have higher entry requirements. New Universities – These were polytechnics or colleges that were given university status 1992 by the British government. They have a reputation for focusing more on practical or vocation skills and preparing students for business, than research. Often staff may not have PhDs in their subject but have years of ‘industry experience’ to share. Fees and entry requirements are usually a little lower and there may be courses starting in January.


Which rankings are the most accurate?

There are lots of different rankings of UK universities and this can make using them quite confusing. They are certainly useful giving you an indication of the reputation of a particular university but shouldn’t be the only thing you consider.

Several national newspapers in the UK publish League Tables each year which rank universities. They use a range of different criteria – and place a different weighting on each. The main tables are for the whole university and not individual subjects. Look at different newspapers – you will find a similar pattern but the places for individual universities can be very different in each newspaper.

There are also different tables for many subjects, and these will give you an idea of how strong the university’s reputation is for each subject. Again if you compare any individual subject with the overall table you will find the same university has different positions. The newspaper rankings are really aimed at British students in secondary schools to help them to choose a university.

The other rankings are based on official government monitoring of the quality of the teaching and the research in the universities. These are a more consistent guide to the relative quality of a department. There are 2 different systems used – the Teaching Quality Assessment (TQA) and the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

The easiest to explain is the RAE – the research activity in every department in every university is assessed at the same time. The last RAE was in 2001 and the next one will be 2008. The departments are given a score between 1 and 5*, to indicate the quality of their research. (There has been a new score of 6 or 6* introduced recently to show departments that have consistently scored the highest marks.) The score is important because with a high score a department can attract more research funding and better professors, but in a big research led department the main researchers may not ever teach any students. In a Department that focuses more time on teaching you may have more contact with the top lecturers and professors.

The TQA has changed several times so you may find universities have different scores; some were given ‘excellent’, ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory’ while others have a score out of 24. Also the assessments are not all done at the same time so not every department has been assessed recently – for example Business subjects were the one of the first to be done in 1994-5 and not all have been assessed again since.


How can I contact the universities?

Of course you can email or call the universities yourself. However, we will be happy to contact any UK university for you and regularly have representatives from our partners visiting our office. See here for a list of visitors. There are also several Education Exhibitions in Bangkok each year, including events organised by Hands On.

Where should I live at the university or in private accommodation?

Choosing the right place to live while you are at university can make a big difference to your experience in the UK. Just like choosing a course and a university there are usually several options to choose from. Wherever you want to stay we strongly advise you to make all the necessary arrangements before you arrive in the UK.

As an international student most universities will guarantee you a place in the University’s own accommodation and they usually have several different types of rooms available. Most students will have their own study bedroom but the costs will vary depending on the facilities you have. For example a room with your own private bathroom will cost more than if you share a bathroom with other students. Another choice you may have to make is whether to have your meals provided by your accommodation or whether you use a shared kitchen to prepare your own food.

You don’t have to stay in the University accommodation; there is a wide range of rooms for rent around most universities, if you prefer. However, this can take time to find the right room and you will have lots of other things to think about so we usually recommend staying at the University, especially if this is the first time you have been to the UK or unless you have very good friends or relatives that can help you. Remember that the costs for accommodation are higher in the UK so even a few days temporary accommodation in a hotel or hostel can add up. Whatever you choose we will be there to advise and help you book your accommodation.

The University accommodation is often the cheapest option, as your rent will usually include all the utilities so there are no ‘extra’ charges, and it is usually in or close to the university. Many universities have high speed internet access in their rooms as well, which can be very convenient for your studying. This is also a very easy place to meet other students and make friends.

However even when you decide to stay in University accommodation there will be some important things to check, as the contract you sign will be a legal agreement and you may find it difficult to break this contract if you change your mind about where to live after you have signed.

You also should check what accommodation is available as the atmosphere in different accommodation may be very different. A good example of this is if there is postgraduate only accommodation available, as this is likely to be quieter and more suitable for study than some of the undergraduate accommodation which can get noisy at times.

The costs of accommodation will change depending on where in the UK you choose to study, with prices in the north usually a little cheaper than the south.


What about my health?

Students studying a full time course for more than 6 months qualify for free treatment with the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. Shorter courses can qualify for emergency cover. Full details are given in the briefing note ” by UKCOSA (link). In can be a good idea to consider getting some insurance and we will advise you of this during the pre-departure process.


What should I take with me?

Different students will take different things. We will give you some useful ideas as we go through the application and pre-departure process. We hold our own pre-departure event and provide all our students with detailed information. Many of our partner institutions also provide you with very detailed information.


What other information is there for International students?

There is lots of useful information available and our staff will be happy to go through this with you when you visit our office. See some of the links listed above.


What is the weather like?

The weather in the UK is very different from Thailand.

In the UK, generally it is a little warmer in the South than the North and it rains more in the West than in the East.

There are four distinct seasons; Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer but the weather is often described as ‘changeable’ and you can get different types of weather in the same day.


Is it east to travel around the UK?

Yes the transport system is very good so it is easy to travel around the UK by bus, train or by cheap flights. If you have student card like an ISE card you can get discounts on most of your travel.


Are there other useful websites?

British Council – www.britishcouncil.or.th
Club UK magazine – www.educationuk.org/clubuk
HERO www.hero.ac.uk
Education UK – www.educationuk.org
UKCOSA – www.ukcosa.org.uk
NARIC www.naric.org.uk
Teaching quality Information www.tqi.ac.uk
Research Rankings www.rae.ac.uk
Times Rankings
   – www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,716,00.html
Sunday Times
   – www.timesonline.co.uk/section/0,,8403,00.html – Guardian Rankings
   – http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/
Immigration:
   UK Visas – www.ukvac-th.com
   UK Home Office – www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/comingtotheuk/enteringuk
General:
   UKCOSA www.ukcosa.org.uk
   UK airports – www.baa.co.uk
   National Express www.nationalexpress.com
   Train Timetables www.thetrainline.com
   Visit Britain www.visitbritain.com    
   UK weather uk.weather.com
   Exchange rates – www.xe.com
UK Banks:
   British Bankers Association – www.bba.org.uk/content/1/c4/59/54/Int_Students_Leaflet_Oct06.pdf
   Barclays – www.barclays.com/internationalpersonal/ib_8_student.htm
   HSBC – www.hsbc.co.uk/1/2/personal/current-accounts/student-service/international-students
   Natwest – www.natwest.com/index.asp
   Lloyds TSB – www.lloydstsb.com/personal.asp
   RBS – www.rbs.co.uk/Personal_Finances/Students_&_Youth/default.htm
British Council Publications:
   Living in the UK – www.educationuk.org/downloads/study_live_uk.pdf
   Personal safety in the UK – www.educationuk.org/downloads/safety_1st.pdf

What are the tuition fees?

Studying in the UK is a big investment and therefore requires some careful financial planning. All international students are charged a tuition fee usually between 7000-12000 pounds per year. This does not include your living or accommodation costs.

This is higher than the fees charged to UK or European students. Although this looks unfair it is because the UK government still provides a subsidy to the University to teach the UK students.

The tuition fee will depend on what subject you are going to study. Generally there are 2 types of fees ‘classroom’ and ‘laboratory’. Classroom courses are usually business, humanities and social sciences. Laboratory courses are more expensive because of the higher equipment costs involved, these include sciences, engineering and technology courses. Other courses that have higher fees are MBAs or sometimes other specialist Masters in Business and Management

You need to check how you will be expected to pay your tuition fees, some universities require you to pay in advance, others give a discount if you pay in advance, and others let you pay in instalments. However you arrange to pay the fees you will have to demonstrate you have the funds to pay the fees and support yourself during your studies when you apply for a student visa.


When will I have to pay my fees?

Most Universities wil require a deposit to secure your place.

Usually you have to make arrangements to pay your fees when you register. Many will give you the option to pay in instalments over a period of time but you will have to pay a certain amount on the day you register. Some will ask for you to pay a deposit before you travel to the UK but not all.

It is best to check the exact arrangements with each university


How about living costs in the UK?

As well as the tuition fees you will have to consider your living costs while you are in the UK, most Universities recommend around £6,000 – £8,000 will cover your accommodation, food, books and general living costs. This is only a guide and much will depend on your lifestyle.

If you are on a full time course that will last more than 6 months then you do not need health insurance as you will qualify for free treatment from the National Health Service in the UK.


How can I apply for a scholarship?

There are several sources of funding to explore if you are looking for financial support your study:

   – Thai Government or Universities
   – UK government
   – UK Universities
   – Commercial or charitable organisations.

There are several websites or databases you can search for scholarships but it is always worth checking to see if the University you are applying to has any scholarships available, and how they are awarded.

Most scholarships are awarded on ‘academic merit’; this means the students with the best academic records get the scholarships as they are used to attract the best students to the university. There are usually application deadlines for University scholarships.


Can I work in the UK?

The other way you can help fund some of your living costs in the UK is to take a part-time job. Legally you are able to work up to 20 hours a week during your studies and more in the vacations. Although this a good way of experiencing other parts of British culture than just the university you should remember that UK degrees are very intensive, especially Masters degrees that are just one year. So if you do take a job, make sure you don’t work too much and don’t let it disturb your studies.

Most students have jobs but they tend to be basic jobs in restaurants, bars or shops and you can expect to earn around £5 per hour. Many universities have a service to help students find part time work

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