Skip to Main Content

Library Guides

International Students: Studying in UK Higher Education

Welcome to the UK, Welcome to Westminster

Studying in the UK might seem very different to studying at home. This guide aims to help your transition to the new academic culture by outlining the key study skills necessary to succeed here. Furthermore, it provides links to learning resources, library guides and support services that you may find useful as an international student at the University of Westminster. 

Key Skills to Develop

The following list identifies several key study skills that will help you on your course at Westminster:

Autonomy – While you will be attending lectures, tutorials, and seminars each week, you will need to spend the majority of your time studying independently. This will require you to manage your time well, preparing for tutorials, revising your notes, working on your assignments and fulfilling other commitments. Find out more by visiting the Time Management Guides.

Critical Thinking and Writing - Questioning ideas and challenging perspectives are an integral part of the UK Higher Education system. You will not always be dealing with right and wrong answers and, in many disciplines, you will not be merely expected to memorise information. Instead, you will need to use and develop your critical thinking and writing skills. This involves exploring different viewpoints, analysing and evaluating academic ideas or research findings. You will be asked to develop your own argument, reach a conclusion or make recommendations. Visit the Critical Thinking and Writing Guide for more details. 

Effective Reading – Reading widely is central to academic success in the UK. You may need to engage with texts to prepare for your seminars, and you will need to read to identify information, viewpoints and evidence for your assignments. Lecturers usually provide a reading list, which has recommended texts relevant to the course. You can search for your module's reading list here or you can find it on Blackboard. Just look for the 'Reading List' link in the left-hand menu. Don’t worry, you are not expected to read the entire list! Rather, choose those most relevant to your study and interests. On the other hand, you may also need to research and read sources beyond the recommended list. In sum, you will have to read widely, selectively, effectively and critically to succeed at exams and coursework. The Effective Reading Guide provides helpful guidance on how to engage with your reading successfully.  

Note-taking – Note-taking is fundamental to comprehend, retain and use the information generated from the lessons you attend.  It can be useful to look at the lecture slides on your module Blackboard (if they are available) before the lecture to familiarise yourself with key terms. During the lecture pay attention, participate and note down key ideas that seem to be important (there is no need to copy what the lecturer says word-for-word!). For more information on effective note-taking practices, take a look at the Note-Taking Guide. 

Academic writing - this genre of writing is usually formal, objective and specific (see the Academic Voice and Language Guide for more details). When writing an assignment, you will need to focus on the assignment title and follow a logical structure using paragraphs. You should also use reliable (preferably academic) sources to support your arguments. For additional guidance on how to improve your writing, visit the Assignment Writing Guide. 

Referencing Skills – The best academic writing uses evidence from the work of others to build an original argument. It is important to acknowledge these sources correctly. Whether you are summarising, paraphrasing or directly quoting, you must include in-text citations and a bibliography to credit writers. Unless otherwise specified by your module leader, the University uses the Harvard (author-date) style of citing and referencing. For more support on how to reference, check out the Referencing Guide. You can also book an appointment with an Academic Liaison Librarian for extra help. Failure to reference properly can result in plagiarism, that is, using someone else’s words, ideas or work without acknowledging them. Be careful, as plagiarism is taken very seriously in the UK and can lead to failure of assignments or even expulsion from your course.

Oral Presentation - It is likely that during your course you will be asked to deliver an oral presentation. You will not be expected to be the smoothest orator from start, and certainly, public speaking in a foreign language can be even more daunting! But don’t worry, lecturers (and your peers) are used to a variety of accents. Nevertheless, careful preparation of your presentation, practise, and rehearsal, together with a few tricks, can help improve your performance and confidence and will make you more employable too! Refer to the Presentations Guide for tips and strategies that can improve your technique.

Group Work – While you are encouraged to work independently on your courses, there is quite often an element of collaborative work involved too. This might consist of a project or presentation that you must produce in pairs or a group. Collaborating with peers a highly effective way to learn. Additionally, teamworking is a skill you will need for the workplace: you can develop your ability to organise, delegate, lead and co-operate, for instance. These are valuable qualities that are highly sought after beyond the university. Your tutor will give you guidelines on how to conduct group tasks but don’t hesitate to approach them for additional clarification and guidance if working with your peers proves to be particularly challenging. The Groupwork Guide offers tips on how to make your experience with collaborative assignments smooth and rewarding.

Reflection – Reflection means to think about something you did (or something that happened to you), analyse it, and think about what needs doing now, or what you will do if the same circumstances happen again. For example, reflect on the lesson you have just attended. What did you learn? How did you participate? Was something unclear? How will you fill the gaps in your knowledge? Reflection is essential to become better learners and professionals. Some assignments ask you to reflect on incidents during an experience (e.g. team work, work placement, a lab experiment etc.). To learn more on reflection and reflective writing see the Reflective Writing Guide.

Did you know that...

... The University of Westminster represents 169 nationalities and has roughly 8,429 international students. Also, 30% of our staff members come from outside the UK!

International looking students leaning on British red telephone boxes


Support at Westminster

Academic Skills Development 

Wish to perfect your academic skills? We are there to support you!

We offer:

  • academic skills workshops on a variety of topics including essay writing, report writing, referencing, Library Search, academic language, critical thinking, time management etc.
  • one-to-one appointments on study skills and academic writing. You can also show us a text you are drafting and we can give feedback on your writing!

You can book these sessions clicking here.

Students learning at a workshop with one of our Learning Advisers

Academic English Modules

If you would like to further extend and develop your English language proficiency you can also complete the University's Academic English Modules, designed for students currently undertaking undergraduate, postgraduate or doctoral level study. 

Westminster International

Webpages for international students at the University of Westminster, including information on visas, accommodation and immigration available clicking here.

Westminster Support and Services

Webpages for all Westminster students providing guidance services on a range of topics from wellbeing support to financial advice, available clicking here.

Westminster International Student Blogs

Read about the experiences of international students studying at the University of Westminster here.

Snapshot of International Students Blog page

Useful Websites

This website has learning resources that are activity-based to help you find out about different aspects of academic life in the UK and the skills needed for effective study. 

Use this phrasebank to find signposting phrases and reporting verbs.

The British Council offers general courses and activities that can help you to improve your English skills and develop your vocabulary. 

A guide for students in higher education, offering activities that develop your use of the English language at university level.

Learn about genres of writing at university level. This website offers resources that can help you to structure literature reviews, reports and dissertations. 

Useful Resources

  • Bailey, S. (2011). Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students. London: Routledge.
  • Davies, M. (2011). Study skills for International Postgraduates (Palgrave Study Skills). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Lewis, M. and Reinders, H. (2003). Study skills for speakers of English as a second language. London: Palgrave Macmillan.   
  • Lowes, R. et al. (2004). The international student's guide: studying in English at university. London: Sage.
  • McMillan, K and Weyers, J. (2010). Study skills for International students. London: Prentice Hall.
  • Reinder, S; Moore, H; and Lewis, M. (2008). The International Student Handbook (Palgrave Study Skills). London: Palgrave and Macmillan.