Education in the UK

Interested in studying in the UK? Read more about the facilities and opportunities provided by Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and LSE here! Also find out what they are looking for in potential students.

Education in the UK

By Ashley Ng

The long-awaited article on education in the United Kingdom is finally here!


As many of you may know, Oxford was where the world-renowned Harry Potter movies were mostly filmed at.


The Divinity School

Two scenes from Harry Potter films were shot in the Divinity School: Hogwart’s infirmary (The Philosopher’s Stone) and the ballroom dancing class scene (The Goblet of Fire). We also visited the Bodleian library, where we found out that Oxford actually houses the world’s largest collection of books, holding every book published since 1602. The library takes in 200,000 books every year which results in the search for 2km of shelving a year. All of their books are housed underground and there are no browsing of books in the Bodleian library.


Our discussion with students from OUMSSA

Aside from visiting the Bodleian library and the Divinity School, we also had lunch with a few students from the Oxford University Malaysian and Singaporean Students’ Association (OUMSSA). We got to know more about the lifestyle there and what it took for them to study in such a prestigious school. These are some of the responses we’ve got when we asked them to share a little:

  1. Firstly, to apply to any UK universities, you have to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS), filling in your personal details, writing a personal statement and indicating the 5 universities you wish to apply for. Bearing in mind that the same one personal statement will be sent to all the 5 universities, hence your chosen courses should not vary too much.
  2. Once you pass this round, (for Oxford) you are required to attend an interview round. Most of the undergrads we spoke to said that they did their interview through Skype, instead of flying all the way down to UK for a face-to-face interview (which will not be an added benefit unless you want to look at the facilities and explore the campus). The interview will be conducted by two professors. They would present you with a question (depending on the chosen course), and you will have to talk them through your thinking process. Along the way, they may prompt you to help you through, but the main focus of the interview is more for the professors to see how you think and how you would function under a tutorial setting that is more student directed (instead of the teacher spoon-feeding you and students passively sitting there receiving answers)
  3. Oxford is like the SMU of UK. Oxford, itself, is a town, with shops and houses situated around the university and colleges scattered around the town.
  4. Riding a bicycle is very common there. Not many cars are allowed in the streets of Oxford, hence foot traffic is extremely common. Your lectures may not be held in your college, hence you may have to cycle or walk to another college for your lectures, before heading back to your college for tutorials with your professors.
  5. Being a Singaporean will not subject you to discrimination or hinder your learning in any way. There are many Singaporeans currently studying there, and with the help of OUMSSA, you will be well taken care of!



In the World University Ranking, Cambridge is ranked above Oxford.



In Cambridge, one of their unique cultural experiences is punting, where a boat is manoeuvered down the river by a person sticking a long stick into the riverbed and pushing the boat along. Although we did not get to try it out, it seemed very exciting. In addition, we did visit King’s Chapel to listen to the Evensong, which is basically a series of evening prayers conducted in a set form, especially that of the Anglican Church. There are many of such church processions occurring throughout the day in different colleges.

Cambridge has many connections to Singapore. Our Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong graduated from Trinity College in Cambridge. The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew also visited the Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge. In fact, one of our own teacher, Mr Lye, also graduated from Cambridge!

One of the stories I can recount from the walking tour around Cambridge is that there used to be a group of people, who named themselves the Nightclimbers. Why the Nightclimbers? They would scale the large facades of buildings and carry out their shenanigans at night. One of the hilarious things they did was changing the Sceptre, Edward the III is holding in his right hand, to a measly chair leg.


Trinity College, Edward the III in the middle of the building

Besides these, there are many more interesting stories that our tour guide, Mr Steve, told us. He said that between 1904 and 1974, there were 22 nobel prize winners from Cambridge. Some of their discoveries may be familiar to you: for the splitting of the atom, discovering the double helix of the DNA, discovering electrons. Such discoveries and realizations truly shaped the world we live in. We even visited the very bar that Crick and Watson (the 2 astounding men who discovered the double helix of the DNA) came to have lunch, The Eagle.

We ended off the day listening to bell ringing at St. Mary The Great. They were not by your typical handbells, but were real, massive church bells! We could not enter the place where the physical bells were situated, but the demonstrators were tugging on the strings at stipulated times and strength in order to make the bell ring at a very specific time and way.


The Bell Ringers

Here is a demonstration of how the bells are rang:

Walking along the river at night was another sight to behold, with beautiful white swans gathering by the riverbed and the gleaming white reflection off the water surface. The cool breeze was blowing as we held our cups of hot chocolate and gathered at a field near the river. It was truly the full Cambridge experience.


Beautiful Swans at the river



At Imperial, we were brought around the campus by two students studying Medicine. They were very friendly and personable, and we struck up conversations with them very easily. I found out that the interview round in Imperial is fairly more straightforward as compared to that of Oxford, where the interviewer will ask simple questions like, “Why are you interested in this course?”. (Although Imperial also does not have business course for undergraduates)

Imperial college is located near many fascinating museums, the Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and the National History Museum. In addition, since the college is located near the Royal College of Music, they have the advantage of being able to hold an interesting BSc Physics and Music performance course.


London school of Economics and Political Science (LSE)


Firstly, LSE has a wide variety of courses to choose from (not only econs). It is located in the heart of Theatreland and many theatres, such as the Duchess Theatre and the Theatre Royal are just a stone’s throw away.


We were brought on a short tour of the campus and what amazed me the most, was the astonishing library. It was like a shopping mall for books. The comfortable seats, the wide collection of books, the spiral platform leading from one level to the next, the lifts! It was the ideal place to study and collect research materials.


The library at LSE

But, what if you are studying there and suddenly you miss Singaporean food? Have no fear! There is actually an Old Chang Kee located a few minutes away from LSE! The delicious curry puffs and a refreshing bowl of Laksa will be sure to keep your homesickness at bay.


Old Chang Kee visit

Some important things to note when writing your personal statement for this school is that:

  1. 75-90% of your personal statement should be about your academic achievements
  2. 10-25% should address relevant extracurricular activities such as voluntary/charity work, work experience, internships or paid employments, sporting achievements and social activities, additional positions of responsibility etc.
  3. The school would really like to see that you are deeply passionate about the course, so be sure to find a way to show it!


Through the Lens of an Art Student

The art students also did not miss out on any learning! Read more about what the recent Eunoia GO trip to the UK offered them.


Through the lens of an art student

By Kylin Lew


The 12-day trip to the UK in June was one that was saturated with art, in all its forms, which made for an interesting and memorable trip for everyone, especially so for the art students.

This memorable trip really allowed us to interact with the artworks there in a special and tangible way, which made the artworks come to life even more. We visited numerous art galleries and shows, including the prestigious Tate Britain and Tate modern, where we spent most of our time getting excited about the amazing artworks in the exhibition. We even had the chance to look at original artworks by artists in our syllabus and would spend up to half an hour in front of such works, bending down to peer at its details, moving back to look at it in its scale and size, and discussing every detail about the work, moving from room to room with awe.


Of course, we could not miss out on the UK’s art schools as well. We had the opportunity to talk to students and admissions officers from prestigious art schools like Goldsmiths, the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, Royal College of Art, the University of Birmingham, and the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford, to learn more about the programmes each school offers, and to hear firsthand from the students what life in their schools is like. We even got to visit some of these campuses to see their artworks, including the Master of Fine Art degree show in Slade, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham, and even had a preview of the Extension Degree Exhibition in Goldsmiths.

We also got to talk to two artists, Alvin Ong and Tal Regev, who are currently based in London, in the latter’s art studio, and learnt about their journey as art students and artists.

Overall, going to the UK, especially London where the arts scene is flourishing, to learn about art was truly an amazing experience. Not only did we get to view artworks in the galleries, but we also got to explore the possibilities of studying art in the future, which made the trip extremely unique for us.


Through the Lens of a Music Student

‘I think this trip also made me think a lot about what I define as Music, or rather Art as a whole’ The Eunoia GO trip to the UK has different activities for students in different subject combinations, find out more about what the music students experienced here!


Through the lens of a music student

By Joan Tan

This trip has been a really valuable experience for me, both as a music student and as a person. For one, it has exposed me to the different teaching pedagogies that different music universities in the UK adopt to teach music, which reflects their beliefs and values pertaining to music and what music is about (for example, teachers would offer students alternative ways to interpret a piece or a passage of music, allowing students to explore what would be the best way to perform the section and have an interpretation of their own). As a J2 student who wishes to pursue music in the future, the trips to the different music conservatories and universities has made me think more about what I want to gain out of pursuing a degree, be it specialising in a particular area of music or gaining a broader understanding in the field of study. It has also given me a better understanding of the future career paths in music, and what life in the UK is like in general.


I think this trip also made me think a lot about what I define as Music, or rather Art as a whole. When we think about Art/Music we often look at the final outcome of the process, be it the artwork shown to us, or the music that is played. But this trip allowed me to delve deeper and changed my perception of what this should be defined as. The thought struck me that a piece of good art or music should not just be defined by the physical outcome alone, but also by the concept and idea that stems from it. It was just a thought, but moment of inspiration that gave rise to a piece of art or music, maybe that alone is Art as well. On the whole, it was a really fulfilling and enjoyable experience, and I’ve learnt a lot!


Through the Lens

Find out more about the recent Eunoia GO trip to the UK in this new series dubbed ‘Through the Lens’. In the first issue, Ashley Ng shares about her thoughts on the experience as a whole.

By Ashley Ng

Have you ever been down a real coal mine? Watched a dramatized tour in a museum? Have you ever been to Oxford, or Cambridge, two of the most renowned English universities? Well, on 29th May, 19 students from our school had the privilege of going on a 12-day tour of the UK as part of the Eunoia GO Programme with Mr Lionel Lye, Ms Ang Siew Ching, Mr Xie Zhi Zhong and our tour guide cum teacher, Ms Elaine Low.

Once we stepped out onto UK ground after a 14 hour long flight (transiting in Dubai, so yes, we’ve unofficially been to Dubai too!) we were greeted by the 14˚C temperature and refreshing winds. The first few days went past like a blur, including a range of activities from a walking tour of the city of Manchester to many museum visits. Personally, the most interesting visit was the trip to the People’s History Museum, where a dramatized story about suffragette Hannah Mitchell, a historical figure famed for fighting for suffrage, was presented to us. Along with other important women, she struggled to get women the right to vote and was an outstanding northern socialist, feminist and had a cultural as well as political vision. I was really drawn into the storytelling and the costume really packs a punch. She engaged us by asking us to hold up banners and yell “Votes for Women!”, and at that point, I really felt like I was being transported back to the 1930s and felt the same sadness and pain when women were dragged out of the meetings because of their campaigns and imprisoned for their freedom of speech.


An actress playing the role of Hannah Mitchell in the retelling of her story as a suffragette


On the 3rd and 4th night, we stayed in a slightly more uncomfortable hotel, with no air-conditioning. You might be thinking, “Hey you morons, why not open the window, its cold enough outside.” But we lived in fear thinking that if we do open the windows, some insect would fly into our rooms and jeopardize our good night’s rest. Meanwhile, a big black spider was terrorizing another room till 1am but still remained uncaught. Despite this “new” experience, however, there was also a beautiful area of greenery just behind our hotel room that more than made up for it. The sunset there was amazing and would douse the area with hues of pink and orange and make everyone glow a nice golden colour. The white and yellow flowers dotted the grass and it was really a sight to behold. For these 2 nights, we were dressed in comfortable attire, donning slippers and a cup of hot tea or coffee, and we gathered at the field listening to presentations about Oxford and Cambridge traditions and top British contributions to the world.


The really beautiful field behind our hotel


We also visited Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Are you looking to study in the UK? Need more information on how to apply or how life is like? Look forward to our future posts about education in the UK and some colleges we’ve visited there!


Taking the Underground, aka the tube was another exciting adventure. For most of us, it was our first time taking the Underground. (Two words: exorbitant prices.) A trip down a few stops of the Victoria and the Northern line would cost a whopping £2.15 (almost S$5). We used approximately £20 travelling to and fro from Brixton to around Covent Garden for 3 days. But, the trains are usually empty and it isn’t hard to find a seat as trains come every 2 minutes. It came as a shock to us when we were told that train drivers are earning more than teachers in the UK. Could the high transport cost be due to the high cost of labour? Highly so. 




Moving on from that however, the theatre scene there is spectacular as well, and we were lucky to indulge in many theatrical productions while we were there! It was just yet another one of our unforgettable experiences here. (More to come in future posts, along with a run-down of the musical we watched, Matilda, and the spectacular play, The Play That Goes Wrong.)

All in all, it was an exciting and wonderful trip, with daily half an hour briefings in the morning and many walking tours, amazing scenery, cool weather, laughter in the hotel, spotting of actual black and white cows (and sheep) etc. Look forward to our future posts on this fun-filled adventure!