So you’ve played a sport your entire life and you’re ready to continue it at university level… Except you’re going to be doing it somewhere in the United Kingdom. Luckily, most UK universities do have thriving sports cultures, and you can be sure to find a proper academic and athletic fit amongst the nation’s many universities. The BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) is essentially the NCAA-esque governing body of the UK’s various collegiate sports associations, and most matches as well as various championship levels are run through the associations.
Most notable are it’s national championships (regional championships that take place in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are organized by local groups– although they do have strong connections to BUCS) as well as it’s capacity to send student-athletes to World University Games every two years.
The BUCS currently supports 47 collegiate sports (click here to see if your sport is one of them). Although they don’t have a long history like the NCAA (this year, 2015/16, will only be the 4th year they’ve hosted their annual annual/bi-annual BUCS Gatorade Nationals event), they make up for it by going out of their way to attract student-athletes to their high level collegiate sports through community outreach, scholarships and bursaries, and advertisement. And it’s working: this past year (2014/15), team entries in the BUCS increased by 4% to 4,843, and individual entries reached a high of 29,000.
But it’s important to note that the BUCS aren’t the NCAA. If you’re looking for that sort of experience (especially that of a Division I or II athlete) at home, you’re probably better off looking stateside. Top BUCS performers can (and often are) world class, but there is far fewer competition in the UK than in the states, where there are more established programs and chances at competition. There is also likely to be less funding in UK universities: a student who may be able to go on a full athletic scholarship at Stanford University likely will receive less than £5,000 for tuition at any given UK university (however, there are exceptions– you should contact the coach ahead of time to ask what type of bursaries may be available to you).
However, the BUCS could be exactly what you’re looking for should you be more interested in a Division III experience. Most universities (with exception of the London universities, who are short on space and may not actually have all the facilities necessary for sport) will offer the sport you may be interested in as long as it is sponsored by the BUCS. Training times will likely resemble a Division III school, and the cool thing is, unlike being in the US, you will likely have many chances to shine at competitions, while still gaining the full experience of being abroad.