THE HIGH EDUCATION SYSTEM
OF GREAT BRITAIN
All British universities are private institutions. Students have to pay
fees and living costs, but every student may obtain a personal grant
from local authorities. If the parents do not earn much money, their
children will receive a full grant which will cover all the expenses.
Students studying for first degrees are known as “undergraduates”. New
undergraduates in some universities are called “fresher”. They have
lectures, there are regular seminars.
After three or four years the students will take their finals. Those who
pass examinations successfully are given the Bachelor’s degree: Bachelor
of Arts for History or Bachelor of Science. The first postgraduate
degree is Master of Arts, Master of Science. Doctor of Philosophy is the
highest degree. It is given for some original research work which is an
important contribution to knowledge. Open Days are a chance for
applicants to see the university, meet students and ask questions. All
this will help you decide whether you have made the right choice.
The most famous universities in Britain are Oxford and Cambridge. They
are the two oldest English universities and they both have a long and
eventful history of their own. Oxford and Cambridge are regarded as
being academically superior to other universities and as giving special
privilege and prestige. Cambridge University consists of a group of 32
independent colleges. The first students came to the city in 1209 and
studied in the schools of the cathedral and monasteries.
Further education in Britain is for people over 16 taking courses at
various levels up to the standard required for entry to higher
education. The Open University offers degrees for people who do not have
a formal education and qualifications, or who are older. Students study
at home and then post them off to a tutor for marking. Most courses take
six years and students get a number of credits for each year’s work. The
Open University was founded in 1969 and started its first course in
1971. About 120, 000 people have enrolled since then.
There are about 90 universities, including the Open University, Oxford,
and Cambridge, that were established in the 13th Century. The 15 city
technology colleges in England teach the national curriculum but with an
emphasis on science, technology, and mathematics.
Applying to a Higher Education Institution
If you are a student of any nationality applying from a non-EU country,
your application will be processed and copies sent to the universities
and colleges you have chosen at any time between 1 September 2001 and 30
June 2002 for entry in the year 2002. The closing date for Oxford and
Cambridge, and for applications to medicine, dentistry and veterinary
science/medicine was 15 October 2001.
To have a good chance of getting a place you must apply before 30 June.
The guarantee for a good spot lessens after 15 January 2002. You should
check the deadline for individual universities and colleges.
If you apply early, this will give you enough time to make immigration,
travel and accommodation arrangements. Apply as early as possible.
If you are a student from a non-EU country wishing to apply to one
choice only, and you already have the necessary qualifications, you may
apply at any time in the applications cycle. However, before completing
an application form you should contact your chosen university or college
EDUCATION IN BRITAIN TO AGE SIXTEEN
Education in the United Kingdom (UK) is compulsory for everyone between
the ages of five to sixteen. This is the absolute minimum length of
time that students attend educational establishments. Increasingly,
children attend nursery schools at the age of three or four, and more
Britons every year are staying in education after the age of sixteen.
Educational institutions are expanding fast to meet the increased
International students are welcome in all four parts of the UK: England,
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of the four countries has
broadly the same structure of education, and broadly the same sort of
educational institutions. In Scotland, however, the system differs from
the rest of the UK in a few significant respects.
State and independent schools
There are two parallel school systems in the UK:
the state system, where education is provided free.
the independent system, where parents normally pay fees.
About one in thirteen of British school-age children goes through the
independent system. International students under age of sixteen
normally go to one of the 2,500 independent schools, which include most
Britain’s famous and ancient schools.
Britain has a National Curriculum — a statement of the minimum learning
requirements of all children at each stage in their education. This
curriculum is compulsory in the state system. Independent schools are
not bound by it, but in practice most of them teach what the National
How do Scottish institutions and study differ from those in England,
Wales and Northern Ireland?
they have the Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE), rather than GCSEs
students go to a university or university sector college a year earlier
than in the UK, and stay a year longer.
students are not committed to the subject they applied to study.
About forty percent go on to Further Education colleges from the state
or independent sector. Students who choose to continue their education
want to go to a university or university sector college to do a degree.
International students can choose further between a two-year or a
one-year program, depending on academic qualifications from their home
country and their level of English.
A-levels and AS-levels are still the most common entrance qualifications
for students in the UK though the most universities and university
sector colleges now accept the IB and GNVQs as the equivalent of
If you have not been educated in Britain, you will need to check the
level you have reached corresponds to the British system. You may find
that you have the equivalent of A-level or that your qualifications are
so good that you will be allowed to skip the first year, or even the
first two years, of your higher education course (known as advanced
entry) — but this is rare.
Another factor that will influence your application will be your level
of English. All colleges will require a certain level of English
competence, depending on the type of course applied for, and will test
for English ability either in your on country or on arrival. Most
institutions offer language support to international students alongside
their educational course, as well as pre-sessional English programs.
Studying for a degree
Studying for your first degree can take three years for an honor degree.
Some degree courses take four years to complete and some even longer
A course that includes study overseas (e.g. a language course) is likely
to take more than three years.
A course that includes a significant amount of work experience is likely
to take more than three years.
The following are examples of first degrees:
Bachelor of Arts (BA)
Bachelor of Education (BEd)
Bachelor of Engineering (BEng)
Bachelor of Law (LLB)
Bachelor of Medicine (MB)
Bachelor of Science (BSc)
Subjects studied can be:
vocational (medicine and law, for example)
academic (philosophy, literature or history, for example).
Degrees are classified in the following ways:
a first-class degree
upper second-class degree
lower second-class degree
AFTER THE FIRST DEGREE
Students with good degrees can go on to postgraduate or higher degree.
There is no absolute criterion allowing students to proceed to
postgraduate studied and much will depend on the work experience of
applicants. Generally, International students will be expected to have
the equivalent of a second-class honors or better. Postgraduate study
can lead to:
a postgraduate diploma (normally aimed at a professional qualification,
and normally a one-year taught course)
a master’s degree, such as an MA or MSc (normally a course lasts for one
year, and can either be a taught course, or a piece of original research
an MPhil, or a doctorate, normally a PhD (awarded only after an approval
piece of original research)
study in a subject in depth for its own sake, or using postgraduate work
to train for a profession (accountancy, architecture, banking and law
have very specific requirements laid down by the equivalent professional
A career in business may well helped by studying for the increasingly
popular and prestigious MBA (Master of Business Administration). You do
not have to take business studies as your first degree to do the MBA,
but you do normally have to have some substantial work experience
(usually three to five years ).
MBAs are normally one-calendar-year taught courses, usually able to
completed in less time than in the most countries. They are, however,