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UK Education System

  /  UK Education System

UK Education System

In particular, the UK higher education is valued all over the world for its renowned standards and quality. Its higher education’s prestige it also emanates from its graduates’ work afterward. Many eminent people in many different areas whose work reached global recognition came out of British universities. Some of these universities and other higher education providers are ranked at the top among universities in the world. The UK capital city, London, not by accident, is considered to be the world’s capital city of higher education. With its four universities being ranked in the world’s top ten, London has the highest number of top worldwide ranked universities per city.

By definition, the UK higher education is the level of education that follows the secondary school at the hierarchy of educational system in the UK. When the high school is over, Britons have to sit in a standard examination, which makes them eligible or not to continue their education in the higher level of education.

In the UK education system in contrast to the US higher education, there is a difference between college and university. While in the US there is no distinction between college and university with most of the people referring to a higher education provider as a college, in the UK this is not the case. Here, a college is a Further Education institution which prepares its students to earn degrees, while a university is licensed HE institution so, at the end of it, students will gain a degree.

How does the UK education system work?

The responsibility of education in the UK is delegated to four jurisdictions – England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. All of these regions have different forms of education systems, qualifications and individual laws/regulations. The major differences can be found in general and secondary education resulting in each region having its own credit frameworks and qualifications.

Study levels:

The education system in the UK consists of four stages:

  • Primary education
  • Secondary education
  • Further education
  • Higher education

Qualifications framework

A qualification frameworks is a principal national reference point that maintains academic standards in the higher education sect in any country. Two parallel frameworks run for higher education qualifications of UK degree-awarding bodies: 

  • The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of Degree Awarding Bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ)
  • The Framework for Qualifications of Higher Education Institutions in Scotland (FQHEIS)

      Around 160 universities and colleges are allowed to award degrees in the UK.

Quality Assurance System

The unique factor of education system in the UK is its Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). It is an independent body that assesses and compares universities and colleges in the country through regular audits and reviews. It also identifies the best education practices and provides feedback for areas of improvement. This ensures that the students have access to the best quality of education.

All review reports are public, and can be accessed on the QAA website. However, do note that private institutions are not subjected to assessment by QAA.

Higher education

Higher education in the UK mostly comprises bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees. As an international student, you may also transition to university level studies via pathway programs that generally include English language courses and foundation courses.

UCAS: UCAS handles admissions for all full-time higher education courses. The UCAS website lists the entry requirements for every full-time higher education course.

Unistats: The Unistats website lets you research and compare subjects and universities before deciding where to apply. You can also know the satisfaction levels of other students with the course and see what percentage of students get a graduate job after completing the course you are interested in.

Academic year

The standard academic year in the UK begins around the month of September – October. The deadline for applications for courses commencing in September is generally in the preceding January of that year. Two other intakes available for programs in the UK are January and April, which are usually smaller than the September intake. Pathway programs may have additional dates to offer. Always check for the intakes available for your course of preference. You can also check about the upcoming intakes in the UK here.

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