UK Higher Education

UK higher education guarantees good career opportunities all over the world and success, whatever the professional field. The quality of education is ensured through a combination of old traditions and modern approaches. One of the most conservative in the world, the UK education system does not prepare just specialists, but people with good manners, broad knowledge and excellent work ethics. The first educational institutions were established in the UK back in the 12th century. Traditions have been playing the leading role ever since, but the system is flexible, capable of responding to current-day challenges and preparing professionals with skills that are in demand.

UK Education System

Specialists with a UK degree have no problem getting a job with high-profile corporations and building a prominent career. The sky is the limit for them because UK education providers top the world ratings. The UK degree is a perfect springboard for a brilliant career.

Pupils begin preparing for university education after they graduate from school, at the age of 16. A two-year stage with qualifications at the end of each year is referred to as A level programme. Students can choose the subjects they want to study: 4-5 subjects in the first year and 3-4 in the second one. A level qualifications in each subject serve as entrance exams to universities.

Apart from the A level programme, there is a University Foundation Year (UFY), a shorter university preparation course. It is ideal for foreign students with a good level of English who for some reason do not meet all the requirements of a university. This is a nine-month course that includes all necessary subjects and a rigorous study of English.

A level programme graduates do not need to do a University Foundation Year. Once they have passed A levels or the UFY qualifications, they can apply for higher education programmes.

After a University Foundation Year, only British citizens can apply to all UK universities. International students cannot enrol at any of the top five UK universities, including the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and others.

Structure of Higher Education System

UK higher education system includes several types of educational institutions and consists of three stages. Once you complete at least one of the stages, you may call it a day and look for a job. The duration of your course depends on your specialisation.

Higher education providers specialise in humanities, natural sciences or applied sciences. You can opt for a university or a university college specialising in research, a polytechnic or a college of higher education focused on applied degrees.

Degrees and Course Duration

There are three consecutive stages of higher education.

  1. A bachelor’s degree programme, also known as an undergraduate degree, usually lasts for three years, in Scotland – four years. However, there are also several seven-year programmes: medical studies, architecture, etc.
    Sometimes a so-called sandwich course is a part of the compulsory curriculum. It takes a year and includes a placement which helps you learn to apply your knowledge to carry out real-life tasks.There are four main types of a bachelor’s degree:

    • Bachelor of Arts (a degree in an art subject)
    • Bachelor of Science (research fellows)
    • Bachelor of Engineering (engineers)
    • Bachelor of Law (lawyers).
  2.  A master’s degree, a postgraduate, lasts for 1-2 years and may focus on any of the following aspects:

    • A rigorous study of previously studied disciplines, including theory and practice. To obtain a degree, you need to present a project and pass exams.
    • Research, i.e. carrying out a proper investigation under the supervision of a tutor. This leads to a Master of Philosophy degree.
  3. PhD that implies a two- or three-year research in a particular subject followed by presentation of a doctorate thesis. It is obligatory to publish findings.

Academic Year and Assessment

An academic year in the UK is divided into 12-week periods called trimesters. Three trimesters make up an academic year. During a trimester, assessment by means of various tests is carried out. Students may be given a mark or a rate of performance; it is up to an education provider to decide.

UK Tuition Fees

Higher education in the UK is tuition-based; the fee depends on the status of a student: whether they are a UK citizen or a UK Student visa holder. The fees are higher for foreign students.

If at the moment of enrolment you are a UK citizen or a settled person, you will not be charged more than £9,250. You can also get a student loan: your education will be paid for from the state budget and when you graduate and get a job with a salary of at least £23,000 per year, you will pay a certain sum once a month to pay off the debt.

Foreign students applying to UK universities are not entitled to this benefit. An international student usually pays £10,000 to £25,000, depending on the course. You might get certain privileges if you have graduated from a UK secondary school. You may also try to obtain a scholarship to study at a UK university.

The UK is proud of its education system which is closely monitored by the authorities. The Office for Standards in Education regularly inspects education providers to make sure they meet the common requirements. These measures guarantee that in return for your efforts, time and money you will get a degree recognised not only in the UK but all over the world.

Enrolling on Undergraduate Courses for Foreign Students

A foreign student can enrol at a UK university if they meet the following criteria:

  • They have an A level qualification or an International Baccalaureate (IB); the latter may be taught in the UK or abroad.
  • They have completed a University Foundation Year.
  • They have passed admission exams, if required by a university.

A Level/IB programme takes two years; a University Foundation Year is a nine-month accelerated course in subjects necessary for admission to a university. If you have passed these exams, you may apply to nearly any university. It is up to you to choose the necessary subjects; you will need to study seven to nine of them.

University Application and Deadlines

Students usually apply to UK universities through the UCAS system. However, international students may apply directly to a university. One student can only apply to five educational institutions.

The standard deadline for an application through the UCAS system is the 15th of January of the year when the course begins. However, the deadline for some medical and veterinary courses is the 15th of October of the previous year. Oxford University and Cambridge University also have an autumn deadline. The difference is due to additional admissions procedures that are compulsory. The deadline for application to art programmes is also different: you must apply before March as you will need to include examples of your work.

You will usually get an answer in the middle of May. If you receive a refusal from all courses, you can use the “Extra” option to apply for one more course.

If you are not enrolled on the course of your first choice, you may go through Clearing. It is open from late July to late September and allows you to get an available place after the first wave of admissions.

Foreigners can enrol at a UK university bypassing UCAS: sometimes universities offer places to those who meet certain requirements. If you comply with them, you can fill in a special form and apply directly to the university. Eventually, if you get approval, you can begin your studies. The form you need to complete will be provided by the university.

Admission Requirements

In the UK, applicants are preliminarily admitted to universities before the A levels results are known; therefore, the package of documents you submit must include the following.

1) Your personal statement, where you write about your future profession, its advantages and disadvantages, your development in it, and why you have chosen it. You must submit the same personal statement for all the courses you have chosen, so it must be relevant for each of them and cohesive. Your personal statement must be limited to 4,000 characters with spaces.

2) A reference, where your secondary school teacher gives you a detailed account, underlining both your merits and weaknesses.

Both texts must include your expected A levels results.

3) IELTS Academic certificate with at least 6-6.5 points for the written part (some universities might have another requirement).

Grounds for Applying for UK Student Visa

Once you pass the admission exams, the university decides to make you an unconditional offer. If you accept it, you pay a part of your tuition fee in advance as agreed. As you accept the offer, the university issues a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). As soon as you receive your Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies, you can apply for a UK Student visa.

If You Do Not Get a Place: Foundation and Undergraduate Year 1

The programme is aimed at those who did not get into any of their six courses: some colleges have signed agreements with universities allowing their students, instead of waiting for a year, to begin a Foundation and Undergraduate Year 1, an intense programme that partially coincides with the university’s first-year programme. Your high performance may allow you to get enrolled on the second-year programme. The important thing is to act quickly and apply for this course.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree can give you many more opportunities than a bachelor’s degree. If you have a bachelor’s degree from a UK university, you can apply for a master’s degree with your undergraduate results and proof of your level of English.

A UK master’s degree is also accessible to graduates of overseas universities. If this is your case, apart from your undergraduate results and proof of your level of English, you may also be asked to demonstrate your work experience.

When applying for a master’s degree, you can choose a specialisation different from that of your bachelor’s degree. Here are your options:

  • Some universities offer pre-master programmes that last for one to three trimesters. You can retrain and use the results of your finals to apply to do a master’s degree;
  • Experience in the field you are going to study for over two years. In this case, the university will contact your employer for a reference, including your job responsibilities and achievements. If the university is happy with the reference, you will be admitted to their master’s programme.

Sometimes students do not have a sufficient level of English. In this case, they can take up customised Pre-Sessional English Language courses. The contents and duration of the course depend on your results and the deadline for the master’s degree application.

What you get in the UK is exemplary education. A specialist with a UK degree is sought after all over the world. The quality is achieved through a unique combination of centuries-old traditions and modern approaches. UK universities constantly review their approaches, implement cutting-edge technologies and make sure their students receive knowledge that is relevant and in demand. This gives you a splendid chance to become a true professional and build an impressive career in the UK or anywhere else.

FAQ about UK Higher Education

How long does it take to get a degree in the UK?

To get a bachelor’s degree in the UK, you need to study for three years. It will take one more year to get a master’s degree. Medical and architecture degrees, however, require more studies – from five to seven years. In Scotland, bachelor’s courses last for four years.

Is there anything special about UK bachelor’s degrees?

In the UK, you have a chance to graduate from a university with real-life work experience. A lot of universities offer internship programs that allow you to gain expertise and understand your future profession better.

For example, a sandwich course is a four-year bachelor’s course that offers a one-year placement in a professional setting in the third year of study. Sometimes, universities provide a list of employers to choose from, but if you have a company in mind where you want to take an internship, you will be more than welcome to arrange it with them yourself.

UK education guarantees that you will get in-depth theoretical and practical knowledge and skills.

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