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Education System in the UK

The United Kingdom is recognised globally for its excellent quality of education and modern teaching facilities. Education institutions in the UK incorporate interactive teaching methodology and offer great student satisfaction. Universities in the UK have been ranking time and again among the top Universities across the globe. Degrees from UK Universities are globally recognised. Here’s everything you need to know about the Education System in the UK.

Introduction to the Education System in the UK

The UK is known all over the world as an education hotspot. It ranks as one of the foremost countries for exceptional education quality, globally. A major reason for this may be the investments in education and teacher training institutions set up across the UK dating back to more than 500 years ago!

The education system in the UK is divided in a hierarchy according to academic qualifications students complete in specific age groups. Several countries have adopted or designed their own academic system based on the UK’s education system.

The five most basic stages are: early years, primary, secondary, FE (further education) and HE (higher education). International students predominantly seek Higher Education programmes in the UK.

Types of Schools

Education institutes in the UK are either public or state schools. Public schools are also called private schools as they are fee-paying, independent and selective in their admission processes. These schools are open to national and international students. Most of the well-known universities for higher education in the UK are public institutions for academics and research.

State schools are funded by the UK government. They are free and intended for citizens of the UK. They are therefore not available to international students.

Stages of Education in the UK

  • Preparatory School
  • Senior School
  • Sixth Form/College
  • Undergraduate Programmes
  • Postgraduate Programs\Doctorates/Advanced Research Degrees
  • *Short Courses / CPD/ special Accreditation or Qualifications (Not a stage but additional courses)

Primary education is called preparatory school for an age group of 4 years to 11 years. Secondary school is called Senior School at the end of which students (usually 15-16 years old) take their GCSEs (General certificate of secondary education) equivalent to the SSC (10th standard) board exams in India.

Further education is called Sixth Form/College for students in the age group 16-18 years. The academic qualifications students receive at the end of this are A Levels, IB or Vocational qualifications, such as NVQs or BTECs. This is equivalent to the HSC or 12th standard board exams in India.

University Undergraduate Programmes

Higher education in the UK begins with undergraduate courses at university level. These are the First Degrees and are also called University Undergraduate Programmes. Undergraduate programs are distinct and follow a separate niche area of study, to enhance a student’s knowledge and skills in a specific discipline. Choosing the right undergraduate programme is very important as it forms the basis of future careers in a particular field.

The academic years for these undergraduate university programmes may be either of the following:

  • UG 3 years (Standard Courses)
  • UG 4 Years (Sandwich courses or study 1 year overseas courses)
  • UG 5 Years (for Architecture, Medicine and Veterinary degrees)
  • Integrated Master’s Degree – (a combination of 3 years Undergraduate programme plus 1 year postgraduate programme)

The UK government has delineated types of undergraduate degrees as follows:

  1. First degrees (honours and ordinary)
  2. First degrees with qualified teacher status
  3. Enhanced first degrees
  4. First degrees obtained concurrently with a diploma
  5. Intercalated first degrees (usually in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine wherein students take a break year to study advanced courses in a related subject.)

University Postgraduate Programmes

Postgraduate degrees are advanced University Postgraduate Programmes awarded in a variety of disciplines. These programmes are a very common choice for international students seeking to gain further knowledge and expertise within their field, for professional advancement.

The UK government defines the specific qualifications that are included in postgraduate programme as follows:

  • Master’s Degree ( e.g. MSc, MBA, MEng, MA, MPhil)
  • Postgraduate Certificate Course
  • Postgraduate Diploma Course
  • Professional Qualifications

Master’s Degrees are of two main types: taught and research courses.

Taught Courses:

Taught courses involve learning under a tutor in regular classes, seminars and lectures that may be daily or weekly. Taught courses are more popular as they involve the exchange of knowledge between teachers and students on a regular, personal basis.

Taught courses are full time and vary in length according to the type of programme:

  • A taught Postgraduate Certificate programme usually lasts 4 months and a Diploma programme usually lasts 9 months.
  • A full time Master’s Degree taught programme lasts 1-2 years. Such courses require a project or research dissertation to be completed.

Research Courses:

Postgraduate research courses like MRes (Master of Research) are not fully taught and focus on independent research. Such courses are often awarded to full-time professionals and students for their own research projects. Unlike taught courses, the MRes programme focuses largely on independent study. The academic years for this degree are usually 1 to 2 years.

Doctoral Courses:

Advanced degrees after the postgraduate degrees are doctoral courses or doctorates. Doctorates are primarily based on focused research in a particular subject area (related to the disciplines in previous education). The main element of doctorates is the doctoral thesis. In the UK the course usually takes up to 4 years. There are options for part time courses at this level as well. The doctorate courses include:

  • PhD/ DPhil – Doctor of Philosophy (usually the highest degree awarded by a university)
  • Integrated PhD  – Combining Master’s degree and PhD in a 5 year long course)
  • Professional Doctorates (mainly vocational, they combine professional knowledge with academic research).

PhDs are offered in almost all subjects in all disciplines of academics. It is meant to broaden the horizons of academic knowledge. Many careers such as university professor, scientist, researcher etc. may mandatorily require a PhD. All the high-ranked UK universities offer PhD programmes.

Professional Qualifications

Certain courses are required for professional qualifications, obtained by passing an exam in a specific subject. These are required for practice in certain career areas. Students must take these exams and get qualified separately after their previous educational courses.

Examples of such courses include:

  • LPC (Legal Practice Course) or BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course)
  • BVC (Bar Vocational Course)
  • PGCE (Postgraduate Certification in Education)

Academic Credits in UK Higher Education

The CATS (Credits Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) of the UK used to quantify how much learning is achieved through the course. It is used as a tool for measuring and comparing the amount of learning in varying programmes.

It is essential for prospective students to understand how the credit system works and the implications it has on job opportunities or further studies.

A specific amount of credits are usually assigned to modules in a course. Cumulative credits add up as a student completes various modules as part of their course. Therefore longer in-depth-programmes like Master’s degrees have higher overall credits than a diploma or certificate course. Most universities that offer higher education courses in the UK use academic credits.

Academic credit value for higher education:

  • Postgraduate Certificate Course = 60 Credits
  • Postgraduate Diploma Course = 120 Credits
  • Postgraduate Master’s Degree = 180 Credits
  • MRes Degree = 180 Credits

Understanding the education system in the UK is essential, no matter which stage a student wishes to join. According to the subject area, students can get details on the system, value, recognition and legal implications of a particular course in the UK as well as its recognition in other countries.

Teaching Methods in the UK

UK education institutions follow a rigorous quality assurance and academic audit procedures which ensure that the educational opportunities available in the UK meet the best quality standards globally.

Students studying in the UK benefit from small classes or study groups. They also have access to a wide range of teaching methods, these may include discussions, games, problem-solving, computer-assisted learning and varied simulations. These methods are proven to be effective, in fact the pass rates are high and drop-out rates are the lowest not just in the UK but globally. The UK education system helps you to develop intellectual and problem-solving skills that are best suited for the international market.

The UK has a high reputation for its education with high rankings, a major reason why so many Indian and other nationality students come here to pursue their higher studies. The teaching here goes beyond textbook learning and is more focussed on interactive sessions. You’ll be encouraged to join various activities, workshops and seminars.

Educationists here will expect students to be interactive in the classroom and participate in group discussions, quizzes and various debates. You will also learn to work independently, enhance your communication skills and build critical thought-process, creativity as well as analytical skills.

Quality Stands and Quality Qualification

Whichever course you opt for in the UK, you can expect to benefit from the highest quality in terms of teaching, research and rigorous quality assessment. The UK is the world leader in developing quality standards and performance measures.

The quality assessment is quite extensive here, a sophisticated system of quality assurance means that, when you study in the UK, you can be assured that the course and institution you have chosen are of high standards and globally recognised. All nationally recognised degrees offered in the UK are subject to stringent quality standards. Government appointed agencies are responsible for ensuring the consistency and quality of courses offered nationally. The national quality assurance agencies in the UK include the Qualifications Curriculum Authority (QCA), for England; the Qualifications, Curriculum and Assessment Authority in Wales (ACCAC); Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA); and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). The Higher Education Funding Councils assess the quality of the education they fund, and they do this via the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), this is a UK-wide body. The Higher Education Funding Councils closely monitor the quality of research done through the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE).

Academic year in the UK

Typically the standard academic year in the United Kingdom starts in the month of September – October. The deadline for the applications for the September intake is generally in the preceding January of that year. Two other intakes that are often available for courses in the UK are January and April. These are usually on a smaller scale than the September intake. Pathway programs across the UK may have additional intakes on offer. It is suggested that students check for the intakes available for their preferred course.

English Language Requirement for international students

For students applying from abroad or those who have not previously lived or studied in a native English speaking country, IELTS is a must. For MBA in particular, students are required to score 7.0 overall in IELTS. In addition, you cannot go lower than 6.5 score in any of the individual test sections. English language scores secured in the Higher Secondary (in your country) are considered by select institutions in Britain. IELTS is therefore not mandatory for some UK Universities. Speak to us now to find out more about English Language requirements. English Language classes, delivered by the British Council accredited Centre for English Language Learning, are available at specific Universities for both before and throughout the programme for international students. If you are worried about IELTS, speak to us now and we will help you secure admission at a University where IELTS scores are not mandatory.

Scholarships and Financial Aids in the UK

Students who enroll for a programme in the UK can get access to various scholarships, bursaries, grants, fellowships, and financial awards. These may be funded by the government, public/private organisations or institutions. Since many students apply to these scholarships, we suggest that you apply in advance and be mindful of the deadline. Most Universities offer scholarships to gifted foreign students including the International Excellence Scholarship, Commonwealth scholarships, etc. They offer financial guidance, student loan advice and support services. To find out more about the grants, scholarships and bursaries available in the UK and your eligibility for the same , speak to one of the education consultants at Global Study Link.

Do you plan to study in the UK?

At Global Link we can help you get placed at a UK University. Our UK education consultants will guide you on English Language Requirements, scholarship for courses in the UK and will ensure a smooth application process to join a course in the UK. Speak to one of our advisors now to get answers to all your questions answered about the upcoming intakes, programs, application process, IELTS  waiver, scholarship offers and more.

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