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 for advice.
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 demands.
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 Curriculum demands.
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 and A-levels.
" 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 A-level.
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-sessionalEnglish 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 than that.
" 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
" third-class degree
" or pass.
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 or both)
" 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 bodies).
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, very intensive.