Education System in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. London is the capital city of the UK, which is also the capital of England. The UK has a fascinating history with beautiful monuments from Stonehenge to Buckingham Palace. The UK is home to over 28 cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and seven Heritage Cities. 

Education Position of the UK

The UK is in second place among European countries and sixth overall in a global education league table. According to the World Rankings- QS, four of the top six universities in the world are in the UK.
The UK is a world-leading research nation, according to the International Comparative Performance of the UK Research Base, BIS. 54% of the research conducted by UK universities and colleges is classed as either 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent' as per the Research Assessment Exercise.

Timeline of UK Education

The history of UK education is diverse and respected around the globe. The higher education in the British Isles dates back to 1096 at Oxford, the first of the so-called seven ‘ancient universities’ located in the UK and Ireland. A ‘red brick’ university inspired by the lifelike appearance of The Victoria Building at the University of Liverpool, which was constructed from red pressed brick, is one of a small group of civic institutions that has its roots in the early 20th century.

The UK education expanded significantly from 1960 when the Plate Glass Universities were introduced and recognized. In 1992 ‘New Universities‘the UK academic institutions earned their university status. In the same year the Further and Higher Education Act was passed by John Major’s Conservative government saw a wide range of former polytechnics; central institutions or colleges become universities.

Distance Learning began in the UK back in 1858, when the University of London established its External Programme. The Open University is the prime distance learning institution in the UK. It was established in 1969 and is one of the world’s largest universities by total number of enrolled students and runs off-campus undergraduate and postgraduate courses for students based both in the UK and abroad.

Throughout the history of UK education alumni have made significant contributions to several fields such as science, politics, humanities and many more. The well-known alumni to graduate from UK’s top Universities are Isaac Newton, Mahatma Gandhi, Adam Smith, Charles Darwin and many more!

UK Education System Structure: An Outline

Education in the UK is divided into the following levels. Students are assessed at the end of each level.
  • Nursery Schools: Kids in the UK start their education at the age of 3 or 4 by attending a nursery school or Playgroup.
  • Primary Education: Children at the age of four or five up to 11 or 13 go for Primary Education. This includes Primary and Comprehensive Schools.
  • Secondary Education: Students aged 11 or 13 to 16 go for Secondary Education. This includes Secondary or High Schools, Independent Schools.
  • Further Education:  Students from the age of 16 go for Further education. Further education can technical or applied general.
  • Boarding Schools: International Students aged 16–18 in the UK live and study at boarding schools.
  • Higher Education: Students aged over 18 opt for Higher Education. Students can enter into Universities, colleges or specialist institutions like as art schools or agricultural colleges.

Higher Education Institutions: Snapshot

Publicly-designated and autonomous institutions which provide higher education include a university, university college or college of higher education and specialist college.
  • University: A university is an autonomous body, authorized by a Royal Charter to develop its own courses and grant its own degrees.
  • University College: A university college is a publicly designated, autonomous self-governing body that can grant its own taught degrees.
  • College of Higher Education: A college of higher education (CEHS) is a public-designated, autonomous body which may or may not have degree granting rights. 
  • Specialist Higher Education College:  Specialist Higher Education colleges include specialist agricultural colleges and creative and performing arts colleges and offer a wide range of general and vocational courses.

Compulsory Education

Kids in the UK have to lawfully go for primary and secondary education, which runs from about 5 years old until the student is 16 years old.

Decrees Governing Higher Education

Education Reform Act Year- 1988
Further and Higher Education Act Year-1992
Higher Education Act Year- 2004

Academic Year

In the UK, the standard academic year starts in September or October and runs until June or July.

Language of Instruction

English is the language of instruction in the UK, but there are other official languages too, such as Welsh, Scots and Gaelic.

International Students

The United Kingdom is one the top study destination for International Students. The UK degrees are recognized worldwide to apply for further studies and work. Students from all parts of world visit UK for higher studies and research. For more information read detailed International Students Guide.

Standardized Tests or Entrance Exams

 The Standardized tests requirements vary by college and program. 
  • BMAT – Biomedical Admissions Test: The Biomedical Admissions Test is an aptitude test used as part of the admissions process for Medicine, Veterinary Medicine or Biomedical Sciences in some universities in the United Kingdom.
  • ELAT – English Literature Admissions Test: The English Literature Admissions Test is a subject-specific admissions test, for entry into undergraduate courses in English Language and Literature, combined English and Modern Languages, and Classics and English at the University of Oxford.
  • GAMSAT - Graduate Medical School Admissions Test: The GAMSAT is for entry into the fields of medicine, dentistry, podiatry, pharmacy and veterinary science.
  • HAT – History Aptitude Test: The History Aptitude Test is a standardized test used as part of the admissions process to Oxford University for undergraduates applying to read History, or a subject including history.
  • HPAT - Health Professions Admissions Test, used for admission into Medicine in the University of Ulster.
  • LNAT – National Admissions Test for Law: The LNAT is an admissions aptitude test to win entrance into law schools in the UK. 
  • PAT - Physics Aptitude Test: The Physics Aptitude Test is a subject-specific admissions test to get into the undergraduate degree courses in Engineering, Materials Science and Physics of the University of Oxford.
  • MAT - Mathematics Admissions Test: The Mathematics Admissions Test is a subject-specific admissions test for undergraduate degree courses in Mathematics, Computer Science and their joint degrees from the University of Oxford.
  • STEP – Sixth Term Examination Paper: It is the university admissions tests for undergraduate Mathematics courses developed by the University of Cambridge.
  • UKCAT – United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test: The UK Clinical Aptitude Test is a test that is being used in the selection process by several UK University Medical and Dental Schools.
  • MML- Modern and Medieval Languages Test: The Modern and Medieval Languages Test is a University admissions test used in the United Kingdom. Presently used by the University of Cambridge.
  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA Cambridge): The Thinking Skills Assessment is a generic admissions test for entry to some undergraduate courses at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London
  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA Oxford): The Thinking Skills Assessment is a generic admissions test for entry to some undergraduate courses at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London.
  • Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA UCL): The Thinking Skills Assessment is a generic admissions test for entry to some undergraduate courses at the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and University College London
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