The English higher education system is very well known for its high standards and intelligent graduates; many people who have obtained high honors such as Nobel Peace Prizes have attended English universities. Like many higher education institutions, most students will start going to university from age 18 on, and study for some sort of academic degree.
Most undergraduate education (other than the University of Buckingham and BPP University College, both private institutions) is state-financed with some top-up fees to cover costs. Those who study in England know of the hierarchy within the universities. The Russell Group, which is a network of 24 British public research universities, contains some of the most prestigious universities in the country. This prestigious group includes universities such as the University of Birmingham, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the University of York. All of these are well-known universities and many people, both citizens of England and international students, aspire to attend university at one of these schools.
Most syllabi are set by the universities which are offering them, and are not controlled by the government. The only exception to this are teacher education programs, which the government has a lot of say over. The English government has established the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) to maintain those standards. Most countries have specific regulations for their teachers, so this isn’t any different than studying teaching in your home country. Because of their strict regulations and high standards for teacher education programs, England is considered to have some of the best teacher education programs in the world.
Even though the syllabi are set by universities, the Office for Fair Access (OfFA), has a lot of say on the admission procedures of each university. This office was created so that everyone who wishes to attend university in England has the ability to do so. They also promote fair access to higher education, even for those who are attending university as international students. Fair access also includes those of different cultures, different races, different nationalities, and those who have disabilities.
All English universities offer a first level of degree, known as a bachelor’s degree. This takes you approximately 3 years to complete. Some institutions in England may also offer a Master’s Degree at the undergraduate level, which takes a total of 4 years to complete; many people are finding this to be a great option because it costs a lot less money than returning for a postgraduate Master’s degree, and there appears to be no difference between the credentials this type of degree gives you. Other universities offer vocational degrees known as “foundation degrees.” These take approximately 2 years to complete. They are also very flexible; you can continue to work full time while going to school.
Some of the more prestigious universities in England offer postgraduate degrees. If schools offer postgraduate degrees, they offer Master’s Degrees (typically one year, sometimes two years if your degree is research-based) and/or Doctorate degrees (three year degrees). These are only available if you have obtained a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university (not necessarily one in England).
England has a rich history of quality higher education and each university has great options for any student. If you would like some more information about England’s educational system, there is plenty of information available for international students at all of the following links.
- Higher Education Funding Council for England website – http://www.hefce.ac.uk/
- The UK Council for International Student Affairs – http://www.ukcisa.org.uk/
- The Guardian (UK)’s site on Higher Education- http://www.theguardian.com/education/higher-education
- The British Council’s page on Higher Education – http://www.britishcouncil.org/higher-education
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