UK Education System

The UK is made up of 4 different countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The education system in Scotland differs at school and undergraduate level to the other countries who follow a similar system.

Education in the UK is compulsory for everyone between the ages of five and sixteen, and is provided by two kinds of schools: independent (fee-charging) schools and state-funded schools.

Education System in England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Primary School

Children normally start school at the age of 5 and move to secondary school at the age of 11. Pre-school programs are also available to students at the age of 3 or 4.

 Secondary School and Post-Sixteen Education

All UK universities teach students to at least the age of 16 to prepare them for GSCEs or equivalent qualifications. Following this, students can stay on to study for AS levels (one additional year), A levels (2 additional years) or equivalent vocational qualifications. These qualifications can be done in a school, sixth-form college or college of further education.

Post Eighteen Education

Students normally commence higher education at the age of 18 and study at university or colleges of further and higher education. A Bachelor degree program normally lasts for 3-4 years, a Masters degree program for 1 year and a Doctoral degree program for 3-4 years. The UK government is currently aiming for 50% of students to continue in education after the age of 18.

Education System in Scotland

The education system in Scotland is slightly different that the rest of the UK and the main differences are as follows:

Students can enter university at the age of 17 rather than 18 as university courses in Scotland are normally one year longer than in England. Students sit Standard Grades rather than GCSEs. Students sit Higher and Advanced Higher rather than AS levels and A levels. Between the ages of 16-18 years students in Scotland often study a broader curriculum than in other parts of the UK and often do not specialize in the sciences, arts, humanities until they enter university.


Types of Institutions

  1. University
  2. Open University
  3. College and Institution of Higher Education
  4. Open College
  5. College of Technology
  6. Teacher Training College
  7. Institute

Types of taught courses

  1. Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas (PGCert; PGDip)
  2. Master (MA; MSc)
  3. Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Types of research degrees

  1. Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  2. Master of Research (MRes)
  3. Professional / Taught Doctorates (DEng, DMus, DEd, DBA, DClinPsych)
  4. New Route Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD)

International Students

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Local Students

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