Higher Education in the UK for international students

What is higher education in the uk

The UK has a variety of higher education opportunities out there. With over 100 universities offering a plethora of degree programs for students from the UK and around the world, there are always options. In the UK about a third of all students go on to some form of higher education and this number is well over 50% for students that originate from Scotland. This makes competition for schools very fierce and so it is advised to apply early for these courses.

In the UK, most undergraduate degree programs take up to three years to complete. There is the “sandwich course” option which is increasing in popularity. This is four years and involves one year within the workplace. In Scotland the courses are for the duration of four years for undergraduate courses.

Graduate or masters programs are shorter in length and undertaken after completion of an undergraduate degree. Professional degrees like medicine, veterinary, law etc., have longer programs that can take up to the duration of five years.

Types of institution in uk

Higher education in the UK are either degree-awarding such as universities and colleges or non-degree awarding. However, they provide bridging courses for entry into a degree-awarding programme. Students should always confirm the exact nature and details of their prospective course of study with their accredited institution directly.

Recognised bodies: Universities and Colleges

There are 160 universities and colleges across the UK that offer study programmes in all sectors, across undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Recognised bodies are permitted to award students either Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate qualifications, as well as selected other higher education awards.

Listed bodies & other institutions

Whilst these institutions do not hold the power to award degrees, they offer a number of vocationally-oriented and bridging programmes that may lead directly to the individual’s employment, or focus on developing a specific and technical skill set.

Undergraduate

A number of qualifications offered in the UK are at undergraduate level: Bachelor’s degree, Foundation degree, Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Certificate of Higher Education and Higher National Diploma (HND).

A Bachelor’s degree takes up to three years to complete for a full-time student. Students will commonly complete a programme in a general area of study they wish to pursue, then they select a specialisation within that area which is called a ‘major’. For example, a typical Bachelor’s title might be Bachelor of Science (BSc) which majors in Anatomy. Bachelor degrees are awarded as ‘Ordinary’ or ‘Honours,’ this depends on the student’s level of academic achievement.

Usually, an Honours degree is a Bachelor’s programme with a higher degree of academic achievement, undertaken at the same time as a standard degree. In Scotland, an Honours degree is a four-year full time course as opposed to an ‘Ordinary’ three-year course.

A Foundation degree combines academic coursework with work-based and practical learning with an employer. It may be undertaken as a programme in itself or act as a bridging qualification towards your Honours degree.

Students completing Diploma of Higher Education or Higher National Diploma programmes may similarly use these type of qualifications for entry into the third year of a degree programme. DipHE awards can be academic but are linked to a specific profession such as nursing or social work, whilst HND programmes offer studies in general fields.

A Certificate of Higher Education is the most basic qualification offered. Students may use this award for entry into a university such as a Foundation degree, DipHE or full Honours degree programme.

Postgraduate

There are a number of different postgraduate programmes and higher education in the UK. Students may wish to undertake a Masters degree, Doctorate programme, or choose between a number of postgraduate diploma, professional and vocational qualifications. Postgraduate studies take a more concerned focus of study and are typically more study-intensive than undergraduate programmes.

Master degrees are either taught or are researched-based programmes (these take up to a year to complete), whilst Doctorate programmes may take up to seven years to complete. A PhD is the highest qualification offered by higher institutions in the UK.

Postgraduate certificates and diplomas can act as bridging qualifications into a Masters degree. They can also serve to build upon skills and knowledge gained in the undergraduate study. They may also be vocational in nature and differ in terms of length and study specification. Professional and vocational programmes are geared towards improving practical, and specific skills sets required by employers.

Conversion courses are vocational programmes that allow graduates wanting to change their area of study specification. This comes naturally after their first degree which allows the individual to gain the knowledge required for either the workplace or for entry into another area.

Academic culture in uk

Academic culture in the UK values initiative, and they expect students to follow coursework and manage their academic progress independently.

Classes vary in depending on the course and institution but often involve both a seminars or a practical class element. Discussion in tutorial classes is highly encouraged, and venturing an opinion as a class, even if it contradicts that of the professor, is taken as proof of engagement with course.

Professors commonly set weekly reading and short assessment tasks that are similarly intended to equip students with the critical skills and material to participate in discussion. Engagement in seminars is also taken into consideration when grading.

Assessment is typically spread through modules and involve research essays or extended investigations. Examinations are common and are typically heavily-weighted part of your final grade. Some courses even have final examinations which are worth 100% of the overall grade.

Most universities will have an intranet also known as a ‘study portal’ system through which students may be required to submit their assignments. Students are also able to access student resources through this portal or even previous recorded seminars for reference.

Grading and classification

Undergraduate

  • 70%+ First class mark (1st)
  • 60-69.99% Upper second class mark (2:1)
  • 50-59.99% Lower second class mark (2:2)
  • 40-49.99% Third class mark (3rd)
  • 0-39.99% – Fail

Please note, you should always confirm grades with your university. Most students in the UK get a 2:1.

Postgraduate

  • 70% + Distinction
  • 60-69% Merit
  • 40-59% Pass
  • 0-39% Fail

The Higher Education System in the UK

Higher education in the UK is valued all over the world for its renowned standards and quality. Its higher education’s prestige also emanates from its graduates’ work afterward. Many people in many different areas of expertise that reached global recognition came out of British universities. Some of these universities and other higher education providers are ranked at the top among universities globally. London is considered to be the world’s capital city of higher education in the UK. With four universities being ranked in the world’s top ten, London has the highest number of top worldwide ranked universities per city.

Higher education in the UK is a level of education that follows the secondary school in the hierarchy of the educational system. When secondary school is over, Britons have to sit a list of standard examinations, which makes them eligible or not to continue their education in the higher level of education such as college.

In the UK higher education system, in contrast to the US, there is a difference between college and university. While in the US there is no distinction between college and university with most of the people referring to a higher education institution like a college, in the UK this is simply not the case. Here, a college is a Further Education institution that prepares its students to earn degrees, while a university is a licensed Higher Education institution, thus students will gain a degree.

Studying in the UK as an International Student

If you’re an international student pursuing higher education in the UK, we must let you know that not all higher education providers in the UK are referred to as a university. As this official law states, a higher education institution can be labeled as a university under these circumstances below:

  • It withholds approval by the Privy Council under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992
  • It withholds approval under the provisions of the Companies Act 2006

In addition, as an international student coming from countries other than the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you must know that you’ll require a student visa to study in the UK. If you’re aged 16 and you’re a resident of one of these countries you can still apply for a Tier 4 visa, the official student visa to withhold in the UK. Prior to this, you want to make sure you’ll have money to finance your stay there during your studies as you’ll have to prove this as part of your visa application.

The UK Education System Level of Courses

Based on the actual education regulations in the UK education system, the Higher Education comprises these levels of courses below:

Postgraduate courses that lead to a Doctorate, a Master’s degree, Postgraduate diplomas, postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE), and professional degrees. To enter this level, it is usually required to have the first degree which is a Bachelor’s.

Other undergraduate courses include;

  • Foundation degrees
  • SVQ
  • NVQ
  • Higher National Diploma HND
  • NHC
  • A minority of British universities offer ‘fast-track’ programs where you can obtain a Master’s degree at an undergraduate level. In comparison to traditional undergraduate courses, students in these programs can attend an additional year of studying instead of taking a Bachelor’s degree which the individual can then admit to a Master’s program of their choice.

This route costs much less than the usual 3-year undergraduate courses. It’s normally much more intense because there are shorter holiday breaks and the schedule is very heavy.

Typically, if schools offer postgraduate degrees, they offer Master’s Degrees. This typically lasts one year or in some cases two years if your degree is research-based. Doctorate degrees are three-year degrees. These are only available if you have obtained a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university which doesn’t necessarily have to be in England.

In higher education in the UK, most syllabus is set by the universities and is not controlled by the government or certain British educational institutions. The only exception to this is teacher education programs, in which the government has a lot of saying in the syllabus. The British government has established the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) to maintain those standards, and teaching is taken place according to the syllabus. Due to the UK’s strict regulations and high standards for teacher education programs, the UK is considered to have some of the best teacher education programs in the world.

Even though the syllabus is set by the universities cohort, the Office for Fair Access in the British educational system has a lot of say on the admission procedures of each institution of higher education. This office was created so that everyone who wishes to pursue university in the UK has the ability to do so. They also promote fair access to higher education, even for those who are attending university as an international student. Fair access also includes those coming from different cultures, different races, different nationalities, and those who have disabilities.

UK Tuition Fees and Costs

Tuition fees may vary from university to university and in which part of the country you’re looking at (England, Scotland, and Wales). It’s always advisable to check the university’s website or finance team before making any further plans for your studies. In order to attend a British university you need a lot of money saved, whether you’re a native or not, however, there are many scholarship schemes that you can seek.

International students in the UK are a substantial part of the student population in British universities. The UK is the second most popular study destination for international students following the US at top ranking.

In the end, it must be put out there that despite being hardly affordable, if you decide to study in the UK it will surely be worth all the cost. The UK education system and its higher education qualifications are highly valued by academics and employers all over the world.

At Kampus Group we can promise that there is a rich history of quality higher education in the UK and each university has great options for any student.