UK Education System

Whilst education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local localities.

Compulsory education

Like any other nations in the world, education for preschool kids is not compulsory. They can start the program from age 3 or 4.

Universal education in the UK is for children from 5 to 16 years old, for about 12 years. Primary education from age 5 to 11 is divided into two stages, which are “infant” for 2 years and “junior” for 4 years. At the age of 7, students start to learn main subjects but are also encouraged to participate in some extracurricular subjects such as Art, Computer Science, and Music.

A lot of schools provide secondary curriculum for students between 11 and 16 years old. Some schools are comprehensive schools (with different curriculums and timeline), technology college, modern secondary school or grammar school.

After receiving GCSE and scoring in the range from C to A+ in five subjects, they can enroll in A-level program with the duration of 2 years to get General Certificate of Education Advanced Level. The result of the two-year A-level certificate is “the passport” to enter university.

Further and Higher Education

There are plenty of courses, ranging in many fields for different duration in the UK – between one and four years on average. It’s absolutely up to you to choose your own suitable studying strategy: you can study higher education right from beginning, start by learning HND or general education for two years, then make the transition to get a college degree. Or you can study for the honours degree of a specific major to totally concentrate on that field, or study two majors to get dual degree.

Bridge Program

Learning foundation courses/university transition course helps abolish the distance (if any) between the certificate(s) you have and the ones that your chosen college or university asks for. The reason for this distance is because students in many countries complete their 12-year curriculum before they enter university, whereas in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, students need to complete the 13-year curriculum.

University Foundation Program

University foundation program is often associated with jobs, facilitates career development in a series of related industries. Although, in the UK, the program itself is allowed to grant degree after completion, but it can also allow you to transmit into the second or third year in the Bachelor curriculum. Foundation program in general takes 2 years of formal education.

Undergraduate Program

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, the university or bachelor program often takes 3 years, it then leads to Honours Bachelor’s Degree such as Bachelor of Communication or Bachelor of Business. In Scotland, it takes students 3 years to get Bachelor’s Degree and 4 years to get Honours Bachelor’s Degree. Undergraduate programs in Scotland are sometimes allowed to grant Master’s Degree (Master of Arts. Master of Science or Master, etc.), depending on the traditions of each school.

For many college programs, the result of the first year does not count in title ranking at the end of the program. Second-year and third-year results, along with additional points for dissertation (you may need to write a long dissertation in your junior year) will make up your final score for graduation. Usually, you will have to choose a range of modules, some are compulsory and some are optional, these options will make up your daily learning schedule in the course.

The majority of institutions with Bachelor’s Degree programs provide you an opportunity to learn for more than 2 majors for the Joint Honours Degree or Cross-border Degree. The program for joint degree will include different majors and not necessarily equal in proportions (e.g. Bachelor of Business program combined with French). Alternate education programs are similar to other degree programs, except for having an additional year to get real working experience relating to the program matter. This often means that the program takes 4 years instead of 3 as usual.



In UK, the term “postgraduate” is used for Master and Doctoral program, usually refers to further education for students who have their first degree (the term “first degree” means “graduate study” in America). There are four training programs in the postgraduate education system in UK:

Pre-master/ Pre-higher education

Pre-master courses are for students who want to follow Master program but think they need to bolster their learning skills, improve English skills or just simply to readapt the student life. These courses often last for 6 months to a year and most of them include subjects on learning methodology, researching, computer science, data analysis, interviewing, finding and citing references and writing thesis.

Cerificates and Postgraduate diplomas

There are a lot of majors for this level. Usually, these degrees are accepted as a professional degree in that field. Many postgraduate diplomas have the same value as Master degree, eventhough you may not have to write a thesis. After completing these courses, you can transmit to Master program.

Master Programs

There are 2 teaching methodologies for a Master program: taught program or research

  • Taught master program (Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), Master of Business Administration)): Taught master program often consists of many modules, or self-research and thesis-writing with the instructions from a mentor – usually an expert in the field. This program lasts a year of formal education.
  • Research master (Master of Research (Mres), Master of Philosophy)): If you are studying a research master program not lectures and seminars, you will expend your whole time on academic research. Some programs allow you to have in-class module, but the final score would completely depend on the quality of your thesis.

Doctoral Program (PhD)

PhD Program is the most common doctoral program, usually requires students to have an important research work written by the student and a thesis with the instructions of one or maybe two mentors. While PhD program is the most prevalent way to get a doctor’s degree, professional doctorate or “new path” doctorate are also other popular options and include teaching along with researching. The total duration to complete a doctoral program may be between 5 and 8 years.