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UK Education System: Complete Guide to Education in UK

Yocket Editorial Team

United Kingdom is well known for prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge, and more that provide excellent education and offer various courses for international students. The British education system has the reputation of having one of the highest education standards around the world. Therefore, the UK education system is extremely regarded, with experts in their fields imparting the best quality education through innovative teaching methods. Apart from this, the UK is a unique country known for its diversity, culture, and innovation, with an average retention rate of 82% for international students.

So, if you, too, are interested in pursuing higher studies here, this article will help you better understand the higher education system in UK. Let’s begin!

Table of Contents

How Does UK Education System Work?

Let us begin by simplifying the UK education system for international students. The British education system has four levels—Primary, Secondary, Further, and Higher education. The primary and secondary levels are mandatory and are divided into different stages based on different age groups. Let’s explore them with the help of this infographic.

Let us now take a quick overview of each of the UK education system for international students levels:


Key Information


For the age group of 5 -11

It includes key stages 1 and 2 under the United Kingdom education system


For the age group of 11 -16

It includes stages 3 and 4 under the UK educational system

Prepares students for taking General Certificate of Secondary Education GCSEs

Further Education (FE)

For students over the age of 16

Students can take up a 2-year program in subjects they would like to take up in colleges or universities that lead to A (Advanced) level examinations.

Students can also opt for other vocational qualifications at this level if they aren’t interested in pursuing higher education.

Higher Education (HE)

This education is provided through colleges and universities.

Students can pursue undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.

Most international students enter at this level.

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Now that you have a clear idea about UK education system, let us discuss what makes UK education system for Indian students beneficial.

Reason for Quality Education in UK?

The UK education system for Indian students allows them to learn and accomplish their goals because its quality of education is rated among the best in the world. But how do the UK establishes this quality constantly? The UK education system ranking is one of the highest due to its regular checks by the Quality Assurance Agency.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

QAA is an independent body that regularly assesses the education standards of all public colleges and public universities in the UK. It also ensures that all students have access to the best quality of research, learning, and teaching, irrespective of the courses they choose to study.

NOTE: The quality of higher education in UK is maintained through a set of guidelines known as “The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of Degree Awarding Bodies.” There are two separate frameworks under this—one for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and the other one for Scotland.

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Next, let us move on to the higher education system and degrees offered by UK institutions within it.

Higher Education System in UK

Higher education in UK is offered by different types of educational institutions, including specialised schools, colleges, and universities. They offer various degrees like bachelors (undergraduate degrees), masters and doctoral degrees (Postgraduate degrees), and diplomas/certifications.

Higher Education System in UK

Following are their critical details:

Bachelors Degree

Bachelors degree is an undergraduate degree that a student can pursue right after completing his or her schooling. A bachelors degree in UK takes around 3 years to complete. However, there are some programs that take up to 4 years to complete, which includes one year of professional experience.

Further, the states like England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales offer bachelors degrees with a duration of 4 years.

Common bachelors degree for students in UK are as follows:

  • Bachelor of Law (LLB)
  • Bachelor of Education (B.Ed)
  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)

Masters Degree

If you're planning to do a masters in UK, it is a one-year-long course, but there is an option for students to carry forward and do it in two years by adding work placement opportunities to the course. These degrees are more focused on a particular area of a subject. Students choosing this degree can gain in-depth knowledge and develop diverse skills to flourish in their chosen field.

If you're eager to do a masters right after school, you can go for an integrated masters program in UK. It takes four to five years to complete the integrated masters degree (including both bachelors and masters degree).

Furthermore, the masters degrees in UK are broadly classified in two types:



Taught Masters Degree (PGT)

In taught master’s degree, students will have regular classes in their first half of the course and research in other parts.

MA and MSc are considered to be PGT programs.

Research Masters (PGR)

A research-based degree is one to two years. In this, a student is expected to work independently on one or more extended research projects and submit a thesis at the end of the course.

MRes and MPhil are common PGR programs.

Common masters degree for students in UK are:

  • Masters of Science (MSc)
  • Integrated Master’s degree
  • Master of Laws (LLM)
  • Master of Engineering (MEng)
  • Master of Research (MRes)
  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Doctoral Degrees

To pursue a doctorate degree in the UK, the students first need to finish their masters in the selected field. Besides, they will have to work on an original research topic and then conduct research to submit a thorough thesis. It takes around three to four years to obtain a doctoral degree in UK.

Common doctorate degrees for students in UK are:

  • New Route PhDs in UK
  • Professional Doctorates
  • Higher Doctorates
  • Doctorate of Philosophy

Certificate & Diplomas

Apart from the degree programs, higher education institutions also offer several diplomas and certificate programs. Here is a quick view of them:



Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Diploma (HND)

1 to 2 years

Certificates or Diplomas of Higher Education (Cert HE/Dip HE)

1 to 2 years

Postgraduate certificates and diploma (PG Cert/PG Dip)

9 to 12 months

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Next, let’s check the measure to score credits in the UK education system.

Credit System of Education in UK

The universities in UK use the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) to monitor and record a student's performance for different programs. An academic or university credit is an essential part of the UK and England education system. Usually, one credit is equal to the learning outcomes of 10 hours of study, and every degree has different credit requirements. Let’s take a quick look at these:

  • A bachelors degree requires 300 credits and for honours, it requires 360 credits.
  • An integrated masters degree requires 480 credits.
  • A PG taught master’s degree requires 180 credits.
  • A professional doctorate requires 540 credits

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Next, an essential part of the education system in UK is the grading system. Here’s how it works.

Grading System of Education in UK Universities

The England education system has a unique grading system for higher studies as it aims to be more specific in describing students' academic accomplishments. The UK universities use a letter grade scale from A to F to indicate the student's academic performance, where A refers to outstanding performance and F refers to Fail.

We have mentioned the details in the table below:

Grade Letter and Description

Percentage Score (in %)

A: Excellent to Outstanding


B: Good to Very Good

60 – 69

C: Satisfying

50 – 59

D: Sufficient

40 – 49

E: Unsatisfactory

30 – 39

F: Unsatisfactory

0 – 29

Those obtaining A to D grades are considered to have passed, while those with E and F are considered failed.

The undergraduate and postgraduate degrees can be further divided into three categories depending on your academic scores. In the case of undergraduate programs, the term honours is often used. Let’s check the degree classifications based on scores:

  • First-class Degree/Honours: 70% and above
  • Second-class Degree/Honours: 50% - 70%
  • Third-class Degree/Honours: 40% - 50%

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The education system in UK is one of the main reasons a majority of international students are attracted to UK education. When studying in UK, students discover that practical and utility-based knowledge is preferred over textbook learning. It permits students to polish their critical thinking and analytical skills, building a strong foundation and striving for a promising career.

As a student, you might have some additional questions regarding the UK’s education system. If you want end-to-end guidance, connect with our expert counsellors by subscribing to Yocket premium. They will surely tackle all your doubts!


Frequently Asked Questions about Education System in UK

Which education system is better, the UK vs US?

What is higher education in UK?

Is UK good for international students?

How many intakes are there in UK?

What is the role of the credit system in UK?

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