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Complete Guide to the Education System in UK

Yocket Editorial Team
15 mins read

The United Kingdom is well known for the prestigious universities like Oxford, Cambridge 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. The education system in the UK is extremely regarded, with experts in their fields imparting the best quality education through innovative teaching methods. Apart from that, 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, our current blog will help you better understand the higher education system in UK.


Table of Contents:

  1. How Does the Education System in UK Work?
  2. Ensuring Quality Education in UK
  3. Higher Education System in UK
  4. Grading System in UK Universities
  5. Frequently Asked Questions about Education System in UK


How Does the Education System in UK 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:


  • Stage 1: Ages 5 to 7
  • Stage 2: Ages 7 to 11
  • Stage 3: Ages 11 to 14
  • Stage 4: Ages 14 to 16



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



Key Information


For the age group of 5 -11

It includes key stage 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)

 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 understand what makes UK education system for Indian students so great :


Ensuring Quality Education in UK


The UK education system for Indian students allows them to learn and accomplish their goals because their quality of education is rated among the best in the world. The UK education system ranking is one of the highest owing to its emphasis on quality through regular checks by the various bodies.


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- one for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and another one for Scotland.


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Let us move on with the discussion of the higher Education system and degrees offered by UK institutions:


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 types of degrees, i.e. bachelor's (Undergraduate degree), Masters and Doctoral degrees (Postgraduate degrees).


Let's look over to the short brief about these degrees:


Bachelor's Degree


Bachelor's degree is an Undergraduate degree that a student can pursue right after completing his or her schooling. A bachelor's degree takes around 3 years to complete. However, there are some programs that take up to 4 years to complete which includes one year spent gaining professional experience.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales offer bachelor's degrees with a duration of 4 years.


Common Bachelor’s degree for Students in UK are :


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


Master’s Degree


If you're planning to do a Master's 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 the degree will also gain in-depth knowledge and develop diverse skills to flourish in their chosen field.


If you're eager to do a master's right after school, you can go for an integrated master's program. It takes four to five years  to complete the integrated masters degree (includes bachelor's and master's degree).


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 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 course.

MRes and MPhil are common  PGR programs


Common Master’s 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 Doctorate Degree students need to finish their master's in the selected field. Students have to work on an original research topic and then conduct research to submit a thorough thesis on the particular selected topic. It takes around three to four years to obtain a doctoral degree.


Common Doctorate Degrees for students in UK are:


  • New Route PhDs
  • 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 these:



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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Credit System in UK


The universities in UK use the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) to monitor and record a students 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 bachelor’s degree requires 300 credits, and with honors, it requires 360 credits.
  • An Integrated master’s degree requires 480 credits
  • A PG taught master’s degree requires 180 credits.
  • A professional doctorate requires 540 credits


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An essential part of the education system in UK is the grading system.  Here’s how it works -


Grading System 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 their students' academic performance where A refers to outstanding performance and F refers to Fail.


We have mentioned the details in the table below:

Grade Letter

Grade Description

Percentage Score (in %)


Excellent to Outstanding



Good to Very Good

60 – 69



50 – 59



40 – 49



30 – 39



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 case of undergraduate programs the term honours is often used:


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


RECOMMENDED: Find out more details about the UK Grading System

As a student you might have some additional questions regarding the UK’s education system. We have tried to answer the top ones below -


Frequently Asked Questions about Education System in UK


  1. Which education system is better, the UK or US?

Ans. Every country has a different education system. If compared, the UK education system is better than the US because it offers you ample choices in the courses you can study. Also, the length of the degree course offered in the UK is shorter, whereas the courses in the US are longer.


  1. What is higher education in UK?

Ans. Higher education in the UK is the third level of education after your complete school. It takes rooms at universities and further education colleges and generally includes undergraduate and postgraduate studies.


  1. Is UK good for international students?

Ans. Yes, the UK is the second most popular destination and a multicultural country, with a huge no. of students following higher education in the UK. There are various other financial benefits for international students to attain and enjoy their education journey.

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

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