Study abroad: How does the UK education system work?
The UK has a long-storied tradition in excellent higher education. Since around a quarter of UK universities are among the most reputed and highest ranking in the world, the United Kingdom manages to attract nearly half a million international students each year.
By pursuing your higher studies in the UK, you’ll not only achieve world-class education, you’ll also get to know more about the unique British culture, and perfect your English language and skills. One of the most cosmopolitan places on earth, you’ll meet all kinds of people and have an enriching study experience in the country!
The program formats in the UK universities range from short courses, certificates, and diplomas, to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. British study programmes are primarily known for great flexibility. Students may also select career cantered study programmes. Intensive academic programmes are also available for students who want fewer years of study. Some graduate degree programs are less than a year long.
The primary responsibility of imparting education in the UK is delegated to the four regions
namely — England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. All the four constituent countries have different forms of education systems, qualifications and individual laws/regulations. The major differences can be found in general and secondary education, resulting in each region having its own credit frameworks and qualifications.
The education system in the UK consists of mainly four stages that include:
A qualification framework is a principal national reference point that maintains academic standards in the higher education sect in any country. Two parallel frameworks run for higher education qualifications of UK degree-awarding bodies:
The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications of Degree Awarding Bodies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ)
The Framework for Qualifications of Higher Education Institutions in Scotland (FQHEIS)
Around 160 universities and colleges are allowed to award degrees in the UK.
Quality Assurance System
The unique feature of education system in the UK is its Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). It is an independent body that has been set up to assess and compare universities and colleges in the country through regular audits and reviews in all the four nations of the UK – England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. It also identifies the best education practices and regularly provides feedback for areas of improvement. This ensures that the students have access to the best quality of education. All review reports are public, and can be accessed on the QAA website. However, do note that private institutions are not subjected to assessment by QAA.
What does higher education typically mean in the UK?
Higher education in the UK usually refers to bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. As an international student, you may also transition to university-level studies via pathway programs that generally include English language courses and foundation courses.
Students who are fresh out of school will find that undergraduate courses in the UK are designed to help them get exposure to a whole new world of skills and expertise, besides providing a thorough understanding of a subject or area of interest. The UK also offers a variety of courses in humanities, social science, art, design, business, technology, science and more!
Postgraduate courses are more specific and involve in-depth study. Indian students, who have taken a break from work in order to pursue their masters, can expect to re-join the dynamics of the workplace faster than their counterparts pursuing masters in other countries due to shorter duration of courses. There are a wide range of courses to choose from, including niche courses that are highly sought-after in the industry.
What are Sandwich Programs?
In the UK, most undergraduate degree programs take three years to complete. However, the sandwich courses are increasing in popularity among students and is four years in duration involving a year in the work place (normally the third year). Since nothing beats exposure to the real-world and hands-on work experience, universities make sure that students are given an opportunity to gauge where their interests lie and pursue what is most suitable for them. Students can also use the work experience they gain to get better employment opportunities upon completion of their courses.
What are Pathway Programs?
Indian students who are worried about their English language skills and acumen can sign up for pathway programs in the UK. These are preparatory courses that provide the extra edge with study skills, academic foundation and English language competency that is required to study at a UK university. Pathway programs can help students transition into university-level studies in the country and help strengthen their language skills as well. These are offered by both universities and private organizations to help students who need extra assistance with English language to gain admission.
Wish to gain more in-depth insights into studying in the UK? Connect with HURRAY’s overseas education counselling team at email@example.com.
Study in UK: Student Visa Requirements
The UK Government provides an opportunity to all Indian students to study in the country, but as a prerequisite they will have to obtain a student visa first. A student’s age and the type of program he/she opts for are some of the factors that determine the visa that a particular student requires.
Here’s a brief overview of the types of study visas and their application requirements:
|Type of student visa||Who it’s for||When to apply||Arrival in the UK|
|Tier 4 (General)|
|Students aged 16 or over who have been offered a place in a course at a UK educational institution||Three months before the start of your course||Up to one week before if your course lasts six months or fewer.|
Up to one month before if your course lasts more than six months
|Short-term study visa||Students who have offered a place in a short-term course in the UK, such as an English language course or training course||Three months before your date of travel to the UK||Depends on your nominated travel dates|
|Tier 4 (General)|
|Students who have been offered a place in a course at a UK educational institution with a valid Tier 4 sponsor||Three months before the start of your course||Up to one month before if your course lasts more than six months|
Eligibility criteria for Tier 4 student visa
The following are the eligibility criteria for Tier 4 student visa:
- Students must have an unconditional offer of a place on a course with a licensed Tier 4 sponsor
- English language competency
- Evidence of financial ability
Documents required for Tier 4 student visa
Students have to submit the mandatory documents along with supporting documents of financial and academic records.
When applying for your Tier 4 visa, you will generally need:
- A current passport or other valid travel documentation
- Evidence of funds to provide your living expenses for the duration of your course
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number and documents used to obtain CAS
- Passport-sized colour photographs
- Tuberculosis screening (if required)
- Assessment documentation
- Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) clearance certificate (if required)
Additional documents may also be needed if you are:
- Not a citizen of the country you are applying from
- Under 18 years of age
- A dependent
If any of the supporting documents are not in English, students have to submit a translated version of the same. Each translated document must be dated, and include the translator’s name and signature and confirmation that it is an accurate translation of the original document.
Applying for your visa online
Students can apply for their student visa application on the British Government’s official website. They can apply on the website three months prior to their intended date of travel to the UK. The application date is the date when the application fee is paid.
How can HURRAY assist with visa applications?
Students with an offer letter from any of our partner institutions in the UK will be provided full assistance from start to finish. They will receive the help, guidance and counselling they need regarding the visa application processes and requirements.
Student Visa Cost
As applicants from outside the UK, students will have to pay an amount of £348 as their visa fee.
English language requirements
To gain a UK student visa, students will have to provide an evidence of proficiency in the English language. This usually means passing a secure English test in order to prove their English language proficiency.
IELTS for UKVI is an IELTS test approved for UK Visa and Immigration (UKVI) purposes. This applies to everyone coming from a non-English speaking country. While there is no change in the content, format or level of difficulty and scoring, IELTS for UKVI follows certain extra security protocols to ensure the authenticity of the test taker.
Students will also be required to appear for a personal interview at the UK embassy or consulate.
Still have lingering doubts about applying for the UK student visa? Our team of experienced study-abroad education consultants at HURRAY have the expertise across all aspects of visa application, and would be able to simplify the complex processes of visa application for you.
You can reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a buzz at: 8971357928; 9060861054