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British Education System

British Higher Education System


The Higher Education System

Here is some information that will help you understand the British higher education system better. To know more, get in touch with one of our advisors. You can also get your hands on our “Study in the UK” guide, published by Studyrama and written by Study Experience’s director, Marc McHugo.






1)    University programs:

  • Foundation degree: a one or two-year program preparing students for admission into university. A foundation year is often necessary to apply to an Arts degree, or for an Engineering degree if you don’t have a scientific background.
  • Bachelor’s degree: this is the equivalent to a French This program can take from three to five years to complete depending on the subject. A Bachelor’s degree is a requirement to apply to postgraduate studies.
  • Master’s degree: A master’s degree allows students to specialize in a given discipline and to earn a postgraduate diploma. These programs can last one or two years depending on the school and on the subject. They can be taught master’s degree with many contact hours, or research master’s degree.
  • PhD: this is the equivalent to a French doctorat. It is directed at students wishing to undertake research in a given subject. A master’s degree is usually a prerequisite for a doctorate program. A PhD takes between two and four years to complete.


2)    Vocational training and higher diplomas:

  • Higher National Diploma (HND): Diploma completed in one or two years, emphasizing a pragmatic approach, and professional development in a specific domain. After completing this program, students are able to transfer straight to year three of a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Vocational Education and Training (VET): Short courses focused on a specific domain and including a work experience.



Admissions are by application only. Applications must include grade transcripts, a CV, a personal statement and two letters of recommendation from teachers and/or employers.


Sometimes students do not have transcripts or diplomas available during the application process (when they are still in high school, studying for the Baccalaureate). In that case, universities send conditional offers. For example, the University of Oxford could give a conditional offer to a student, requiring them to get at least a 16/20 grade on their baccalaureate in order to be officially accepted. During the application process, some universities also invite students to an interview to determine whether or not they will be accepted.

For some subjects, students may need to take a standardized test. Depending on universities, students applying for medicine have to sit the BMAT or the UKCAT. Study Experience offers solutions to best prepare for those tests.


English proficiency is a determining factor in an application. Students have to take the IELTS and get a satisfactory score, in compliance with the university’s requirements. For those dreading this exam, many British universities offer intensive English language programs at the end of which students can join a university without having to take the exam. For more information on English classes, visit our “English courses” page.


Academic Year

The academic year starts in September. In general, it is best to apply as early as possible (about one year in advance), but there are a few deadlines to be aware of. Students applying to Oxford, Cambridge or a Medicine degree must submit their application before October 15th, on the year preceding their entry. Other students should submit their application before January 15th, although some universities may accept later applications.


For postgraduate students, there are usually no official deadlines; programs stop receiving applications once all places have been filled, so the sooner you apply, the better! We advise students to submit their application by mid-April.


Tuition fees

  • Undergraduate studies: British universities can charge any amount between £6,000 and £9,000 per year.
  • Vocational training: vocational trainings are cheaper and start as low as £3,000 per year.
  • Postgraduate studies: the universities themselves decide of how much they wish to charge students. Some programs start at £6,000 while others soar up to £20,000 per year.


Few French students know that the British government provides financial aid to those wishing to study in the UK. This takes the form of an almost interest-free student loan. The only requirement to benefit from this loan is that students must not have already earned a Bachelor’s degree. Students start paying back once their studies are finished and only if they earn over £21,000 a year. If after 30 years you have not finished repaying your loan, your debts will simply be cancelled.



British universities have beautiful campuses, most of which are historical too. Life on campus is an essential part of the student experience. Outside classes, students benefit from a vast range of cultural and sports activities and can join student societies to discover new passions and make new friends.

Campuses usually provide students with everything they need on a daily basis: grocery shops, banks, bars, bookshops, gyms, and more.  Living and socializing on campus is the best way to make the most of your university years and many encounters you make during your studies will become lifelong friendships.


For more information on living on campus, applying to university or financing your studies, get in touch with a member of the Study Experience team.

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