UK Education System Guide 2021 - Everything You Need to Know (2023)

UK Education System Guide 2021 - Everything You Need to Know (1)

The UK education system is worldwide reputed for its high quality and standards. In general, the British higher education system has five stages of education: early years, primary years, secondary education, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Britons enter the education system at the age of three and up to 16 are obliged to attend school (compulsory education), while afterward is upon their choice.

Besides sharing many similarities, the UK education system at different levels at each zone of administration (England, Scotland, and Wales) differs a bit. Generally spoken these differences are not so meaningful that we can talk about the UK higher education as being one.

In UK everybody, aged over 5 and under 16 is obliged to attend school. This aging time frame contains two sections of the education system in UK: Primary and Secondary School.

The Compulsory Education in UK

Key Stage 1

UK Education System Guide 2021 - Everything You Need to Know (2)

(Video) Guide to the UK Education System - A Simple Explanation

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This stage includes pupils at the primary school aged 5 to 7 years old. Basically, during the key stage 1, kids are introduced to some of the most basic knowledge on subjects like the English language, Mathematics, History, Physical Education, Geography, History and Music. During the first year of this stage, the structure of the curriculum contains the Phonic screening, a short assessment of kids’ ability to decode and understand phonics properly. Typically, the student will speak loudly to his teacher a list of 40 words. At the end of this stage (same as in each of them), these pupils will sit for an examination aiming to measure their development in English, Maths and Science.

Key Stage 2

Between 7 to 11 years pupils will be in the second Key Stage of the compulsory education. Now the curriculum aims to move them further in gaining a bit more knowledge on core subjects. At the end of this stage, they will be tested in the following subjects

  • English reading
  • English grammar, punctuation and spelling
  • Mathematics
  • Science

In English and Mathematics, the testing will be done through national assessment tests, while the teacher will independently assess the level of improvement of each student in Science.

Key Stage 3

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Pupils aged 11 to 14 are in the third stage of compulsory education. To a certain degree, this period of their education is very important because only a few years later they will sit for the GCSE national qualification. The curriculum during this stage of education will also contain new subjects at which students are supposed to get some basic knowledge before moving any further in the upcoming stages of education. The subjects learned in Key Stage 3 are English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, Art and Design, Music, Physical Education, Modern Foreign Languages, Design and Technology and Computing. At the end of the Key Stage 3, some students may take their GCSE or other national qualifications.

Key Stage 4

The final stage of the compulsory education, the Key Stage 4 lasts from the age of 14 to 16. This is the most common period of time for students to undertake the national assessment tests that will lead them to take a GCSE or other national qualifications.

The compulsory national curriculum at this stage contains the “core” and “foundation” subjects.

These are the “core” subjects taught at the Key Stage 4:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Science

And these are the “foundation” subjects taught at the Key Stage 4:

  • Computing
  • Physical Education
  • Citizenship

Additionally, schools in UK are obliged to offer one of the following subjects during this stage of education

  • Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern Foreign Languages

The Higher Education System in the United Kingdom

In particular, the UK higher education is valued all over the world for its renowned standards and quality. Its higher education’s prestige it also emanates from its graduates’ work afterward. Many eminent people in many different areas whose work reached global recognition came out of British universities. Some of these universities and other higher education providers are ranked at the top among universities in the world. The UK capital city, London, not by accident, is considered to be the world’s capital city of higher education. With its four universities being ranked in the world’s top ten, London has the highest number of top worldwide ranked universities per city.

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By definition, the UK higher education is the level of education that follows the secondary school at the hierarchy of educational system in the UK. When the high school is over, Britons have to sit in a standard examination, which makes them eligible or not to continue their education in the higher level of education.

In the UK education system in contrast to the US higher education, there is a difference between college and university. While in the US there is no distinction between college and university with most of the people referring to a higher education provider as a college, in the UK this is not the case. Here, a college is a Further Education institution which prepares its students to earn degrees, while a university is licensed HE institution so, at the end of it, students will gain a degree.

Studying in the UK as an International Student

If you’re an international student, you must point out that not all higher education providers in the UK are referred to as a university. This issue is regulated by law. As this official regulation states, a higher education institution can be labeled as a university under these circumstances:

  • If it gets an approval by the Privy Council under Further and Higher Education Act 1992
  • If it gets an approval under the provisions of the Companies Act 2006.

As an international student coming from countries other than the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you must know that you’ll need a student visa to study in the UK. If you’re aged 16 and you’re a resident of one of these countries you can apply for a Tier 4 visa (General student), the official student visa in the UK. Prior to this, you want to make sure you’ll have money to finance your stay there during your studies. When applying for a visa you’ll need to show you have enough money to cover your course tuitions and other expenses.

UK Education System Guide 2021 - Everything You Need to Know (3)Most undergraduate education in the UK education system (other than the University of Buckingham and BPP University College, both private institutions) is state-financed with some top-up fees to cover costs. Those who study in the UK know of the hierarchy within the universities. In the British school system, there is The Russell Group, which is a network of 24 British public research universities, contains some of the most prestigious universities in the country. This prestigious group includes universities such as the University of Birmingham, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and the University of York. All of these are well-known universities and many people, both citizens of the UK and international students, aspire to attend university at one of these schools.

The UK Education System Level of Courses

Based on the actual education regulations in the UK education system, the Higher Education comprises these levels of courses:

Postgraduate courses that lead to a Doctorate, a Master’s degree (Taught or Research), Postgraduate diplomas, postgraduate certificates of education (PGCE) and professional degrees. To enter this level, it is usually required to have a first degree (Bachelor).

Undergraduate courses which include a wide range of first degrees (Bachelor’s): honours and ordinary degrees, qualified teacher status, enhanced first degrees, intercalated degrees (first-degree students in specific study fields may interrupt their ongoing studies and spend a year studying a field related to their major study subject).

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Other undergraduate courses: Foundation degrees, SVQ, NVQ, Higher National Diploma HND (or equivalent), NHC (or equivalent) etc.

An undergraduate course it usually takes 3 years to finish, while Scotland makes an exemption because it takes 4 years to finish an undergraduate course. The higher education in the UK education system is having an extended number of universities that are offering 4-year undergraduate courses, also known as “sandwich courses”. This program includes one year in a workplace, usually in your third year.

Some British universities offer fast-track programs where you can obtain a Master’s degree at the undergraduate level. By contrast to traditional undergraduate levels, students in these programs can attend an additional year of studying instead of taking a Bachelor degree and then admit to a Master program. Besides, it costs much less than usual 3-year undergraduate courses, it’s normally much intense because there are shorten holiday breaks and the schedule is heavy.

Some of the more prestigious universities in UK offer postgraduate degrees. If schools offer postgraduate degrees, they offer Master’s Degrees (typically one year, sometimes two years if your degree is research-based) and/or Doctorate degrees (three-year degrees). These are only available if you have obtained a bachelor’s degree at an accredited university (not necessarily one in England).

In the United Kingdom education system, most syllabi are set by the universities which are offering them and are not controlled by the government or certain British educational institution. The only exception to this is teacher education programs, which the government has a lot of say over. The British government has established the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) to maintain those standards. Most countries have specific regulations for their teachers, so this isn’t any different than studying teaching in your home country. Because of their strict regulations and high standards for teacher education programs, the UK is considered to have some of the best teacher education programs in the world.

Even though the syllabi are set by universities, the Office for Fair Access (OfFA) in the British school system, has a lot of say on the admission procedures of each university. This office was created so that everyone who wishes to attend university in UK has the ability to do so. They also promote fair access to higher education, even for those who are attending university as international students. Fair access also includes those of different cultures, different races, different nationalities, and those who have disabilities.

UK Tuition Fees and Costs

The reputation of the British higher education goes hand to hand with its costs. Tuition fees may vary from university to university and in which zone of administration you’re looking at (England, Scotland, and Wales), so it’s always advisable to check the university’s website before making any further plan for your studies. For sure, to attend a British university you need a lot of money packed in, whether you’re a native or not, but since there are many scholarship schemes you can seek one.

International students are a substantial part of the student population in British universities. The UK is the second most popular study destination for international students following the US at the top. If you decide to be one of more than a million foreign students in the US, you’re definitely one step far from a guaranteed brighter future.

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In the end, it must be emphasized that despite being hardly affordable, if you decide to study in the UK will surely worth the cost. The UK education system and its higher education degrees are valued by academics and employers all over the world.

The UK has a rich history of quality higher education and each university has great options for any student. If you would like some more information about England’s educational system, there is plenty of information available for international students at all of the following links.


What are the four stages of UK education system? ›

Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 16.

What do you know about UK education system? ›

The education system in the UK is divided into four main parts, primary education, secondary education, further education and higher education. Children in the UK have to legally attend primary and secondary education which runs from about 5 years old until the student is 16 years old.

Is studying in UK worth it 2021? ›

Students who have studied in U.K have time and again praised its educational system; they have also had nothing but good things to say about campus life too! Studying in Britain is certainly one of those 'must do' kind of things if you're looking to pursue an international degree program today!

Which country has the best education system 2021 ranking? ›

  • United States. #1 in Education Rankings. No Change in Rank from 2021. ...
  • United Kingdom. #2 in Education Rankings. ...
  • Germany. #3 in Education Rankings. ...
  • Canada. #4 in Education Rankings. ...
  • France. #5 in Education Rankings. ...
  • Switzerland. #6 in Education Rankings. ...
  • Japan. #7 in Education Rankings. ...
  • Sweden. #8 in Education Rankings.

How long is a school day in England? ›

School Hours in the UK

The school hours are determined by each school but on average is about 5-6 hours per day. Normally, school starts at around 8:00- 9:00, and fishes at 15:00-16:00, but every school has different schedules.

Where is the UK ranked in education? ›

The Programme for International Student Assessment coordinated by the OECD currently ranks the overall knowledge and skills of British 15-year-olds as 13th in the world in reading, literacy, mathematics, and science with the average British student scoring 503.7, compared with the OECD average of 493.

What are the 5 stages of education? ›

Stages of School Education for a Child in India
  • Pre-primary Stage: The pre-primary stage is the foundation of a child's behavior, knowledge, and skills. ...
  • Primary Stage: The primary stage of school education consists of Classes I to V. ...
  • Middle Stage: ...
  • Secondary Stage: ...
  • Higher Secondary Stage:
4 Nov 2019

What are the main issues in education system UK? ›

Increasing behavioural issues in pupils. Not enough emphasis on wellbeing and social and emotional skills for workplaces and life. Teachers are expected to be pseudo-social workers without training or funding. Lack of pupil resilience and increased anxiety in post-pandemic pupils.

What is UK education famous for? ›

Academic Excellence

UK universities like the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are known across the globe for their academic excellence. The quality of education in UK can be judged by the fact that as per the QS World University Ranking 2023, the UK is home to 89 of 1300 universities in the world.

Which course is high demand in UK? ›

Business studies ranks high among the UK best courses. Management graduates are the most sought after employees across the world in most organisations. Some of the world leaders are MBA or MIM graduates from top UK universities.

Is studying in UK Tough? ›

Studying successfully in the UK means being a good self-starter. While it may appear that you have a lot of free time, in fact you will need much of this time to fit in all the reading and writing you need to do for your study. You will need to learn to organize your time – time that is not planned tends to disappear.

Which subject is best for job in UK? ›

Most Employable Degrees in the UK
  • Medicine & Dentistry. With a 99.4% employment rate within six months of graduating, medicine and dentistry programmes are the most employable in the UK. ...
  • Veterinary Science. ...
  • Allied Medicine Subjects. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Architecture. ...
  • Law. ...
  • Biological Sciences.
27 Sept 2022

Which country has toughest education? ›

Which country has the hardest education system? South Korea, Japan, Singapore are a few countries which have one of the hardest education systems. Which country has the hardest math? The United Kingdom, The United States of America, etc are the countries having one of the best education systems.

Which country has the most stressful education system? ›

Singapore's education system is touted to be one of the most stressful in the world, but it is also one of the best countries that offer quality education worldwide.

What country is No 1 in education? ›

United States

How long is summer break UK? ›

How Long are UK School Summer Holidays? Summer holidays in the UK typically last for around 6 weeks, though this can differ from school to school, and district to district.

What does UK school schedule look like? ›

Most secondary schools in England run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with about 7 periods per day, which is similar to many high schools in the US. Many schools also have up to a 15 minute break in between classes, with 30-60 minutes for lunch.

What is high school called in UK? ›

In the UK, most state schools and privately-funded schools accommodate pupils between the ages of 11–16 or 11–18; some UK private schools, i.e. public schools, admit pupils between the ages of 13 and 18. Secondary schools follow on from primary schools and prepare for vocational or tertiary education.

Which city has the best schools in UK? ›

Overview: London has many of the best state schools in the country, including The Tiffin Girls' School.

Why UK is better than other countries for study? ›

The excellent educational infrastructure, top-notch distinguished teaching methodology, quality research, rich heritage and diverse culture of the UK make it an amazing place to study. Learn more below about why the UK is preferred by international students as opposed to their home country.

What are the 4 A's in education? ›

School Lesson Plan

Choose a topic that you want the children in your class to learn and apply the 4-A's of activating prior knowledge, acquiring new knowledge, applying the knowledge, and assessing the knowledge.

What are 7 types of education? ›

The Different Types of Education
  • Formal Education. If you've been through the current regular way of schooling, be it from a public or private school, you can say that you've had a formal education. ...
  • Informal Education. ...
  • Non-Formal. ...
  • Special Education. ...
  • Preschool. ...
  • Elementary School. ...
  • Secondary Education. ...
  • Post-Secondary Education.
14 Dec 2019

What are the 7 domains of education? ›

The student is viewed Holistically through Seven Domains: spiritual, mental, social, emotional, creative, natural, and physical.

What are barriers to learning UK? ›

Common barriers to learning
Emotional barrierslack of self-esteem or confidence due to low skills levels; negative personal experience of learning; previously undetected or unaddressed learning disabilities; social problems such as unemployment, abuse or bullying
3 more rows

What are 5 issues facing students today? ›

Common Issues
  • Social anxiety, general anxiety, test anxiety, or panic attacks.
  • Family expectations or problems.
  • Depression, lack of energy or motivation, hopelessness, being overwhelmed, low self-esteem, homesickness, loneliness.
  • Relationship difficulties (emotional and physical aspects of intimate relationships)

Should I study in Canada or UK? ›

the UK has some of the world's best universities and is stepping up its game to benefit international students after graduation; while Canada has lower overall study and living costs and has long provided international students with flexible post-study work opportunities.

What is taught in UK schools? ›

Compulsory national curriculum subjects are:
  • English.
  • maths.
  • science.
  • history.
  • geography.
  • modern foreign languages.
  • design and technology.
  • art and design.

What career pays well UK? ›

43 Highest Paid Jobs in the UK in 2022
  • Personal Trainer. Average Salary – £27,000. ...
  • Chief Executive Officer. Average Salary – £77,711. ...
  • Entrepreneur. Average Salary – £101,000. ...
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach. Average Salary – £27,898. ...
  • Chief Financial Officer. ...
  • Lawyer. ...
  • Orthodontist. ...
  • Information Technology Manager.

What are the top 5 hardest degrees in the UK? ›

  • Fine Art.
  • Finance. ...
  • Computer Science. ...
  • Philosophy. ...
  • Economics. ...
  • Microbiology. ...
  • Psychology. Kicking off our list of the hardest degrees in the UK is Psychology. ...
  • 20 Hardest Degrees in the UK, Ranked. home. ...

Which degree gets the highest salary UK? ›

The top 12 degrees with the highest starting salaries in the UK
  • General Engineering.
  • Mathematics.
  • Physics and Astronomy.
  • Computer Science.
  • Business and Administration.
  • Architecture.
  • Law.
  • Politics.

Can I settle in UK after study? ›

The UK's Graduate Route welcomes international students to apply to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, upon graduation. International students who have successfully completed an undergraduate or master's degree can apply to stay in the UK for up to two years after their studies.

How many hours do UK students study? ›

Transcript. Study hours in the U.K. vary completely depending on the subject of choice. Some students may be expected to be available for 35 hours a week and other students may be only eight hours a week. It completely depends what subject you choose.

Is student life easy in UK? ›

This factor clearly states that the UK is one of the best places to study where students can have an incomparable educational and life experience. By choosing the UK as their education or study destination, students can choose from varied study programs available in the country.

Which job is easiest to get in UK? ›

Extremely Easy jobs in England
  • Recruitment Consultant. ...
  • Car Park Attendant. ...
  • Delivery driver. ManbirBains. ...
  • Retail Consultant. new. ...
  • Veterinary Surgeon. Mercer & Hughes, Saffron Walden Vet Hospital3.5. ...
  • Planning Assistant x 2. new. ...
  • Nursery Practitioner – Level 2 – Tops Corfe Mullen. Tops Day Nurseries3.8. ...
  • Retail Supervisor. new.

Which job can I get easily in UK? ›

The increasing demand of SOL jobs in the UK makes them few of the easiest positions to receive a visa sponsorship through. IT & Tech – software engineer, data scientist, or web designer and others. Creative – film editor, graphic designer, etc. Healthcare – Doctors, paediatrician, nurse, veterinarian, etc.

What is the happiest career UK? ›

According to findings, people who work in the legal sector are the happiest with the best pay, with 28% of employees enjoying their job as well as earning over 39% more than the average UK salary.

Which country is good at maths? ›

China ranked first in 2021, and the Russian Federation moved up from the third spot to the second spot, swapping places with the U.S. The U.S was followed in the rankings by Taiwan, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Romania, Hong Kong and Iran, respectively.

Which country study is easy? ›

A: Undoubtedly, you need to put some effort to acquire a student visa for any country, however, the most prominent options to accomplish easy attainment of student visa as an Indian student are Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Which degree is hardest? ›

The hardest degree subjects are Chemistry, Medicine, Architecture, Physics, Biomedical Science, Law, Neuroscience, Fine Arts, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Economics, Education, Computer Science and Philosophy. Let's dive right in, and look at why these subjects are the hardest degree subjects.

Which country has happiest students? ›

With Finland topping the happiness leaderboard, countries such as Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands and Sweden, all in Northern Europe, come in second, third, fifth and seventh respectively.

Which country is stress free? ›

Often cited as one of the happiest places in the world, Helsinki in Finland is the least stressed city!

Which country has the smartest education system? ›

Table of Content
RankCountryQuality Index
1United States78.2
2United Kingdom72
16 more rows
12 Jul 2022

Which country students study most hours? ›

Chile School Hours

The honor for “most time spent in school for elementary students” belongs to Chile, where data compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows young kids spend 1,007 hours in school every year.

Which country has the best students? ›

Top 20 Countries with Best Education System in the World
RankCountryQuality Index
1United Kingdom78.2
2United States72
16 more rows

Which country have no exams? ›

The country is none other than Finland, the happiest country in the world. In Finland, there are no mandated standardized tests. There are no rankings, no comparisons, no competitions, apart from one exam at the end of students' senior year in high school.

What are the 4 levels of education? ›

Education in the United States follows a pattern similar to that in many systems. Early childhood education is followed by primary school (called elementary school in the United States), middle school, secondary school (called high school in the United States), and then postsecondary (tertiary) education.

What are the four stages of education? ›

Educational stages are subdivisions of formal learning, typically covering early childhood education, primary education, secondary education and tertiary education.

What is key stage 4 in the UK? ›

Key stage 4 is the legal term for the two years of school education which incorporate GCSEs in maintained schools. This period is normally known as Year 10 and Year 11, when pupils are aged between 14 and 16 years. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the summer exam series was cancelled in 2021.

What years are key stage 4 in UK? ›

Key Stage 4. KS4 comprises Years 10 and 11, when students are working towards GCSEs. Some subjects are compulsory; these are known as the core and foundation subjects.

What is the best degree to get? ›

Most In-Demand Degrees
  1. Pharmacology. For a lucrative career helping people, pharmacology is at the top of the list for in-demand degrees. ...
  2. Computer Science. ...
  3. Health Science. ...
  4. Information Technology. ...
  5. Engineering. ...
  6. Business Administration. ...
  7. Finance. ...
  8. Human Resources.

What are the 7 levels of education? ›

Education Statistics (EdStats)
  • ISCED 0 = Early childhood education.
  • ISCED 1 = Primary Education.
  • ISCED 2 = Lower Secondary Education.
  • ISCED 3 = Upper Secondary Education.
  • ISCED 4 = Post-secondary non-Tertiary Education.
  • ISCED 5 = Short-cycle tertiary education.
  • ISCED 6 = Bachelors degree or equivalent tertiary education level.

What are 3 types of education? ›

There are three main types of education, namely, Formal, Informal and Non-formal.

Who is the father of the education? ›

Known as the “father of American education,” Horace Mann (1796–1859), a major force behind establishing unified school systems, worked to establish a varied curriculum that excluded sectarian instruction.

What is the best way to learning? ›

The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day. The total amount of time spent studying will be the same (or less) than one or two marathon library sessions, but you will learn the information more deeply and retain much more for the long term—which will help get you an A on the final.

What are exams called in England? ›

At the age of 16 (the end of Key Stage 4 and Year 11), all pupils take a series of exams called the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE), usually in about eight to ten subjects, which must include English and Mathematics.

What key stage is 13 year old? ›

Key stages
Child's ageYearKey stage
11 to 12Year 7KS3
12 to 13Year 8KS3
13 to 14Year 9KS3
14 to 15Year 10KS4
9 more rows

What level should a Year 7 be in maths? ›

At the end of Year 7, a pupil of average ability should achieve Grade '2a'. A pupil achieving a Grade '2a' is on course for a Grade '5' at the end of their GCSE. At the end of Year 7, a pupil of high ability would achieve Grade '4c' or above.

What age do British go to college? ›

Ages 18+ Students may choose to study a bachelor's (or 'undergraduate') degree. Bachelor's degrees in England usually last 3–4 years.

Is education free in UK for immigrants? ›

State schools are provided by the government at no cost to British citizens and foreigners legally living in the UK.

Is school free in UK? ›

All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school. State schools receive funding through their local authority or directly from the government.


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