The Education System in the United Kingdom


The British education system has a strong, world-class reputation. It is based on long-lived traditions and values. The organisation of education differs slightly in each of the four countries of the UK, however, this is some of the basic information about the school organisation in the UK.

Children between the ages of 5 and 18 must be in full-time education under the UK Law. The academic year in the UK broadly runs from September to July and comprises of 3 terms:

Term 1: Starting early September, runs through to Mid-December. It is known as Autumn though in some private schools it is known as Michaelmas.

Term 2: Starting early January through to mid/late March is known as Spring term or Lent.

Term 3: Starting early / mid-April through to Beginning of July is known as Summer.

Each term is broken up into 2 Half-terms, with a one-week break in the middle, usually at the end of October, mid-February and the end of May.
Schooling in the United Kingdom is divided into the state sector and the private sector. The private sector is also in two sectors namely the independent and the Public-School System. These only differ in terms of how students are accepted for entry.

Primary education in the UK

In England and Wales, the law states that all children aged 5 to 18 must receive full-time education. Fir students over 16 + this can also be through attendance on a full time course or apprenticeship at a college. In Northern Ireland, the compulsory age for starting school is four. Children leave primary school at the age of eleven, moving on to secondary school.

Secondary education in the UK

At the age of 11, children start their secondary-school education. Up to the age of 14, students in the British state and private schools study a broad range of 10-15 subjects covering the arts, sciences and humanities. Careers education and Religious education may also be included in the education curriculum. At the age of 15 students start as two-year period, leading to GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) state examinations. Each GCSE is a single-subject examination, set and marked by independent examination boards. Students usually take up to ten (there is no upper or lower limit) GCSE examinations in different subjects, including mathematics and English language.

At the age of 16, students will continue at school to study for A-Levels (Advanced Level examinations) required for university entrance in the UK or undertake courses at vocational or technical colleges. A-Levels examinations are recognised by all UK universities, and by institutions worldwide.

Schools in the UK do not generally rank pupils within their year; currently, the principal standards are the GCSE, SCE and A-Level examination results.


Undergraduate degree programmes (bachelor’s degree) – Age18 +

The first three years of a university education will be in an undergraduate degree programme. An undergraduate degree may be a BA (Bachelor of Arts), BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), and BSc (Bachelor of Science).


Postgraduate degree programmes (masters and doctoral degrees) – Age 21+

Postgraduate courses in the UK are very intensive. This means that the courses are usually much shorter than in other countries. A master’s degree typically takes 12 months to complete.


On completion, a student may also apply for a postgraduate programme and a PhD. A PhD research degree in the UK can take between 2 and 7 years.
What makes higher education so appealing is that students are at university or college because they want to be, learning more about a subject or job they really enjoy.

In addition to academic achievements at university, students also gain many social advantages. They will be involved in various out-of-school activities, find new friends and gain insight into future careers.