Study System in the UK

Study System in the UK


There is no uniform “British” study system on the British Isles. Rather, there are the study systems of the individual countries of the United Kingdom: the traditional study system in England, which is largely identical to the study systems in Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish study system.

As UK insiders know, these country-specific differences are important to the English, Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh people. Anyone planning to study in Great Britain can find out about the respective study system in advance.

Quality assurance and autonomy in UK universities

In the traditional university system in Great Britain, universities have enjoyed a high degree of autonomy for a long time. Financed by state funds, they independently manage the design of the courses, teaching and the number of courses. Each of the four countries in the UK has its own department of education. For this reason, there is no uniform grading and grading system in the UK. To learn more about United Kingdom and Europe, please visit rctoysadvice.

The quality of teaching is ensured on the one hand by internal university bodies, the so-called Academic Board. On the other hand, the English Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) provides an independent body. There is also a committee for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within the body. As an external expert, the QAA checks compliance with subject-specific learning and teaching standards.

Structure of the study system in Great Britain

All study systems in Great Britain have a two-tier structure:

  • Undergraduate courses (Bachelor)
  • Postgraduate courses (masters and doctorates)

The undergraduate studies represent an undergraduate degree in which students receive their first academic degree. In postgraduate studies, students achieve a master’s degree after one or two years. After a further three years of research, the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) can be achieved.

Undergraduate Studies: The study options without an academic degree

The English undergraduate courses are recognized worldwide for their high quality academic education. Each year around 400,000 international students from 200 nations study under an undergraduate degree program at a university in the UK.

The Bachelor degree

Despite the identical designation, there is a lot to consider between the German bachelor’s degree and a bachelor’s degree (also called first degree or undergraduate degree) in Great Britain. The undergraduate degree is not only more modular, but also more tightly organized and performance-oriented. A bachelor’s degree in England, Northern Ireland or Wales typically lasts three years. It takes four years to study in Scotland. During their studies, students usually acquire 120 or 180 credits.

The first academic degree is available as an Ordinary degree and an Honors degree. Most first degrees are awarded as Honors degrees in the UK system of study. The expression does not indicate a grade, but is a quality feature. In order to receive a Bachelor with Honors, there are different requirements depending on the university. While at some universities reaching a certain final grade is sufficient, other universities expect a particularly good graded thesis.

The master degree

In the master’s program, acquired knowledge is deepened and specialized in the undergraduate program. The duration of a Masters course in Great Britain usually ranges from one year to a maximum of two years. In almost every subject, a master’s degree is possible, which is focused on a specific focus within the course.

Over two-thirds of Masters programs at UK universities are studied full-time. However, if you are bound by work or family, many of the Masters programs offered in Great Britain can also complete part-time.


After completing their second academic degree, Master’s graduates can further qualify as part of Postgraduate Studies. In order to obtain the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), research work must be carried out for at least three years.

In addition to the research-based Ph.D. there is also the professional doctorates (Doctoral) as the Doctor of Medicine (MD or DM).

Very British: Shorter Courses or advanced training programs

In the UK, professional development programs, also known as shorter courses, are an integral part of the study system. It is about professional and academic training and further education with a duration of one or two years. These are offered at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level at British universities.

Continuing education has been a tradition at British universities since the 19th century. Organizations such as the Workers Education Association (WEA) were and are in some cases still responsible for setting topics in research and teaching of further training offers.

Undergraduate studies

Certificate of Higher Education (certHE): The Certificate of Higher Education is an advanced training qualification that can typically be completed in one year as full-time study or in two years as part-time study.

Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE): The Diploma of Higher Education is an advanced, professional qualification that can usually be obtained after two years of full-time study at a university.

Higher National Certificate (HNC): The Higher National Certificate is a part-time course that provides one year of advanced qualifications that can serve as the basis for a bachelor’s degree.

Higher National Diploma (HND): The Higher National Diploma is a part-time course. The HND Accounts can be used under certain circumstances, the access authorization to obtain a university degree.

Postgraduate Studies

Conversion Courses: If you want to change subjects after completing your undergraduate degree, you can take a conversion course. The continuing education program usually lasts one year, depending on the subject. But there are also so-called Fast Track programs, which convey the required specialist knowledge in a very short time. The conversion courses can also be taken part-time and are accredited by British professional associations.

Postgraduate Diplomas and Qualifications: An increasingly popular choice for undergraduate graduates looking to improve their job prospects are Postgraduate Diplomas and Qualifications. The degrees offer qualification and specialization at the master’s level without having to write a master’s thesis. The Postgraduate Diplomas and Qualifications can be completed part-time within one year.

Any of these options are currently open to prospective students from Germany. The right of residence for citizens within the EU enables, as long as Brexit does not come into force, studying in Great Britain without great bureaucratic effort.

Shorter study trips to Great Britain

If you are not interested in long-term study options, there are more than enough alternatives in the UK:

  • Semester abroad: Participation in a Study Abroad program in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland offers international students an ideal complement to their studies in Germany. The more flexible course selection in the semester abroad is particularly practical in contrast to the full course. Switching to a British university during a BA or MA degree is easily possible due to the similar semester times in the academic year.
  • Summer Session: One of the most popular options for short-term study visits, especially for international students, is a summer session in Great Britain. Many UK universities and colleges offer students the opportunity to take a summer school course during the semester break.
  • Language courses: If you want to improve your English language skills, you can catch up on it at short notice and without any problems in a language course in the UK TOEFL or the IELTS.

What are the differences to the German study system?

Since the Bologna reform, the same academic degrees have existed in both countries: Bachelor, Master and doctoral degrees (Ph.D.). Despite this commonality, there may be differences with regard to the recognition of German university degrees and the conversion of performance records into the British grading system.

Apart from traditional university degrees, continuing vocational training in Great Britain differs greatly from the dual training system in Germany. The boundaries between vocational training and academic training are fluid. It must be checked on a case-by-case basis whether the professional and academic training courses acquired in Great Britain are recognized.

Study System in the UK