University System in Great Britain

University System in Great Britain


The British Isles attract a good tenth of all German exchange students to study abroad every year. In addition to the multicultural atmosphere and the two-tier study system that has been established for decades, the greatest attraction is above all an outstanding university landscape.

Great Britain is one of the leading science and research nations. Therefore, a semester abroad in the UK looks particularly good on the résumé. Students can choose from more than 700 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The types of universities in Great Britain at a glance

The British higher education landscape in the higher education sector, the tertiary education sector, is diverse and steeped in tradition. Most students in the UK enroll in a degree program at a university or university college.

However, many other types of university offer a diverse range of courses. Similar to Germany, the British university landscape is characterized by art and design colleges and business schools.

The name of the university does not always provide information about whether it has university status or not. It is therefore essential to find out about the basic differentiation between the types of universities in Great Britain:

  • Universities and University Colleges:
    The UK has some of the most recognized and oldest universities in the world with Oxford, Cambridge and St. Andrews. The traditional universities are made up of a large number of colleges. Each college designs a different academic department independently of the other colleges. Some of these colleges have developed into university colleges over time. In the past 50 years, other academic institutions, such as Polytechnis, have received university status. These “modern” universities hardly differ from the “traditional” universities in terms of the quality of teaching and research.
  • Colleges or Institutes of Higher Education:
    The public higher education landscape also includes more than 50 colleges and higher education institutes (HEI) that award officially recognized academic degrees. State-recognized colleges and HEIs have almost as diverse a degree program as the universities. In contrast to universities, there aremostly vocational qualifications at certain colleges and HEIs. In addition, students can take advantage of an extensive training program.

High quality in UK universities

British education in the higher education sector is renowned for its high quality. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the British university landscape has been reformed immediately.

Universities and colleges are administered autonomously in all four countries of the United Kingdom. To learn more about United Kingdom and Europe, please visit intershippingrates. In order to ensure the quality of universities in the UK, strict standards apply to all of the UK government (the UK and UK Parliaments, ministries in Wales and Northern Ireland).

Of the approximately 800 universities, around two thirds are colleges and other universities that only offer studies in the form of study preparation or (professional) further education. Only about 160 universities are listed as ” recognized bodies “, which means that they have the authority to award a state-recognized degree. The recognition of a degree at a university that is one of the ” recognized bodies ” is generally possible in Germany without any problems.

There are also academic institutions that are allowed to award their own academic degrees, although they do not belong to the “ recognized bodies ”. The specific academic titles of these bodies or universities are recognized by the state:

  • Royal College of Physicians
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • Royal College of Pathologists and Association of Clinical Biochemists
  • Benchers of the Honorable Society of the Inns of Court of Northern Ireland
  • Royal Horticultural Society
  • Richmond, the American International University in London

British universities that illegally award degrees face severe penalties. This ensures the quality of the British institutions. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is responsible for this control and regularly reviews all British universities as part of the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) initiative. However, private foreign universities based in Great Britain are exempt from this rule. However, these must clearly indicate that they are not British qualifications.

The UK Government provides an official list of all accredited higher education institutions authorized to award academic titles in the UK.

Competition among British universities

A steady competition among British universities heard ever since the founding of the first universities to traditional British higher education to do so. The well-known Boat Race of the two competitors Oxford and Cambridge is symbolic of this. But not only the venerable universities with world renown are in competition with each other.

Due to the long tradition of higher education in Great Britain and the globally recognized academic education, British universities compete for international students. As a result, there is a strong sense of service at British universities. In order to position themselves better in the competition for international students and especially doctoral candidates, 24 traditional universities have joined together in a university association. In addition, business schools are under high competitive pressure and usually offer international students excellent support, sometimes even through a ” personal tutor “.

The UK government does not have its own ranking system. The quality of universities and their courses is assessed by the independent Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). However, the QAA’s assessment only contains judgments as to whether the British university standards have been met; it does not provide a list of the best.

With regard to their research performance, the data of British universities are regularly checked by the System Research Assessment Exercise (RAF).

Independent rankings in the UK

However, there are a number of independent university ranking systems in the UK. These rankings provide useful information, for example on student support and satisfaction, as well as on teaching standards.

However, they only provide limited information. A first orientation provide national University Rankings as the Sunday Times and The Times Good University Guide and the Guardian University Guide. For this reason, as many sources as possible should be consulted when choosing a university.

University System in Great Britain