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Education in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is the second most popular destination for education after the USA. Tuition fees are high but the alumni of top British universities benefit from international recognition and have great career prospects worldwide.

Early years, primary and secondary education

All children in England between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school.

Preschool

Early years education is for children from three to five and since 2010, all three and four year olds can get free nursery education for fifteen hours a week. At the end of the academic year when they turn five, there is a mandatory assessment (EYFS) of the child’s development and learning achievements. There is a wide range of schools offering early years education including primary schools.

Primary School

Primary education is for children aged five to eleven. At the end of their final year, children undergo an assessment to enter secondary school. State schools are non-fee paying while private institutions can charge as much £6,500–7,500 per term.

Secondary School

Secondary school is mandatory for children from eleven to sixteen. During their final year, they take GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams. State schools (comprehensive schools) are free and cannot select children based on academic merits. Private schools charge £7,500–9,500 per term. After the GCSE exams, teenagers must attend Sixth Form (Lower and Upper) during two years and pass A-levels exams in order to apply for a place at university.

Boarding school

British boarding schools are popular with affluent families. Children live and study here and they are often divided by gender. Top schools include Winchester College and Wycombe Abbey School. Tuition fees here are about £30,000 per year and children must be registered to attend often years in advance. 15% of places are reserved for international admissions.

Top UK boarding schools and annual tuition fees 2014,
GBP

Boys' schools Girls' schools
School Daytime
attendance
Board School Daytime
attendance
Board
1 Winchester College n/a 34,740 Wycombe Abbey School 25,935 34,575
2 St Paul's School,
London
21,792 32,640 St Mary's School,
Ascot
23,400 32,850
3 Eton College n/a 34,434 St Swithun's School,
Winchester
18,450 29,565
4 Westminster School 25,368 33,792 Cheltenham Ladies'
College
24,117 35,586
5 Tonbridge School 26, 370 35,163 Downe House School,
Berks
23,730 32,790
6 Abingdon School 16,650 35,190 Queen Margaret's School,
York
18,375 28,590
7 Charterhouse School 24,819 34,245 St Mary's School, Calne 25,350 33,900
8 Radley College n/a 33,225 Badminton School,
Bristol
17,430 33,030
9 Dulwich College 17,403 36,324 St Catherine's School,
Guildford
16,605 27,345
10 Warwick School 11,373 24,270 Headington School,
Oxford
16,440 32,100

Source: Best-Schools.co.uk

Higher education

Higher education in the UK and Wales is fee-based for UK nationals and foreign citizens for whom it is more expensive. International students often have to attend a two-year A-levels course which costs about £10,000. In Scotland, residents can study for their first university degree free-of-charge.

Foreign applicants must have a sufficient score on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam to be admitted into a UK university. They sometimes ask for GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) or GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) scores.

Documents required to apply for a place in higher education include a Certificate of Secondary Education, personal statement and letters of recommendation from teachers.

University applications are usually processed directly by the academic institute using the online e-application UCAS for undergraduate studies, UKPASS for postgraduate studies or CUKAS (Performing Arts) or via educational agencies. The deadline for undergraduate applications is June 30th. The academic year starts in September.

The UK top universities 2014–2015

Ranking University
UK Worldwide
1 2 University of Cambridge
2 2 Imperial College London
3 5 University of Oxford
3 5 University College London, UCL
4 16 King’s College London
5 17 University of Edinburgh
6 29 University of Bristol
7 30 University of Manchester
8 55 University of Glasgow
9 61 The University of Warwick
10 64 University of Birmingham

Source: QS World University Rankings

The University of Cambridge was founded in the thirteenth century and is one of the world’s most renowned universities. It has over ninety affiliations with Nobel laureates (graduates, staff and researchers).

Tuition fees for international students vary from about £8,000 for lecture-based courses to £35,000 for medical universities. The average fee per year is £12,000 for an undergraduate degree. Post-grad studies cost about £10,000–13,000 per year but can go up to £38,000.

Students in England (outside London) spend about £12,000 per year on living costs including £5,000 on rent, £2,000 on meals, £300 on household goods and insurance, £2,000 on personal items, £1,500 on trips and £1,300 on entertainment. In London, living costs are £13,400 on average and rental accommodation about £6,000. Parents who want to buy a student flat will pay at least £500,000 for a small studio.

The British government obliges budgeting £1,265 in London or £1,015 outside the capital to spend per month for international students. Foreign students can work twenty hours per week during the term time and full time during holiday periods.

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