Educational system in Great Britain is extremely complex and bewildering. So, the post-school education can be divided into a series of different types of assisted colleges such as colleges of polytechnics, technology, art, etc. and universities.
In general, colleges provide more work-orientated courses than universities. Some of these courses are part-time, with the students being released by their employers for one day a week or longer periods. Students study at home and then post their fulfilled tasks to a tutor for marking.
Universities in Britain enjoy complete academic freedom, choosing their own staff and deciding which students to admit, what and how to teach, and which degrees to award.
There is no automatic admission to university, as there are only a limited number of places (around 100,000) available each year. After the interview a potential student is offered a place on the basis of GCE A-level exam results. Some universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, have an entrance exam before the interview stage.
Students studying for the first degree are called undergraduates. At the end of the third year of study undergraduates sit for their examinations and take the bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc). When they have been awarded the degree, they are known as graduates. Most people get honours degrees, awarded in different classes (Class I, II or III). A student who is below one of these gets a pass degree (i.e. not an honours degree).
Students who obtain their Bachelor degree can apply to take a further degree course, usually involving a mixture of exam courses and research. There are two different types of post-graduate courses – the Master’s Degree (MA or MSc), which takes one or two years, and the higher degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which takes two or three years.
Virtually all students on full-time courses receive grants or loans from the Government or local authorities, which cover their tuition fees and everyday expenses. Funding for post-graduate courses is very limited.
All universities in England and Wales are state universities.English universities can be broadly classified into three types.
First come the ancient universities of Oxford and Cambridge that date from the 12th century. Both universities are independent. Only the education elite go to Oxford or Cambridge.
The degrees are awarded at public degree ceremonies'. Oxford and Cambridge cling to their traditions, such as the use of Latin at degree ceremonies. Full academic dress is worn at examinations.
Oxford and Cambridge universities consist of à number of colleges. Each college is different, but in many ways they are alike. Each college has its name, its coat of arms. Each college is governed by a Master. Each college offers teaching in à wide range of subjects. Within, the college one will normally find à chapel, à dining hall, à library, rooms for undergraduates, fellows and the Master, and also rooms for teaching purposes.
Oxford University consists of twenty-four colleges for men, five for women and another five which have both men and women members, many from overseas studying for higher degrees. Among the oldest colleges are University College, All Souls and Christ Church.
Cambridge University consists of more than thirty colleges. Among the famous colleges are Peterhouse, Robinson College, King's College. The first women's college was opened in 1871, but now almost all colleges are mixed.
The universities have over à hundred societies and clubs, enough for every interest one could imagine. Sport is part of students' life at Oxbridge. The most popular sports are rowing and punting. Every year, in summer, one of the biggest festivals of folk music in arrive in Cambridge.
The second group of universities comprises various institutions of higher education, usually with technical study in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds. They got to be know as civic or ‘redbrick’ universities.
The third group consists of new universities founded after the Second World War and later in the 1960s, which saw considerable expansion in new universities. These are purpose-built institutions located in the countryside but close to towns. Examples are East Anglia, Sussex and Warwick. They got to be know as ‘campus’ universities, because from their beginning they provided accommodation for most of their students in site.
Open University is a very interesting university too. It is so called because it is open to all, without requiring any formal academic qualifications to study for a degree. The university is non-residential and courses are mainly taught by special written course books and by programmes on state radio and television.
There are also a variety of other British higher institutions, for example, the Royal College of Arts, the Cornfield Institute of Technology, various Business Schools, the Royal Academy of Dramatics Arts (RADA), the Royal college of Music.
The university system also provides a national network of extra-mural or ‘Continuing Education’ Departments which offer academic courses for adults who wish to study after they have left schools of higher education.
The British University year is divided into three terms, roughly eight to ten weeks each. The terms are crowded with activity and the vacations between the terms – a month at Christmas, a month at Easter, and three or four months in summer – are mainly periods of intellectual digestion and private study.
So there are now 80 universities and a further 19 colleges and institutions of higher education in the UK. The country has moved rapidly from a rather elitist system to one which is much more open, if not yet a mass system of higher education.