Great Britain is a leading educational country in the world. Many students from abroad come here to study yearly. There are 114 university institutions in the UK. Approximately 1.8 million students currently are in the higher education system; about one third of young people go on to higher education at the age of 18, and an increasing number of "mature" students are studying either full-time or part-time for university degrees. The government has an aim to attract 50 percent of 18- to 30-year-olds to higher education.
University education in Great Britain dates back to the XII century when Oxford and Cambridge universities were founded. There were no other universities in England till the XIX century. Only in Scotland there appeared universities in St. Andrews (1411), Glasgow (1451), Aberdeen (1495) and Edinburgh (1583). All these universities founded before the XIX century are called Ancient Universities.
The major changes of the XIX century industrial revolution had a profound effect on the socioeconomic and cultural conditions in Britain. The country needed experienced professionals in different branches of science. Many industrial centers, such as London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol created new universities. These universities became known as Red Brick Universities because their red-brick walls differed much from the ancient stone walls of Oxford and Cambridge.
After the World War II technical and technological progress resulted in creation of New Universities. Two categories of institutions have been given this label: 1) those created in the sixties of the XX century less often called Plate Glass Universities because of very modern buildings; 2) those created in or after 1992 often called Post-1992 Universities orNew Universities, because in 1992 33 polytechnics and some colleges of higher education were reorganized into universities.
British universities have a strong reputation internationally for two reasons: history and research output. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge are the most highly regarded, followed by the federal University of London, the Scottish Ancient and the Red Brick universities. The Plate Glass universities come next in reputation and the post-1992 universities have a lower overall reputation. Their members regularly appear in the bottom half of most league tables. In a survey in which 3,703 academicians worldwide were asked to name up to 30 universities which they considered the best research institutions in their field, Cambridge came first and Oxford second, leaving Harvard in third place.
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UNIVERSITY DEGREES IN GREAT BRITAIN
There are 3 types of university degrees in the UK: undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate. The majority of undergraduate programs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland last 3 years. Students receive Bachelor’s degree upon its completion. Degrees in these countries are shorter than the traditional four-year degrees in the USA because students specialize in a subject area at the start of their degree.
There are a few options to combine two related courses (such as European history and French or physics and philosophy). One can take a combined honours degree which allows for study of two subjects with a focus given to one, or a joint honors degree, which allows for study of two subjects given equal focus.
In Scotland there are options to do a four-year degree. It is connected with sandwich courses which include a year of work experience. They afford students more flexibility in choosing courses. Most universities in Scotland allow students to study in a range of courses for up to two years before coming to one specialized subject which also takes two years. So students can choose how long to study – three or four years. Upon completion of the 3-4 year undergraduate course students are awarded Bachelor’s degree (BA – Bachelor of Arts, BSC – Bachelor of Science, BENG – Bachelor of Engineering, BL – Bachelor of Law etc.).
Having received Bachelor’s degree students have an opportunity to continue their education at the graduate level. At this level, a taught Master’s degree normally is earned in a single year and a research Master’s degree takes two years. The most popular Master’s degrees are M.Phil. (Master of Philosophy), M.Sc. (Master of Science) and M.Jur. (Magister Juris).
As a rule, students awarded with Master’s degree go further and do the postgraduate course. This course allows the students the possibility to be awarded Doctor’s degree. Students do research for 2-3 years, write and defend a dissertation. After that the candidates receive PhD Degree or Doctoral. They are D.Sc. – Doctor of Science, D.C.L. – Doctor of Civil Law, D. Lett. – Doctor of Letters and many other Doctor’s degrees.