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The British system of education is designed to develop important competences in students such as Independent thinking, study skills, team working, research and analysis.

General Education System

Primary education may take the form of combined junior and infant schools and therefore lasts for six years or a first stage covering infant schools (two years) and a second stage covering junior schools (four years).

Secondary education covers schooling from the age of eleven to the minimum school leaving age of sixteen. Pupils follow a common curriculum leading to the GCSE and VCSE. They may combine a number of GCSEs, VCSEs or a combination of both. At some schools, pupils may stay on at a school sixth form for a further two years when they sit for the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A Levels) or the General Certificate of Education Advanced Subsidiary examinations (GCE AS examinations), or vocational courses leading usually to a Vocational Certificate of Education Advanced Level/Vocational Certificate of Education Advanced Subsidiary Level). Further education colleges also offer these courses.

Higher education typically begins with a 3-year Bachelor's Degree. Postgraduate degrees include Master's Degrees, either taught or by research, and Doctor of Philosophy, a research degree that usually takes at least 3 years. Universities require a Royal charter in order to issue degrees, and all but one are financed by the state with a low level of fees for home and European Union students.

Primary and secondary education

The school year begins on the 1st of September. Education is compulsory for all children from the term after their fifth birthday to the last Friday in June of the school year in which they turn 16. This will be raised in 2013 to the year in which they turn 17 and in 2015 to the year in which they turn 18.

Full-time education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 and 16. After this students can progress to what is known as the Sixth form or College for their A levels or for the International Baccalaureate. However from year 2013 the school leaving age will be 17 and then again by year 2015 it will be set at 18 years of age.

Under the British National Curriculum system, all pupils undergo National Curriculum Tests (NCTs, or colloquially known as SATs) towards the ends of Key Stage 2 in core subjects, but not foundation subjects, where teacher assessment is used. They normally take GCSE exams in the last two years of Key Stage 4, but may take other Level 2 qualifications, such as GNVQ. Former tests at the end of Key Stage 3 were abandoned after the 2008 tests, when severe problems emerged concerning the marking procedures. Now at Key Stages 1 and 3, assessment is by teacher assessment against the National Curriculum Attainment Targets for all subjects. Tests results for schools are published, and are an important measure of their performance. (wikipedia)
Years 12 and 13 are often referred to as lower sixth form and upper sixth form respectively, reflecting their distinct, voluntary nature and situation as the A level years. Some independent schools still refer to years 7 to 11 as first form to fifth form, reflecting earlier usage. Even more historically, this arose from the system in public schools, where all forms were divided into Lower, Upper, and sometimes Middle sections. Year 7 is equivalent to Upper Third Form, Year 8 would have been known as Lower Fourth, and so on. Some independent schools still use this way of counting the years. (Wikipedia)

All schools are required to follow the National Curriculum made up of twelve subjects as listed below:

English, Mathematics, Science
Art and Design, Citizenship, Design and Technology
Geography, Music, History
Physical Education, Modern Foreign languages, Information and Communications Technology

English, Mathematics and Science are compulsory subjects for all students while the other subjects are also compulsory at one stage of the other.

Higher Education and the University System

Higher education is provided by three main types of institutions: universities, colleges and institutions of higher education and art and music colleges

To gain entry to a top UK university you’ll need 3 or 4 good A Level grades, although if you’re exceptionally talented you can take 5 subjects. There is a broad range of A levels for students to choose from, including Business, Science, Arts and Humanities subjects.

Each A Level consists of 6 units which are studied in two stages:

A. Stage 1 – Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level: You’ll study 3 modules and upon completion you’ll be awarded an AS Level.
B. Stage 2 – A2 level: You’ll study the second set of 3 units which will take your AS level to a full A Level.

When you have completed the A2 Level, your AS Level grade is transferred to one A Level grade. If you decide not to continue to A2 Level, you can keep your AS Level grade. This can still be used as part of your application to university.

Each A Level subject is graded from A–E. The entrance requirements for the university courses are expressed as either:

A. Grades: AAB, BCC or CCC for example.
B. A UCAS Tariff score: 360, 300 or 280 for example.

The A Level and AS Level grades are translated into UCAS tariff points as follows.

A Levels
Grade Points
A 60
B 50
C 40
D 30
E 20

AS Level.
Grade Points
A 120
B 100
C 80
D 60
E 40

Foundation courses
Foundation programmes are designed to lead to acceptance onto a degree course at university. They typically last between 9 months and 2 years. The foundation programme are mainly for:

1. Those who need to improve their English or academic study skills before degree level study.
2. Those who lack the formal qualifications needed to enter a British university.
3. Those who require knowledge of a particular academic subject area to gain entry to a degree.

In 1992, the line separating universities and polytechnics was abolished and polytechnics were given university status including university titles and can award their own degrees.

Non-university higher education institutions also provide degree courses, various non-degree courses and postgraduate qualifications. Some may offer Higher Degrees and other qualifications offered by most non-university higher education institutions are validated by external bodies such as a local university or the Open University. An institution can also apply for the authority to award its own degrees but it must be able to demonstrate a good record of running degree courses validated by other universities. Institutions can apply for university status but must satisfy a number of criteria, including the power to award its own first and higher degrees. Some higher education is also provided in further education institutions.

The University system is broken down into three stages.

The first stage is known as the Undergraduate stage. This stage lasts for three or four years and leads to the award of a Bachelor's Degree in Arts, Science or other fields (Technology, Law, Engineering, etc.). In some Scottish universities the first degree is a Master's Degree. The Bachelor's Degree is conferred as a Pass Degree or an Honours Degree where studies are more specialized. The Bachelor's Honours Degree is classified as a First Class Honours, a Second Class Honours or a Third Class Honours. In some universities and colleges of higher education, a two-year course leads to a Diploma in Higher Education (DipHE). This is a recognized qualification in its own right. Some universities have adopted the credit-unit or modular system of assessment. In some universities students must follow a foundation course before embarking on the course leading to the Bachelor's Degree.

The second stage is known as the Masters stage and lasts between one and two years. Study at master's level is at the forefront of an academic or professional discipline. Students must show originality in their application of knowledge and advancement of knowledge. The normal entry requirement for a Master's degree is a good Bachelor's degree.

After usually three years' further study beyond the Master's Degree, the candidate may present a thesis for the Doctorate of Philosophy (D.Phil. or Ph.D.) This is the stage. A further stage leads to Higher Doctorates which may be awarded by a university in Law, Humanities, Science, Medical Sciences, Music and Theology after a candidate, usually a senior university teacher, has submitted a number of learned, usually published, works.

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