Find out about how the education system works in England and why a UK degree is a strong choice for your future.

Why study in the UK?

Internationally-recognised qualifications

With a long history of pioneering higher education, universities in the UK provide high standards of teaching and qualifications that are world-renowned.

Within the UK there is a group of 24 leading universities (including York) known as the Russell Group. They are committed to maintaining the best research and an outstanding teaching and learning experience. Excellent teaching in Russell Group universities is informed by and builds upon high quality research.

A friendly international community

The UK is home to over 400,000 international higher education students each year (Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) 2018/19). You will be living and studying in a welcoming and multicultural environment.

The University of York is also recognised globally for its commitment to research and teaching excellence, ranking as 151st in the world (QS World University Rankings 2022).

The education system in the UK

The education system in the UK is different to many other countries. At the age of 16, British children take General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). After that they usually take three or four A-levels, which last for two years and qualify students for entry to university-level study.

Degrees are shorter in England than in many other countries. Many international school systems are based on one year less at high school and one year more at university compared with the English system.

Undergraduate Bachelors degree

Students in the UK start their higher education with a Bachelors degree which typically lasts for three years. Most students start their Bachelors degree at the age of 18 but this does vary. The number of first year students aged 21-24 has increased from 2015/16 to 2018/19 (HESA, Students in Higher Education Institutions 2020).

The names of British degrees include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Science (BSc)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).

In addition, there are also some four-year degrees which might include a work placement, a year abroad or a Masters year with more advanced study. Professional degrees such as medicine can take up to six years.

Applying to an undergraduate degree

We accept a wide variety of qualifications. Students from some countries will need to take a foundation course. All applications must be made through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Find out more about undergraduate applications.

Masters degree

Following successful completion of an recognised undergraduate degree, students can apply for a Masters degree, which typically lasts for one year. Masters degrees involve a more advanced and detailed study in the subject of your first degree, or a route to develop specific skills within a chosen career. Find out more about Masters degree types.

Applying to a Masters degree

To be accepted into a Masters degree at York, typically you would need a strong honours degree. Applications can be made online. Find out about how to apply to a Masters at York.

Research degrees

Research degrees are the highest degree awarded by UK universities. They allow you to take an in-depth study of a particular topic. They typically last at least three years, although there are some research qualifications that can be completed in one or two years. Find out more about types of research degree.

Applying to a research degree

To be accepted into a research degree at York, typically you would need a strong Masters degree. Applications can be made online. You're also advised to contact potential supervisors to discuss the research areas you're interested in. Find out more about how to apply to a research degree at York.