Education System UK

The UK welcomes hundreds of thousands of international students each year and has remained a popular destination for education for a long time. However, the UK education system is not without its own challenges, and some of them are shocking. Let us take a look at some of the biggest challenges faced by primary and secondary schools in the UK, and how we could help.

Why Should I Earn an Education in the UK?

There are numerous benefits to studying in the United Kingdom, especially for students for whom English is not a native language or for whom the UK presents a culture dramatically different from their own. And, thankfully for such students, larger cities in the UK, especially London, have a large international population, making it easier to enjoy the challenge of discovering a new culture while also connecting to some of the more familiar elements of home.

Also, studying in the UK can also allow students to better prepare for careers in fields and industries dependent upon clear communication and otherwise successful relationships between multiple countries. Students from China and India especially (but not exclusively), for example, can prepare for careers in fields and industries that need professionals from China and India (for example) who speak English and have first-hand knowledge of western countries. Attending college in the UK can help students from India, China, and other countries develop the knowledge and language-skills necessary to negotiate emerging social, economic, and political exchanges between countries throughout the world.

How does funding and support for schools and universities in the UK compare with the rest of the world?

Every year an international comparison of education in industrialised countries is published by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), providing a snapshot of trends.

The figures, picking out some distinguishing features, combine the education systems in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs) can be studied over one year, two year and 18 month periods. Students are typically aged 14 – 16 years on entry. Students study up to 9 subjects, with some compulsory and some elected. Grades are awarded numerically from 9 (the highest possible grade) down to 1. GCSE courses represent the first stage on the path to a UK university, and many institutions will ask for at least 5 passes at grade 5 or above for entry (often including GCSE English and Mathematics passes).

Advanced Level courses, known commonly as ‘A Levels’ can be studied over two years or 18 months. Students are typically aged between 16 – 19 years on entry. They study 4 or 3 subjects. Grades are awarded from A* (Highest grade) down to E. A Level courses are the most commonly recognised qualifications for entry to UK universities.

Our own International Foundation Programme is a one year course designed to offer direct access to study at top UK universities. Students choose to focus on one of five subject specific pathways; Business Management and Economics, Humanities, Medicine or Science. Results are given as a percentage score out 100. Many of our Foundation Students move on to study at the elite ‘Russell Group’ of top UK universities (41% in 2019).


ChinaCompulsory Education Certificate/Lower Secondary School Graduation Certificate
KazakhstanCertificate of Completed Secondary Education
MalaysiaSPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia)
NigeriaGeneral Certificate of Education Ordinary LevelSenior School CertificateWest Africa Senior School Certificate
RussiaАттестат о среднем (полном) общем образовании (Certificate of Secondary (Complete) General Education)
United StatesHigh School Graduation Diploma
VietnamBằng Tốt Nghiệp Phổ Thông Trung Học (Upper Secondary School Graduation Diploma)

*These comparisons are intended for illustrative purposes only. To discuss your qualifications further please contact a member of our college admissions team.