Top 5 differences between the education in the UK and the US

All About Education, Study Abroad

The United States and the United Kingdom have been two of the most preferred regions for students who are looking at pursuing higher education. The primary reason for this is the kind of opportunities that the universities offer, in terms of employment, infrastructure and extracurricular activities. Both, the US and the UK are home to some of the world’s top-ranking universities, including the Ivy Leagues in the US. While both offer excellent quality of education, they also have some differences, in terms of the education system and university structure

Here are five main points of difference between the education systems in the United Kingdom and the United States that will help you in deciding whether you should choose the US or to the UK to pursue your higher education.

1) Interviews in the US and the UK

The interviews in the US are mainly focused on the students’ personality. These interviews are opportunities for students to introduce themselves to the interviewers while giving them more insight into their college application. The institutes in the US also give students a chance to talk to people who belong to the institute, helping them get an idea about the university and helping them decide whether they would want to go ahead with their application. Interviews in the UK are more focused on academics. Basically, in the UK, the college interviews help the interviewers in understanding your ability to learn and in checking your critical thinking ability. These interviewers are more involved in getting to understand the student’s thought process.

2) Grading systems

In the US, your grades depend upon a number of different tests and assignments that are carried out throughout the year. These evaluations are held in the form of continuous bi-weekly tests, oral examinations and presentations during the term of study. In the UK, your grade majorly depends upon your final exam marks. These exams are held at the end of the academic terms and are the most substantial factors in deciding your final grade. Another difference in the grading system is that, in the UK, the grading ranks are: first, mediocre, third and ‘F’. In the US, the grades range from A to F, depending on your marks in the test.

3) Organizational and regulatory differences

In the UK, various colleges are a part of one university with each college providing a specialization on a particular subject. Even though these colleges in the UK are managed by the main university, they enjoy a certain level of autonomy in terms of setting rules and regulations. If you are preparing to go to the UK, you can apply to the college directly, unless you are opting for an undergraduate program. For undergraduate programmes, you can directly apply through the central system, which then sends your application to different colleges. On the other side, colleges in the US are completely governed by the college authorities and not by a central body.

4) Depth versus breadth of studying

Different colleges in the UK specialize in a multitude of different subjects. This arrangement allows students to study a particular subject in depth, right from the beginning of their course. In the US, you would usually study a variety of subjects before you can select your majors’ subject in the final year. This is why it is often said that studying in the US emphasizes the breadth of education, while the UK places more importance on an in-depth study of one subject.

5) Semesters and study terms

Universities in the US usually start their first academic term in the month of August, while the second semester usually begins in January. In the US, universities that are trimester based, have their breaks right after Thanksgiving, that is, towards the end of November. In the UK, universities often go by the trimester or quarter-semester system, kicking off their first terms in the month of September and end in May/ June. As you might have already figured, the academic terms in the UK are longer compared to the academic terms in the US.

6) Cost of education

The cost of education in both regions lie on the higher end, but the US is more expensive, compared to the UK. This is because, in the UK, the government puts a ceiling limit on tuition fees that the universities can charge. The universities in the UK then decide their tuition fees which must fall in line with the government prescribed tuition fee limit. On the contrary, the government has little or no control over the fee structure of the colleges in the US. On average, the cost of education in the UK is approximately £9000 (per year), while in the US it would be about $29000 (per year).

The education systems in the United States and the United Kingdom come with their own set of pros and cons. The best way to choose between the US or the UK is to assess your course, your subjects, as well as your long-term goals. Once you have a clear idea of your own needs and goals, you will be able to judge whether you would fit better in the UK or the US.

Last modified: March 7, 2019

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