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UK education system

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There is a wide range of academic and career-based courses on offer at universities and colleges in the UK, all of which are designed to stretch your ability and your imagination.

Students in the UK may study to many different levels, and on many different types of courses.

The National Qualifications Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland††

The National Qualifications Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland helps students to understand the levels at which qualifications are recognised.

These range from Entry level to Level 8, with Level 8 being the highest:

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To find out how these qualifications correspond to those in your home country, visit UK NARICís website.

Entry level
Entry level certificates

Level 1
Level 1 certificates
GCSEs (grades DĖG)
BTEC Introductory

Level 2
Level 2 certificates/diplomas
GCSEs (grades A*ĖC)
BTEC Firsts

Level 3
Level 3 certificates/diplomas
International Baccalaureate
BTEC Nationals

Level 4 Certificate
Level 4 certificates/diplomas
Certificates of higher education

Level 5 Intermediate
Level 5 certificates/diplomas
Diplomas of higher education and further education
BTEC Higher Nationals
Foundation degrees

Level 6 Honours
Level 6 certificates/diplomas
Bachelorís degrees, graduate certificates/diplomas

Level 7 Masterís
Level 7 diplomas, Level 7 fellowships
Masterís degrees
Level 7 advanced professional certificates/postgraduate certificates/diplomas

Level 8 Doctoral
Specialist awards
Doctoral degrees

Note that, in the next few years, this will be replaced by a new Qualifications and Credit Framework. This is intended to simplify the qualifications structure and make it easier to understand. The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency website will have more about the new structure and the latest developments.

Find out more†about the pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate courses on offer at UK schools, colleges and universities in the UK.

The Scottish education system

Scotland has its own education system, which is very closely related to, but independent of, that operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some of the main qualifications available are described below:

National Qualifications
National Qualifications cover a range of qualifications made up of National Units (each of which takes 40 hours of teaching to finish and of which there are over 3,500 to choose from), including Standard Grades, National Units, National Courses and Group Awards. Available in hundreds of subjects, the idea is that National Qualifications can be built up over time to allow those studying them to get to the highest level they are capable of in the areas of most use or interest to them.

Standard Grades
Instead of GCSEs, students in Scotland study for Standard Grades in a broad range of subjects. Like GCSEs, Standard Grade examinations are generally taken by pupils aged 16.

National Courses
After Standard Grades, students will move on to National Courses, available at seven levels (Access 1Ė3, Intermediate 1Ė2, Higher and Advanced Higher), which are offered in a broad range of subjects, academic and vocational. To be awarded a National Course qualification, students must pass three subject-related National Units and an external assessment, usually an exam. Highers and Advanced Highers are recognised for entrance to universities throughout the UK. Note that each National Unit is a qualification in its own right.

Group Awards
Scottish Group Awards are made up of National Courses and Units. These qualifications are designed to prepare people for entry to further and higher education, training or employment.

Scottish Vocational Qualifications
Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are work-related programmes that are available in five levels from SVQ1 to SQV5, with SQV5 being the highest.

Higher Nationals
Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNC and HND) in Scotland are awarded by the Scottish Qualifications Agency. These cover the knowledge and skills needed for training towards technical jobs at a middle-management level.

The Scottish Baccalaureate
The Scottish Government has also introduced the Scottish Baccalaureate in science and languages, aimed at the brightest students. The first will be awarded in 2010.

Future developments
Note that the Standard Grade at General and Credit levels, and the Intermediate 1 and 2 National Courses are to be replaced by a new National qualification in 2013.

Find out more about Scotlandís education system by visiting the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA) website.


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