Both the United Kingdom and the United States have prestigious universities where many students aspire to enrol. In fact, according to Times Higher Education, more than half of the world’s top 200 universities are located in either the US or the UK. Both of these countries have a rich history of providing students with high-quality education along with world-class research facilities and a culture that promotes creative thinking and academic freedom.
While both the USA and the UK provide an excellent environment for learning, there are many differences between the two countries regarding the structure of the university as well as student life. This blog will highlight all the differences between the American and British systems of higher education.
One of the most important differences between university life in the US vs the UK is the amount of time it takes to finish your degree. Generally speaking, US bachelors degree programmes take 4 years to complete whereas UK bachelors degree programmes take 3 years. This means that students can save a whole year by enrolling themselves in a degree programme in the UK.
In the United States, bachelor’s programmes are more likely to lead to PhDs, but in the United Kingdom, master’s programmes are preferred (and often required) before enrolling in PhD programmes.
The grading system used in the US and the UK is different. The USA uses a simple A, B, C, D and F grading system. This is a more traditional system of grading where a score in the 90s is outstanding, 80s is good, 70s is acceptable and below that denotes a failing grade.
On the other hand, the UK grading system is based on percentage –
- Distinction = 75% and above
- Merit = 60–69%
- Pass = 50–59%
- Fail = Below 50%
Student halls have been the most common accommodation options for students in the USA and the UK, however, with the inception of Purpose Built Student Accommodations (PBSAs), this is the new preferred accommodation option for students, especially those in the UK.
PBSAs are off-campus accommodations that are often located close to universities. The supply of off-campus accommodation is much greater than traditional on-accommodation. Moreover, off-campus accommodations provide students with modern amenities and facilities such as a gym, a theatre, car parking, social events, contents insurance, all-inclusive utility bills, 24/7 security and much more.
UniAcco lists all the popular off-campus accommodations near popular universities. Visit UniAcco to learn more about the accommodation options near your university.
Being aware of the pedagogy employed at your target university is essential because the education style differs greatly from country to country. In the United States, professors will assist you through every stage of your academic career, providing you with hands-on experiences. However, at universities in the United Kingdom, you will have to be more independent and make decisions like an adult because the curricula are more theory focused.
Students who wish to study in the USA can expect more research projects, assignments and quizzes. In the UK, you will have some degree of academic freedom so that you get to know what works best for you, but you might need to go through oral presentations and research papers.
The cost of education in both countries is far from cheap, but the cost of an education in the United States is generally higher. In the USA, tuition fees range from $5,000 to $50,000 (£4,074 – £40,746) per year. Most undergraduate degrees last four years, so, on average, students are graduating with $132,860 (£101,505) worth of debt.
In the UK, EU students at English universities are required to pay up to £9,250 (~US$13,050) per year. International undergraduate tuition fees in the UK vary considerably, starting at around £10,000 (~US$14,130) and going up to £38,000 (~US$53,700) or more for medical degrees. On average, the total average cost of studying in the UK is estimated to be around £22,200 (~US$31,380) per year, with the cost of studying in London likely to be significantly higher.
Universities in the USA generally do not place a lot of emphasis on SAT/ACT and/or SAT II subject scores. The focus of admission is on a student’s potential fit within the community. US universities weigh academic transcripts, personal essays, letters of recommendation and extracurricular involvement alongside test scores during the admission process.
In the United Kingdom, academic achievement is the emphasis of admission criteria. The majority of decisions are made based on a student’s expected grades in class 12 satisfying the programmes’ minimal entrance standards (which are usually stated on the programmes’ websites). Only when pupils attain the requisite grades is their admission finalised. Also, some UK programs may require the completion of specific courses in high school.
|Duration of Course||Bachelors: 4 yearsMasters: 2 yearsPhD: 5-7 years or longer||Bachelors: 3 yearsMasters: 1 yearPhD: 3 years|
|Academic Term||Most schools use the semester system, but some use a trimester or quarter system. Courses start in mid to late August and end in May.||Most also use a semester system, but some use trimester or quarter systems. The start and end of an academic year vary by university.|
|University Organization||Universities are often divided into schools by subject, but these schools do not typically have a lot of autonomy from the university.||University acts as an umbrella organization for the different colleges. Colleges are fairly independent of one another.|
|Style of Education||More varied, liberal arts, study outside your major.||Take only classes in your college.|
|Depth vs Breadth||Breadth||Depth|
|Homework||Constant reading and writing assignments.||General assignments or no assignments throughout the semester.|
|Grades||Based on the overall performance on all assignments.||Based mostly on the final exam.|
|Athletics||Important social activity; athletic scholarships available.||Intramural sports; some scholarships available.|
|Living Situation||Dormitories with a roommate. Off-campus housing occasionally available.||Off-campus housing available in plenty.|
|Types of Degrees||Associates, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, variety of vocational and professional degrees.||Higher National Diploma, Certificate of Higher Education, Diploma of Higher Education, Foundation Degree, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, variety of professional and vocational degrees. Postgraduate degrees divided into taught and research degrees.|
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