Higher education courses and qualifications in the UK

UK universities and colleges offer thousands of excellent courses, leading to qualifications that are respected by employers and academics worldwide. UK universities and colleges might use these terms to describe the different levels of higher education:

Level 4 or Certificate (C) one year of undergraduate study;

Level 5 or Intermediate (I) two years of study;

Level 6 or Honours (H) three or four years of study.

You will only be a Level 6 or Honours Level graduate if you do a full three- or four-year course this is typically a bachelors degree (BA or BSc) programme.

At undergraduate level the main qualifications offered are:

Bachelors or undergraduate degree: Academic study designed to help you gain a thorough understanding of a subject. Full-time, this normally takes three years to complete (four in some cases). There are different titles of degree, such as: Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Education (BEd) and Bachelor of Engineering (BEng).

There are also two-year courses including Foundation degrees and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), which are valued by employers in many industries. At the end of these you are considered a Level 5 or Level I graduate.

Other qualifications are the two-year Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), and one-year Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE, after which you are considered a Level 4 or Level C graduate). You can study for these qualifications at many further education institutions, such as colleges and private training centres, as well as at universities.

At postgraduate level, the main qualifications offered are:

Master's degree. A masters qualification allows you to further your knowledge in a particular subject, or to go in a completely different direction, using the skills youve gained from your undergraduate studies. A masters degree is an academic qualification awarded to individuals who successfully demonstrate a higher level of expertise in a particular field of study. You can study one in almost any subject, but there are two main types of masters: taught and research. Taught postgraduate programmes consist of a series of lectures or seminars, and are assessed through exams or coursework. Research postgraduate programmes require more in-depth independent study, usually over a period of two or three years. You then report on your research by writing it in the form of a thesis or dissertation.

Most master's courses lead to an MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science) qualification, but there are also subject-specific qualifications including MEng (Master of Engineering), MFA (Master of Fine Arts), LLM (Master of Laws), MArch (Master of Architecture), and more. Courses leading to an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) qualification are research-led and often designed for students to progress to a PhD.

MBA courses. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is an internationally recognised qualification which gives you the skills you need for a successful management career. MBA courses cover topics such as business policy and strategy, operational and strategic management, marketing, market research, finance and accounting, IT, human resource management, leadership, entrepreneurship and international trade.

PhDs/doctorates. A Doctor of Philosophy, or doctorate (PhD/DPhil) is the highest academic level a student can achieve. These degrees are very demanding and often lead to careers in academia (as a lecturer or researcher). Although you dont necessarily need a masters degree, it is usual practice to undertake one before a PhD.

Postgraduate diplomas and qualifications. For those wishing to continue their studies beyond an undergraduate degree, a variety of options are available. Postgrad certificates and diplomas allow students to study something new or build on the skills and knowledge already gained during their first degree.

Subjects and modules. Most higher education courses have a modular structure. This means that you can build a personalised course by choosing modules or units of study from different subject areas. For example, if you are studying English literature, for your first year you could choose one module on Science fiction, one module on Childrens literature, and one module on Short stories.

If you are interested in more than one subject, you may be able to study a combination as part of your course, e.g. English literature and psychology. You can often decide for yourself how much time you would like to spend on each subject. Joint means the two subjects are studied equally (50/50), major/minor means the time spent is usually 75%/25%.

Study modes. Most full-time undergraduate courses take three years to complete (typically four years in Scotland). Full-time postgraduate courses can be from one year upwards. Part-time courses are normally taken over a longer period, so that you can work alongside your studies or learn at a more relaxed pace. There is no set length of time for part-time courses it varies from one course to another.

The academic year. In the UK, the standard academic year starts in September or October and runs until June or July. Some courses are more flexible, however, and offer a range of start dates.

(From http://www.educationuk.org/global/articles/higher-education-courses-qualifications/; http://www.educationuk.org/global/articles/shorter-undergraduate-courses/)


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