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Find a course in the UK
  UK educational system
  Student visa requirements
Related pages:
Boarding school (study and live in a UK school)
  Language school (study English in the UK)
  Vocational courses (study job-related subjects)
  Short courses (summer school classes)
  University / college (1-year diploma/exchange, or undergraduate degree)
  Postgraduate study (MA, MSc, PhD)
  MBA (study at a business school)
  Distance learning (study while in your own country)
Disabled students (for people with special needs)


This section provides useful links to help you to find a school and course in the UK. Once you have some ideas about where you want to study and what type of course you want to follow, see the Prepare section of this website for details of things to check or to do before travelling to the UK.

Further information about finding a course in the UK can be found on the British Council's EducationUK site: Some of the information is available in other languages on the British Council's non-UK websites (for addresses, see Country Links). There are also useful information sheets produced by the British Council (available as PDF files):

Each year there is a Hotcourses International Student Festival one Saturday in July or August in London. For information, see the International Student section of

Before paying any money to a school, college or university, you may want to make sure that it is a proper institution, that it is in a reasonable financial situation, and that any qualifications which it issues are recognised. Your money will be wasted if you are paying a fraudster, if the school goes bankrupt, or if the qualification you obtain has no value.

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(1) England & Wales

School type
Young children may stay at home, attend a nursery school (sometimes known as a kindergarten, for children aged between 2 and 5), go to a day nursery, join a playgroup or be looked after by a registered childminder.
Children have to go to school (or receive home schooling) after the age of 5. A primary school educates children up to 11. It is sometimes divided into an infant school (for children aged 5-7) and a junior school (for children aged 7-11), or sometimes into a lower school, middle school and upper school. Children who are attending a primary or secondary school are often called pupils.
Children must attend a secondary school (or receive home schooling) from the age of 11 until they are 16. This type of school is sometimes called a high school. The exams taken at the end of this are called GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education). Most schools are comprehensives, which are free and open to children of all abilities including both boys and girls (they are co-educational). In some areas there are selective schools known as grammar schools which admit the most able children using an entrance test (known as 11+ or eleven-plus): the non-selective schools in these areas are known as secondary moderns.

Most secondary schools also have a sixth form, in which children can choose to stay for another 2 or 3 years to study for A levels (GCE Advanced Levels): it is most common to study for A levels in 2 or 3 different subjects, and to take the exams when aged 18 or 19. Pupils may also take AS levels (Advanced Supplementary Level exams) when aged 17. In some cases children travel to a separate sixth form college to continue their studies: these provide education for pupils aged from 16 to 19, including both academic (study-related) and vocational (work-related) subjects.

There are some other types of school. A community school provides education for both adults and children together with activities involving the whole community. A voluntary school is run by a church or other voluntary organisation. A CTC (city technology college) provides a general secondary school education but places special importance on technological subjects.
Special needs
There are a range of special schools at all levels for people with some kind of special need or disability. For courses for adults with special needs, see: Course/Disabled.
Schools which receive taxpayers' money from the British government or local authorities are known as maintained schools or grant-aided schools or State schools. There are also independent schools, many of which accept boarders (who stay overnight at the school) as well as day pupils. A prep school (preparatory school) is a school which prepares children for the entrance exams of a public school (the Common Entrance exam). A public school is a not-for-profit school for children aged between 13 and 18 for which parents pay school fees. For more details of the independent school system in the UK, see: Course/Boarding.
Further education (FE) courses are studies (taken when aged over 16) which are at or below the standard of an A-level exam (in other words, at a lower academic level than a university course). The institutions at which these courses are taught are known as colleges. There are many possible titles depending on the type of subject and level of courses taught at a college. As well as maintained further education colleges, there are a wide range of fee-paying colleges. These are known as independent further education colleges. Courses may be full-time (FT) or part-time (PT), and may be in any subject. Vocational colleges teach practical, job-related subjects. The most common qualifications taken in colleges are HNCs (Higher National Certificates) which usually take 1 year to complete, and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) which usually take 2 years to complete. NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) include some workplace assessment and are generally taken while already working in a job. For more information, see: Course/Vocational. English language schools teach English to foreign students, known in the UK as EFL (see: Course/Language). Many people who are working go to part-time evening classes or attend short courses, for example at a summer school (see: Course/Short). Tutorial colleges (sometimes known as crammers) offer short intensive courses to prepare students to take certain exams (for example, for students who need to re-take their A-level exams).
Higher education (HE) courses are studies which are above the standard of an A-level exam. The institutions at which these courses are taught are known as universities. Students have to pay living costs and a contribution to the tuition costs: some people receive financial help from the government (a student grant). Most EU students pay home fees, while students from elsewhere have to pay higher overseas fees.

A 1-year foundation course may be taken by people who have not taken A-level exams (for example, by students from other countries) as preparation for a full university course in the UK. A study abroad course at a UK university is a short period of study (often between 3 months and 6 months) taken by a university student from another country: usually credits are awarded which count towards the student's degree.

An undergraduate course typically takes 3 years of full-time study and leads to the award of a degree. A sandwich course includes periods of work experience as well as periods of study. See: Course/University.

Distance learning involves studying part-time from home, using written correspondence and broadcasting. The Open University is the largest distance learning institution in the UK. See: Course/Distance.

Postgraduate courses include Masters degrees (which may be taught or research-based) and PhDs. See: Course/Postgraduate. Some people who have already started work go to a private business school to study for an MBA (Master of Business Administration), often with financial support from their companies. See: Course/MBA.

(2) Scotland

Primary school education is for children up to the age of 12 (compared to 11 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland). The equivalent of grammar schools are known as senior secondary schools, and the equivalent of secondary moderns are junior secondary schools. Secondary school exams in Scotland are based on five levels of National Qualifications: Access, Intermediate 1, Intermediate 2, Higher and Advanced Higher. Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are the Scottish equivalent of NVQs. Scottish university courses usually last for 4 years (compared to 3 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).

(3) Northern Ireland

Many secondary schools in Northern Ireland are selective schools rather than comprehensives.

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What are the main conditions I must meet in order to be given permission to enter the UK as a student?

(1) Course
You need to show that you have been accepted for a recognised course of study. Your course must involve at least 15 hours of classes per week at a single school.
When entering or leaving the UK, you should carry (in your hand luggage) proof of enrolment/attendance/progress at your school or university. Ask your school to provide you with a letter (including course dates).
The immigration authorities may contact your school to check that you are enrolled and attend classes.
It is also possible to come to the UK as a prospective student for up to 6 months, provided that you can show that that you intend to enrol on a course of study within 6 months of your arrival.

(2) Finance
You must show you are able to pay for your course's tuition fees and for your living expenses (including accommodation).
You might carry a statement in English from your bank showing how much money is in your bank account.
If you have already paid for your course, you might carry a statement showing how much you have paid.
You need to make it clear that you do not intend to work in the UK (although as a student you may be allowed to take some part-time or holiday work, or to take part in a work placement that is part of your course of study).

(3) Ticket
You must intend to leave the UK after completing your studies.
It is advisable to buy a return ticket to the UK. If you have a single ticket, you may need to explain why.
If you intend to stay for a year in the UK and you have a 1-year "open ticket", make sure that the return date shown on the ticket is at the end of the year. Even though you can change the date of your return flight with this type of ticket, the immigration officer may believe that you are planning to return on the date shown on the ticket, and could issue you with a shorter visa than you require.

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) provide information on British visa requirements for students at the UK Visas site: Choose Application forms from the top menu, scroll down the page to the Guidance Notes section and then click on Students (INF 5).

UKCISA produce guidance notes for students on "Immigration procedures before leaving your country" at

For further information about immigration issues, see: Prepare/Visa.

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Using an education travel agent: Prepare/Agent
The cost of living in the UK: Prepare/Cost
UK immigration issues: Prepare/Visa
Guide to British towns and regions: Travel/Tours/UK

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