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UK Education System

Abbey College Cambridge Explains the UK Education System

The UK Education System

The UK has a world renowned reputation for its quality of its Education. The qualifications offered by British schools, colleges and universities are recognised as hallmarks of excellence and distinction. Four of the UK’s finest universities – Oxford, Cambridge, University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London – consistently feature in the world’s top ten, so it should come as no surprise that employers around the globe look favourably on UK graduates.

The benefits of studying in the UK education system stretch far beyond the qualifications and the certificate. English is the international business language and being fluent is one of the most important skills that any ambitious student can have. The UK provides more help to international students than any other country, from comprehensive learning support to assistance with visa applications.

By studying at Abbey College Cambridge you will be given an unparalleled opportunity to gain entry to the best universities the UK has to offer, the chance to improve your English, and to make the best possible start to your career. Every year hundreds of students choose come to the UK to study with us because they are ambitious, hungry to succeed, and recognise the quality of education that we provide.

Abbey College Cambridge University Pathways

UK Qualifications Explained

General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs) can be studied over one year, two year and 18 month periods. Students are typically aged 14 – 16 years on entry. Students study up to 7 subjects, with some compulsory and some elected. Grades are awarded from A* (the highest possible grade) down to G. GCSE courses represent the first stage on the path to a UK university, and many institutions will ask for at least 5 passes at grade C or above for entry (often including GCSE English and Mathematics passes).

Advanced Level courses, known commonly as ‘A Levels’ can be studied over two years or 18 months. Students are typically aged between 16 – 19 years on entry. They study 4 or 3 subjects. Grades are awarded from A* (Highest grade) down to E. The first part of the A Level course is known as the ‘AS’ Level and the second part as the ‘A2’ Level. A Level courses are the most commonly used qualifications for entry to UK universities.

The International Foundation Programme is a one year course designed to offer direct access to study at top UK universities. Students choose to focus on one of three subjects specific pathways; Business, Accounting and Economics, Science and Pharmacy, or Engineering. Results are given as a percentage score out 100. Many of our Foundation Students move on to study at the elite ‘Russell Group’ of top UK universities.

Examples of International GCSE Equivalent Level Qualifications

CountryGCSE Equivalent Qualification*
  • Compulsory Education Certificate/Lower Secondary School Graduation Certificate
  • Certificate of Completed Secondary Education
  • SPM (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia)
  • General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level
  • Senior School Certificate
  • West Africa Senior School Certificate
  • Аттестат о среднем (полном) общем образовании (Certificate of Secondary (Complete) General Education)
United States
  • High School Graduation Diploma
  • Bằng Tốt Nghiệp Phổ Thông Trung Học (Upper Secondary School Graduation Diploma)

*These comparisons are intended for illustrative purposes only. To discuss your qualifications further please contact a member of our college admissions team.

Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a charitable organisation through which applications to British universities are processed. Students can apply for up to five university courses and the application process is conducted online.

Almost all of our students join us as the first step on a journey that will take them on to study an undergraduate degree course at a top British university. We place a high importance on the UCAS application procedure. For our A Level and International Foundation Programme students, preparation for their UCAS application begins in their second full term of study, and is integrated into our Pre-Degree Diploma Programme. Personal Tutors and our Vice Principal Academic also support students in drafting their personal statements and providing school references.

We support students making an application through UCAS by offering:

  • Individual discussion of chosen courses and academic institution . seminars, dedicated UCAS weeks and visits to university open days.
  • A full explanation of the process from UCAS application to university acceptance. Detailed advice concerning the completion of the UCAS form . Supervision throughout the UCAS application process. Advice on and visits to university open days . Help with the organisation of internships and work placements in both industry and academia . Help with the organisation of voluntary work and work-shadowing placements. Supervision throughout the UCAS Extra and UCAS Clearing processes.
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