A Comparison Between University Degrees in the United States and University Degrees in the United Kingdom
The United States and the United Kingdom have some of the best universities in the world, which include such prestigious institutions as Harvard University, Stanford University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US, and Oxford University, Cambridge University, and Imperial College London in the UK. Therefore, for international students, the decision of whether to study in the US or in the UK can be a difficult one. As such, it is important to run through some of the similarities and differences when it comes to studying in the US and studying in the UK, so that one can get a general idea of what to expect.
Similarities Between Studying For a Degree in the US and Studying For a Degree in the UK
- Entry requirements are equally difficult.
- The student population is likely to be multicultural and of various ages.
- Courses are conducted in English.
- Assessments are made up of a mixture of exams, coursework, presentations, and/or lab work.
- Students will be assigned a personal tutor/supervisor to assist with their work.
- There is a drinking culture among both US and UK students at university level.
Differences Between Studying For a Degree in the US and Studying For a Degree in the UK
- Degree courses tend to be longer in the US.
- Degree courses tend, on average, to be more expensive in the US than in the UK.
- Degree courses tend to be more specialised in the UK than in the US, meaning more choice.
- The grading system is different.
- The cost of living in the UK is slightly lower, on average, than in the US.
Similarities between US and UK Degrees
When it comes to studying for a degree in the United States and in the UK, there are a number of similarities to be noted. To begin with, the entry requirements for universities in the US and in the UK tend to have an equal and comparative level of difficulty. In the US, students are assessed via the GPA (grade point average) system, which assigns a numerical value to the grades received in high school courses, and the SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test), which is an exam that measures general academic skills and knowledge. Conversely, in the UK, students tend to take A-levels, which are specific subject areas that are given points by UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) based upon the grades received. However, both systems are arguably equally challenging, and even if you have the right grades to satisfy the requirements of a degree course, some of the more prestigious institutions (such as Oxford and Cambridge) will almost certainly also hold interviews as well before offering a place, and consider your extra-curricular activities as well in this application process.
As one might expect, university students in the US and in the UK have a distinct student culture, and while there are differences here, one of the similarities is that students in both the US and the UK tend to have a drinking culture – so this is something you should expect, and it might be very difficult to resist if you do not want to be alienated from your peers. However, it should be noted that the legal age for drinking alcohol is lower in the UK, at eighteen, and so this means that students in the UK typically frequent public houses or student union bars as social gathering points, rather than the house parties that are more typical in the US. Moreover, student populations in both the US and the UK tend to be multicultural in nature, and although the majority are in the younger age groups, from twenty to twenty-five, there will inevitably be some older, more mature, students as well. Other similarities include, of course, that university courses in the US and in the UK are both taught in English, while assessments tend to be made up of a similar mix of coursework, exams, presentations, and/or lab work (depending upon the course). In addition, in both the US and the UK, students studying for a degree will be assigned a personal tutor/supervisor, although it should be noted that students in the US might be garnered with more attention, as university study in the UK tends to be a much more independent and autonomous affair – with students left to their own devices more, and trusted to do the work to a good standard.
Differences between US and UK Degrees
One of the clearest differences when it comes to studying for a degree in the US and studying for a degree in the UK is that of the duration of courses, with UK degrees tending to be shorter, at three years in length, compared to the standard four-year course in the US for an undergraduate degree. This is because the system in the US tends to be more general to begin with, so that students can figure out a particular subject area that they want to study in, whereas in the UK this process is carried out in high school (or college as it is called in the UK) so that students already know what they want to study by the time they get to university. For many people, a three-year course instead of a four-year course is extremely beneficial, and especially if they already know what they want to study, as this can, in effect, help to save a year of their lives, along with another year of study and living expenses.
This therefore leads on to another issue and core difference, which is that degree courses tend to be, on average, more expensive in the US than they are in the UK. Thus, for international students, fees in the UK can be expected to be somewhere in the region of £10,000 per year (or $12,000) for lecture-based degree programmes, compared to around £18,300 (or $22,000) in the US. Furthermore, to add to this, the cost of living also tends to be higher in the US as well, with the average cost of living in the UK being around 6.5% cheaper compared to the average cost of living in the US. Therefore, for international students in the US, the total cost of an undergraduate degree, including living expenses and tuition fees, can be expected to be somewhere in the region of $100,000 (or £83,300), while in the UK the total cost of a degree is thought to be somewhere in the region of $80,000 (or £66,000), which is significantly less.
In addition, the grading system in US and UK universities is notably different, with an exceptional score tending to be around 75-80% in the UK, compared to 90-100% in the US for an exceptional score. In fact, in the UK, it is virtually impossible to achieve a score of greater than 80% on a degree course, which is something that American students would find very difficult to understand, due to this number being more like a grade C in America. However, UK university degree courses do tend to be more specialised than those in the US, which means that students in the UK tend to have more choice, and can more easily find a niche area of study that interests them the most. As a result though, studying for a degree in the UK also tends to be a more independent learning experience, with students being expected to do a large degree of autonomous study and research away from the classroom in order to build upon current existing knowledge bases, rather than simply studying what others have done.
So, while there are a number of similarities between university degrees in the US and university degrees in the UK, there are also a number of notable differences that you will need to consider when choosing where to study – it all comes down to where your priorities lie. Thus, if money is not an obstacle, and if you are not sure exactly what you want to study yet, then perhaps studying in the US would be best. However, if you are operating on a relatively tight budget, and if you already have a specific area of study in mind, then the UK might be the best option; it really comes down to circumstances. Overall, there are some top class universities in both the US and the UK, which are renowned all over the world, and both will be equally difficult to gain access to. It is a big life decision when choosing where to study for your university degree, as this is likely to change your life path and what you do. Therefore, it is important to know the similarities and differences between US and UK degrees, in order to make the most informed choice possible.
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