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Undergraduate

UNDERGRADUATE

PATHWAYS INTO UK UNIVERSITIES – FROM SECONDARY TO HIGHER EDUCATION

In the UK, formal education continues until the age of 18, after which students can go to study a Higher Education degree. They must have achieved at least the equivalent of the UK National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 3 before they can begin a Bachelor degree. The options for Spanish students entering Further and Higher Education are shown below.

Types of schools

State College of Education

In addition to providing school-level programmes such as A Levels and BTEC Diplomas, state colleges also run International Foundation courses for non-UK students. This is a good way for students leaving their own system after 11 or 12 years of schooling to bridge the gap between school and university. Students seeking vocational courses such as Sports Coaching , Culinary Arts or Healthcare subjects will also find a wide range of programmes leading up to degree equivalence level at state colleges. College students  are treated as adults and need to take responsibility for their study time outside the classroom. Accommodation is with homestay families or in residential student accommodation. Fees are very reasonable.

 

Independent Colleges

There are many independent colleges which specialise in offering university preparation programmes from GCSE to A Levels/IB  up to International Foundation courses. Private colleges tend to focus more on examinations and entry to high ranking universities and also offer students the opportunity to retake the last year of high school if their grades were not high enough to enter the university of their choice. They may also offer specialist services such as preparation for Oxbridge or medical school, and will have a much higher percentage of international students than state colleges. Classes are small and fees are very high. They are usually located in the major university cities – London, Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, Manchester, for example. They offer a range of accommodation choices from boarding to homestay to student residences.

 

On-Campus Pathway Centres

These are partnerships between universities and private programme providers. They offer English language and pathway programmes (Foundation and Diploma) for international students on the campus of a university. Students who can pass the course with the required grade are usually guaranteed a place at the university. Teaching takes place in special centres and students are accommodated in separate blocks from the older students  but otherwise students are free to use all the resources of the university – libraries, sports and leisure facilities etc. These centres are excellent for students who already have a clear idea of what subject they want to study and the university they wish to attend, but it can sometimes be difficult to change once a student is enrolled onto a preparation programme. There is strong support for international students from the programme provider, especially when navigating progression at the end of the programme.

 

Universities

Many universities run their own Foundation programes for international students who need an extra year before starting a course at a UK university. Students are expected to progress to the same university on completion of the course if they are successful.

Programmes

For students who have not yet achieved the equivalent of NQF Level 3 (A Levels/IB), there is a range of programmes to choose from depending on subject choices, academic level and English level.

 

International Foundation Year

It is available at state and private colleges for students aged at least 17 years having completed a minimum of 11 years of schooling in their own system. Some courses, aimed at higher ranking universities, may only accept students who have already graduated from high school. On completion of these courses, students apply to universities of their choice.

 

Fast-track on-campus International Foundation pathway

It is offered on the campus of universities and combines English language with academic subjects. Students usually expect to attend the same university on completion.

 

Fast-Track International Diploma

This is for students who have graduated from high school in their own country with good grades, but would normally need a Foundation year before starting a UK degree. The Diploma is a combined Foundation and Year One programme which offers progression into Year 2 of a UK university degree. Subject choice may be more limited on this pathway.

Degrees

All universities offer Bachelors degrees with Honours, the standard length being 3 years. Usually BA Hons (Bachelor of Arts) or BSc Hons (Bachelor of Science).

 

Some programmes offer a one year paid work placement (a “sandwich” year), which extends standard course length to 4 years. There are a few universities which offer 2 year accelerated degrees, which operate year-round and use the summer holidays as teaching time. Some specialist degrees are longer, for example, Medicine, which is 5 or 6 years, and undergraduate degrees which finish at a higher level – for example, the 4 year MPharm, required for Pharmacy students who want to become registered in the UK, or MArch for Architecture students.

 

Note: in Scotland the standard  degree length is 4 years (as students graduate from high school one year earlier than England and Wales). Spanish students may go directly from their high school graduation into a 4 year Scottish degree. In some cases, with exceptionally high marks, they may gain advanced entry into year 2.

 

Degrees below Honours Level may be offered by some universities and colleges. These are called Foundation degrees (or there are various types of Higher Diploma) at NQF level 5. They take 2 years and offer direct access to the work force. They can also be topped-up to Honours degree level.

Entry requirements

These vary according to programme and level but students are expected to achieve a minimum of between 6 and 7/10 from their last academic programme, and would need at least IELTS 5.0 to begin a Foundation course. Extension courses for English language study are also available. Direct entry to degree courses requires IELTS 6.0 or 6.5. All universities offer pre-sessional English language programmes which can be studied before the main programme begins. They also offer support throughout the academic programme.

THE CANADIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM

All provinces except Québec, which has its own French-inherited system, follow the model below.

Type of schools

Community Colleges

In addition to being degree providers themselves, Community  Colleges in Canada provide a flexible and more affordable  way of getting into universities by the credit transfer route. With fees up to 30% lower than universities, they offer full Honours degrees as well as 1 or 2 year credit transfer programmes in a range of subjects which can articulate to year 2 or 3 of a Bachelors degree in a university. One big advantage of the College system for international students is that they can start studying with a lower level of English than normally required for their academic programme and study English during their course to meet the requirement for progression. Some Colleges also offer more intensive, Fast-Track routes to help students complete their courses more quickly, and previous post-secondary programme credits may also help them gain Advanced Entry to certain programmes.

 

On-Campus Pathway Centres

These are partnerships between universities and private programme providers. They offer English language and pathway programmes for international students on the campus of a university, with access to all the facilities of that university. They  gain credits in their chosen subjects and merge into the general student population after one year (or longer if they need more  English). Students who meet the university’s entry requirements are guaranteed a place on their undergraduate course on completion of the pathway programme.  This is an excellent route for international students who need more preparation for academic courses in English after graduating from high school back home, and who want to enrol in a particular university from the beginning.

 

Universities

Canadian universities are mostly public and of uniformly high quality. They are divided into groups:

  • Universities in the Medical Doctoral category have a broad range of Ph.D. programmes and research, as well as medical schools.
  • Comprehensive Universities have a significant amount of research activity and a wide range of programmes at the undergraduate and graduate level, including professional degrees.
  • Primarily  undergraduate universities are largely focused on undergraduate education, with relatively fewer graduate programmes and graduate students

For more information on Canadian universities, go to Macleans Education Hub.

Programmes

Post-secondary Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas:

Students who complete one or two-year programmes at a Community College can earn a Diploma/Advanced Diploma that allows them to articulate to the second or third year of a 4-year university programme in the same subject major. Students may transfer automatically to any university with which the College has an articulation agreement, or apply to others of their choice. Colleges offer strong support for international students and English language support throughout.

 

Bachelors (Honours) degrees:

Typically 5-6 semesters, these can be studied at a Community College or a University by direct entry or credit transfer from a Diploma.

Medicine and Law are graduate subjects in Canada  so students usually need to complete their Bachelor degree before applying for entry to a Law or Medical School. (There may be exceptions to this in Québec, see below).

Entry requirements

Diplomas and Pathways:

Students should have graduated from their high school with a good pass and have the minimum level of English required for the entry point, usually IELTS 5.0-5.5.

For Direct Entry, students require a high school graduation score of at least 70% and a higher level of English – IELTS 6.0-6.5.

English courses  are available for those who need to improve their level before entering any degree programme at any level.

 

Québec:

The system in Québec differs from the anglophone provinces in that students graduate from high school after 11 years of study, at age 17, then enter a Collège d’Enseignement Général Et Professionnel (CÉGEP) for two years before applying to University. The CÉGEP is a public school that provides the first level of post-secondary education leading to the the Diploma of College Studies (DSC), better known by its French name and acronym, Diplôme d’études collégiales (DEC).

 

The CÉGEP offers a wide range of post-secondary pathways including vocational/technical subjects preparing students for the workplace, pre-university courses and short professional courses. Most programmes are in French but there are 5 anglophone CÉGEPS to choose from as well. Universities in Québec are primarily francophone or anglophone and students have a choice according to their study language preference. There are both private and public universities. The public McGill University in Montréal, for example, is ranked No 1 Doctoral/Medical University in Canada.

 

Honours degrees are four years in length (Years 0,1,2,3) and international students may apply for direct entry into Year 0 from their high school, or to Year 1 from the DEC/DSC. Some universities in Québec will admit students to medical school for 4 or 5 years after completing the DEC, but this varies from university to university. Similarly, it is possible to enter Law School in Québec after completing the DEC at a CÉGEP.

THE US EDUCATION SYSTEM

Type of schools

Community colleges

Community Colleges provide a popular and more affordable way of getting into universities by the credit transfer route. With fees up to 50% lower than top universities, they offer Associate Degrees in a range of subjects which can articulate to the final 2 years of a Bachelor’s degree in many universities. Another advantage of Community Colleges is that they do not require SAT scores for entry, nor for progression to universities.

 

Preparatory Colleges

These are private institutions geared to international students who have graduated from high school in their own country and want to prepare to enter top US universities. The one-year programme gives credit for transfer to undergraduate courses and helps students improve their English, academic and social skills.

 

On-Campus Pathway Centres

These are partnerships between universities and private programme providers. They offer English language and pathway programmes for international students on the campus of a university, with access to all the facilities of that university. Students do not need SAT scores to enter or to progress. They gain credits in their chosen subjects and merge into the general student population after one year (or longer if they need more English). Students who meet the university’s entry requirements are guaranteed a place on their undergraduate course on completion of the pathway programme. This is an excellent route for international students who have not studied SAT in their home country and are not prepared for the direct application system.

 

Universities

In the US, there are both state-funded and private universities, large and small. The state universities tend to have lower prices than private ones and are more likely to offer financial assistance. The more elite institutions (such as the Ivy League) tend to be private. Both types of university select students according to their SAT scores (public examinations which must be taken by every student applying directly) and their application via the  College Application system and selection can be fiercely competitive. International students often require assistance with direct entry and there are many routes for them to avoid SAT’s nowadays.

Programmes

Associate degrees

A student who completes a two-year programme at a Community College can earn an Associate of Arts/Associate in Arts (AA) or an Associate of Science/Associate in Science (AS) degree. AA degrees are usually earned in the liberal arts and sciences such as humanities and social science fields; AS degrees are awarded to those studying in applied scientific and technical fields and professional fields of study. Generally, one year of study is focused on college-level general education and the second year is focused on the a particular subject area. Students may transfer automatically to any university with which the College has an articulation agreement, or apply to others of their choice. Articulation agreements vary from state to state and College to College.

 

The basic AA/AS programme is very reasonably priced and students may extend the time it takes to study the number of credits required for transfer. There are now enhanced programmes available to international students on some colleges campuses, where they have a personal tutor monitoring their progress and helping them to complete their required credits in the shortest time possible, and a full international support service including accommodation and assistance with university applications. These are more expensive.

 

Preparatory Programmes

These are intensive programmes of academic study that help international students seeking direct entry to achieve high scores on SATs and take Advanced Placement (AP) subjects in order to apply to top universities. They tend to be expensive but achieve their purpose in a short time.

 

Bachelor Degrees

The standard length of a Bachelor’s degree is 4 years, although it can take longer according to the number of credits a student achieves in a given period of time. Some students take time out to gain work experience, while others choose to go more slowly if they are feeling pressure in their chosen subjects. Bachelors degrees are typically BA (Bachelor of Arts), BS (Bachelor of Science) or BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration).

Medicine and Law are graduate subjects in the US so students need to complete their Bachelor’s degree before applying for entry to a Law or Medical School.

Entry requirements

Associate Degrees, Preparatory Programmes  and Pathways

Students should have graduated from their high school with a good pass and have the level of English required for the entry point, usually TOEFL 70-80.

 

For Direct Entry, students require SAT scores (unless they apply through a partner service such as a pathway provider which also handles direct entry) and higher levels of English – TOEFL 80-90.

 

English courses are available for those who need to improve their level before entering any degree programme at any level.

THE IRISH EDUCATION SYSTEM

Students in Ireland graduate from high school at either 17 or 18, depending on the track they follow, and then apply for post-secondary education in a College, Institute of Technology or University. Ireland has 8 universities, 4 university colleges, 11 Institutes of Technology and 4 private Colleges, all of which offer courses up to Postgraduate level.

 

There are 10 levels in the Irish Qualification Framework (NFQ) as shown below.

Type of schools

International Study Centres

Usually a partnership between a university and a private provider which offers international Foundation courses to students who do not yet meet the academic and/or English language entry requirements for a degree course.

 

Institutes of Technology

These are university-level institutions with degree-awarding powers that offer courses more closely linked to the workplace. They also offer a range of technical and vocational qualifications. The teaching quality is excellent and many companies based in Ireland headhunt students from Institutes of Technology, especially in the fields of Computer Science, Multimedia, Hospitality and Catering, Pharmaceuticals and Medical Technology. Institutes of Technology tend to be less expensive than Universities and many courses have built-in paid work experience, offering students the opportunity to be better prepared for the workplace.

 

Universities and University Colleges

The 8 Irish universities are more traditional and offer a wide range of subjects. The University Colleges tend to be more specialist – such as The Royal College of Surgeons, the largest medical school in Ireland and one of the most respected internationally. Another specialist institution is the Shannon College of Hotel Management belonging to the National University of Ireland Galway. All offer courses from Bachelors through to postgraduate, the universities also offering PhDs and post-doctoral research.

 

Private Colleges

There are a number of private Colleges which also offer degrees and diplomas in various subjects validated by Quality & Qualifications Ireland (QQI) which ensure national/international recognition. The largest of these is Griffith College, Dublin, which has a wide range of subjects, while the others are mostly subject-specific, especially for Business and Computer Studies, and are located in Dublin, Galway and Limerick.

POST SECONDARY PROGRAMMES

International Foundation Year

It is available at state and private colleges, including international study centres located on the campuses of higher education institutions for students having graduated from high school in their own system. On completion of these courses, students apply to partner universities or institutions of their choice.

 

Ordinary Degrees

It takes 3 years to complete and graduates can enter the workforce or top-up to an Honours degree.

 

Honours degrees

It takes 4 years to complete and qualifies graduates to progress to a Masters if they so desire.

 

Higher Diploma

It is equivalent to an Honours degree in level (level 8) and is awarded for Technical and Vocational subjects

Entry requirements

International Foundation Course

Graduation from high school with 6-7/10, IELTS 5.0-5.5, depending on the course chosen.

 

Ordinary degree

Graduation from high school with 6-7/10, IELTS 5.5, may vary according to institution.

 

Honours degree

Graduation from high school with at least 7/10, IELTS 6.0-6.5. May vary according to institution.

 

All institutions offer pre-sessional English language programmes which can be studied before the main programme begins. They also offer support throughout the academic programme.