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You are here: Home Life in Blogs & photos UK vs USA Universities
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16/10/2009UK vs USA Universities

UK vs USA Universities Are universities in the USA superior to ones in the UK? John outlines some of the main differences and comes to a surprising conclusion.

So there are a few world-class universities here in the United Kingdom and a great deal of very good ones. Virtually all of them are in England as is to be expected as the majority of the population is in this region.

Here in the UK, education is only compulsory up to the age of 16 at the moment although there is talk of bumping that up to 18. In America when you apply for universities fresh from high school your grade point average (GPA) and your Standard aptitude test (SAT) scores are basically what universities look at. In the UK the students take what is known as A level's in certain subjects which the universities here look for.

So in America you apply in your senior year (twelfth grade when typically students are 17 or 18) of high school for the universities you would like to go to and they send acceptance letters in the spring I believe.

Here in the UK the students take their A levels and apply but through a computer system named UCAS. Apparently it is the only way to do it. You pay GBP 17 and get to apply for up to five programs.

After this point the differences between these countries' universities are much greater.

In the UK bachelors degrees are typically three years and not four as they are in America and that is because the whole approach and methodology to attaining the degree is polar opposite.

In American universities you have to achieve 120 credits in order to attain your bachelors degree in any given subject with each course being worth three credits. Simple math tells you that 120 credits divided by four years of school is 30 credits per year with each class being worth three credits equals 10 courses per academic school year.

Those courses you take are structured into subjects and you are entirely free to choose what courses you want to take BUT you do need to attain a certain amount of your 120 needed to graduate from a variety of subjects. For example you may need 12 of those credits to be English and nine to be in maths even though you are pursuing a history degree.

In England if you are taking a degree programme in history then all of your courses are generally to do with history.

In my eyes this is better. Your knowledge level and understanding in that specific subject will be far superior in practically all instances than someone who takes a four-year degree in the same subject at an American university as they do not focus solely on the degree that will have your name printed on a shiny piece of paper.

Three years of history based classes to attain a history degree or.... four years of history, maths, science, English, PE and a foreign language to attain a history degree?

Seems like an easy choice to me.


John is an American in his late 20's who resides in in Birmingham, England. He is married and has three children. He grew up in the Boston metro area and left America for good when he was 18 years old on 8 April 8, 1999. You can read more from him at his blog 10 Years and Running.

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