About British degrees
There quite a few types of degree programs in the UK: Bachelors Degrees, Foundation Degrees, Masters Degrees and Doctorates, which are all globally recognised qualifications. You can choose either a 3-year degree and graduate with to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) or a four-year sandwich course which includes one year’s professional experience in industry or a year studying abroad.
If you choose to study in Scotland, you can study and graduate with an MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science) degree after four years. These are undergraduate degrees (not Graduate degrees and not equivalent to a Master's degree you would take after a Bachelor's degree) and more similar to the US undergraduate degrees in that you can take a more varied range of subject areas, however, you still declare a main focus throughout the UK degree program (though this can be changed during your studies) and it still tends to be more focused from the beginning of the degree program than a normal US degree.
British taught Master's degrees have a structure that is similar to American Master's programs, however, the British version is arguably a bit more professionally oriented and can be completed in just 12 months, compared to 2 years in the US, thus saving you time and money.
Main differences between American and UK degree programs
UK degrees tend to focus on the main degree subject from the beginning of the degree program and thus more professionally oriented than the US liberal arts education, which requires each student to learn a broader curriculum. For students who have a clear idea of what they want to study, a British degree is ideal as you are allowed to specialize in your subject area from the start.
UK undergraduate degrees are typically 3 years in length, with the exception of Scotland, where undergraduate programs take 4 years to complete.
The UK style of education is particularly suitable for students who want to immerse themselves in a specific subject or combination of subjects straight out of high school. British Degrees leave the learning much more up to you, with the emphasis on lectures backed up by tutorials rather than a more interactive learning environment. Undergraduates are expected to extend their research conducted on their subject and to motivate themselves outside of lectures.
There is a high degree of flexibility and choice with UK degrees. You can pursue your interests and ambitions in fields as diverse as sound-engineering to marine biology or Creative Writing.
How are British degrees taught?
Lectures: formal presentations to large groups of students, who take notes on what is said.
Seminars: Small groups of eight to twenty students who discuss assigned topics with a tutor.
Tutorials: more informal meetings in which one to three students discuss their work with a tutor. The close contact between student and tutor in seminars and tutorials is a particular strength of UK degree courses.
Continuous assessment: Depending on your degree course you will be expected to produce course-work, projects, seminar participation, ongoing exams, etc. Plus, usually, a final dissertation and final exams.
Degree programs available in Britain
There are 2 types of British degrees which you can apply for as an undergraduate:
- Single honours programs involve focused study of a single subject. The core of each program is already designed and you have the opportunity to shape your work by choosing additional modules.
- Joint honours programs/Combined programs enable you to study a combination of subjects, creating opportunities for you to build a degree program to suit your personal interests and needs.
At Master's level you have a choice between a Postgraduate diploma, a taught Master's degree or a Research Master's. The Postgraduate diploma (often referred to as a PG diploma) normally takes 9 months and is in most cases the same as a Taught Master's degree, just without the thesis at the end. The Taught Master's takes 12 months and is very popular with American students. It follows the same structure of classroom work and some research that you would expect from a US degree, but is more focused and thus shorter. In terms of recognition it is the same as a US degree, but you save a year!
If you are particularly interested in a specific area and have perhaps already done some undergraduate research, then a Research Based Master's degree may be a good option for you. These degrees are normally based around working closely with a tutor and is research based. This type of degree typically takes around 12-18 months, but can take up to 24 months as well. Many students often begin this type of program and then transfer into a PhD. Part of your Master's work is then typically credited towards your Phd. In order to be accepted for this degree in the first place, you must typically submit a research proposal and have a strong academic background in the relevant subject.