Schooling in London: UK Education System Overview for Indian Students

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  • The UK boasts of 100 universities offering a variety of degree programs for both UK and international students
  • It is advisable to apply early for courses around September
  • Higher education in the UK comprises bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees

The UK is known for its excellent education. Schooling in London is considered prestigious thanks to the world rankings, where it ranks at four out of the Top 10 universities and four universities in the Global Top 50. It is the oldest destination that international students favour. Along with schooling in London, one can take up a part-time job while studying so that some educational fees can be taken care of. As per a report in the QS Global MBA Rankings for 2020, 25 Out of the Top 200 Business Schools in the world are in the UK.

Scope of Schooling in London

The UK has over 100 universities offering a variety of degree programs for both UK students. In the UK, about one-third of all students go on to pursue some or other form of higher education (where the number is well over 50% for pupils from Scotland). This makes competition to get into state schools very fierce, and it is advisable to apply early for courses.

In the UK, most undergraduate degree programs take three years to finish. However, the “sandwich course” gaining popularity offers a four-year course that involves one year in the workplace (normally when you’re in your third year).

Choosing the right school depends on a good number of factors such as:

  • Location of the school—Be it a state or international school
  • What is the cost to study at the school?
  • What is the size of the school?
  • Access to home according to distance
  • What courses are available?

Types of Higher Education Institutions

Universities and University Colleges

Higher Education Institutions

Courses at the said institutions have degree awarding powers. The other providers of higher education programmes may use other institutional titles such as ‘college’ as the use of such titles is not regulated by law.

A sixth form college provides high-quality education to 16 to 18-year-olds, which enables them to progress to university or to a higher-level vocational education. There are close to 62 sixth form colleges across England that offer academic and technical to professional courses.

Further Education Institutions

Higher education programmes are also provided in over 250 education colleges, ranging from colleges with fewer than 50 students to colleges with approximately 4000. Such programmes are designed and approved directly by a higher education institution that can award degrees under a formally recognised arrangement.

Alternative Providers

Higher education nowadays is also provided by an increasing number of independent institutions that consist of both for and not-for-profit organisations. These independent institutions receive no direct funding from the government.

First Cycle Programmes

First cycle programmes include bachelor’s degrees with honours and other qualifications that are at Level 6 of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ). These programmes also include foundation degrees and diplomas at Level 5 of the FHEQ.

Branches of Study

The largest group of higher education qualifications at this particular level are bachelor’s degrees with honours, also known as honours degrees. Bachelor’s degrees can also be awarded without honours and are known as ordinary or pass degrees.

Higher Education

Higher education at British universities comprises bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. As an international student, one may also transition to university-level studies via programs that include English language and foundation courses.

Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate courses in UK universities are designed to help students get an insight into a whole new world after school while providing a thorough understanding of a subject. Schooling in London means you’re open to a variety of courses that include humanities, social and political science, art, design, business, technology, science, and much more!

How Does the Education System in the UK Work?

Now we are going to take a look at a simplification of the UK education system for international students. Schooling in London can be looked at with the help of the following four levels — Primary, Secondary, Further, and Higher education. The Primary and Secondary Levels are considered mandatory and can be divided into different stages on the basis of different age groups:

  • Stage 1: Ages 5 to 7
  • Stage 2: Ages 7 to 11
  • Stage 3: Ages 11 to 14
  • Stage 4: Ages 14 to 16

A quick overview of each of these levels can be seen below:

  • Primary school: This is for the age group of 5-11—It includes key stage 1 and key stage 2 under the schooling in the London system.
  • Secondary school: This is for the age group of 11-16—It includes key stage 3 and key stage 4 under the UK educational system. This stage prepares students for taking the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE).
  • Further Education (FE): This is for students over the age of 16—Primarily, students can take up a 2-year program in subjects of their choice that they prefer taking up in colleges or universities. Students have the liberty to opt for vocational qualifications at this level if they are not keen to pursue higher education.
  • Higher Education (HE): This is provided via colleges and universities. Students can pursue both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at this stage. Most international students generally enter at this level.

Boarding Schools vs. Day Schools

Type of School Boarding Schools Day Schools
Advantages Independence: While boarding schools can be far away from your residence, they foster a sense of personal responsibility and independence. Students who stay in boarding schools learn to take the lead in both their lessons and wider activities. At some schools in London, most extra-curricular activities are managed by the students themselves

Social skills: While children socialise at day schools too, living and working with your peers is a unique experience and can be instrumental in developing excellent communication skills and, in some cases, lifelong friendships too

Schooling in London via boarding schools offers families some amount of flexibility. For parents who are committed professionally full time or travel due to business frequently, a day-school routine would need to be compromised by a host of childcare arrangements

Time for Yourself: Opposite to what kids in the day school do, i.e., spend their evenings in a variety of activities, most boarders benefit from a structured free time before dinner or at weekends
Academic Excellence: Day schools seem to have the edge over boarding schools when it comes to academic success. For example, of the top 50 secondary independent schools, as per a report in The Times' 2018 League, only 15 are boarding schools. Why is this the case? Perhaps day schools are more selective owing to the level of competition, especially when it comes to schooling in London

Co-educational schooling:
Co-ed schooling is far more popular in day schools. Many parents in the present time actively seek mixed schooling for their children, as single-sex education could be viewed as old-fashioned

Wider cultural experiences: Schooling in London means that students can take advantage of a variety of cultural experiences
Disadvantages Not for Everyone: While many students do well while being at boarding schools, every child's needs are different. While it would not be a suitable decision to withdraw a kid at the first sign of homesickness, not every child is ready or prepared to live away from the parents Lack of flexibility: Day schooling in London might not be the best option for families with a tight schedule. While most daycare schools offer after-school clubs and activities, working parents might still have to arrange childcare for their children

Overall, there is no right or wrong answer for this one as the decision is a very personal and need-based one. Both day and boarding schools will offer provided to the students and parents that they can take the benefit—from outstanding teaching, extra-curricular activities, and other exciting facilities.

One piece of advice, however, would be that before making a decision, parents, along with their kids (if possible), visit a range of schools and gauge which type of school will suit your child’s needs and your own needs.

Ensuring Quality Education in the UK

Schooling in London allows Indian students to learn and accomplish their goals because education in the UK is rated among the best in the world. The high rating owes emphasis on quality through regular checks by the various bodies.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA)

QAA, as an independent body, regularly assesses the education standards of all public colleges and public universities in the UK. It also ensures that all students have access to quality research, learning, and teaching.

Let us move on with the discussion of the higher education system and degrees offered when you opt for schooling in London and other institutions in the UK:

Higher Education System in the UK

Higher education in the UK is offered by different types of educational institutions, which include specialised schools such as public schools, colleges and universities. All these institutions offer varied types of degrees, i.e., bachelor’s (Undergraduate Degree), Master’s, and Doctoral Degrees (Postgraduate Degrees).

The GCSE Programme & its Relevance

GCSE is a one or two-year programme that can progress to the A level of the university foundation, also known as the international baccalaureate. GCSE or pre-programmes provide a high-quality foundation in the form of secondary education, which prepares you to decide on the right study pathway to a UK university.

The CATS College GCSE programme is specifically designed for international students. The course is taught by subject matter experts who are trained to teach students English as their second language. With the help of the course, you will be able to explore your academic potential and give you a chance to investigate where your interests lie.

After successfully completing the course, you will achieve:

  • GCSE qualifications in a variety of subjects
  • Gain improved subject knowledge and English fluency and proficiency, which is like a pass for your entry into a chosen university preparation programme
  • Develop skills required to excel in your chosen university preparation programme
  • Adapt essential life skills such as time management, collaboration and more


The pre-programme course follows a GCSE approach, but the duration is one year or less. Students can take GCSE exams in some subjects depending on the progress they make. The focus of the programme is preparation for A level or IB.

This programme is designed to give you the basic skills and knowledge to start the university preparation programme, which is an A-level International Baccalaureate Diploma or University Foundation Programme.

After completion, you will be able to:

  • Have an improved subject knowledge that is entry-ready for your chosen university preparation programme
  • Proficiency and fluency (how well you can communicate) in English to help you achieve the desired academic success
  • Achieve skills required to excel in your university preparation and be awarded a subsequent degree programme
  • Acquire life skills that will help you in all walks of life, such as time management, confidence, collaboration, and more.

The reason why choosing your GCSE subjects is important as colleges is because the sixth form looks for students who have scored good grades in the chosen subjects. Apart from this, it’s important that you like the subjects you have taken up as you will be able to score high grades in your GCSEs if you are really interested in meeting your end goal.


The education system in London schools is divided into four categories, namely primary education, secondary education, further education, and higher education. To legally attend primary schooling in the main parts of London, such as Central London, and secondary education, students need to start attending primary school when they are about 5 years old until they student is 16 years old until higher education.

In case you want to study in the UK, know that one of the most sought after destinations for schooling is the city of London. There is an influx of a large number of international students wanting to apply for higher education here because of the quality of education in the UK. If you are ready to take the first step, further guidance to go for schooling in London is just a click away on LeapScholar.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is higher education in the United Kingdom?

Ans. Higher education in the UK is the 3rd level of education when you complete school. It basically means education at universities and colleges for further education — this generally includes undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

2. Is the UK good for international students?

Ans. The UK is the 2nd most popular centre, where a huge number of students (especially international students) want to opt for higher education. There are a variety of financial benefits for international students to attain their education outside their own country.

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An International Higher Ed professional with 7+ years of experience studying, working, and living across three geographies, currently on a mission to share his journey as an International Student.