UK Vs USA Education System: What are the Differences?

Be it US or UK, both the countries follow the educational culture which is rich in quality education, intellectualism, academic freedom and offer excellent research facilities. From the World’s top 200 universities half are located either in the US or the UK. Though both the countries provide an enriching education experience but there are some basic differences between the university structure and life of students in US Vs UK. So, in this article we are going to discuss about the key differences between education systems of UK Vs USA, USA Vs UK which is better, USA Degree Vs Uk Degrees etc.

UK Vs USA Education System:


Time Span

Span of time to finish your degree is the most crucial difference between the study in USA Vs UK. The degree programs in the USA generally takes one more year than the programs in the UK but this depends upon the fact that whether you are going for a Master’s degree prior to a PhD. In both the countries a candidate can directly enrol for a PhD program after the undergraduate degree. In UK it is a common practice to first complete master’s degree and then go for the PhD. If you compare USA Degree Vs UK Degrees, UK degrees are a bit more focussed than in the USA.

Academic Calendar

The academic calendar for both the countries varies. The universities in UK and USA both use the semester system, the trimester systems and the quarter systems. The most of the schools in UK start in September or October and get over by May or June and they have a longer academic year. Whereas in USA, the term for most of the universities start in mid to late August and then take a break in mid-December and then the second semester starts in the month of January. There are some universities where the winter break starts at the end of the month of November.

Structure of Universities

In UK most of the universities are amalgam of “colleges” which offer specific subject’s program. Though the colleges are governed by the university but they are autonomous bodies and conduct their program as per the college authorities. In UK you apply directly to the college you want to study in and in the case of undergraduate courses you apply through a centralized admission system which is known as the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or UCAS. In this system you can apply to multiple colleges through one for only. So, the candidates should know which program they want to opt for before applying.

Whereas in US you apply to the central university and for the initial year, you study multiple courses and choose your specialization at the later stage. Universities in US have a number of “Schools” with different majors e.g.  School of Arts and Sciences will offer you a number of related majors you can opt for. You also have to study “elective” subjects even after deciding the major you want to opt for.

So, we can say that if we compare Study in UK vs US, the US universities focus more on the variety of subjects whereas the UK universities focus on the in-depth knowledge of a particular subject.

Assignments and Grades

The UK education system is lecture-based and there are not too many assignments to do. In some of the courses the entire grade is dependent upon your performance in the final exam. On the other hand in USA, you will be required to do lots of assignments like oral presentations, writing projects, doing research papers etc. throughout the course. So, your grade will depend upon how you perform your assignments and the final exam results.

Cost of Education

Education Cost in both the countries is on higher side when compared with Indian education cost. If we compare cost of Study in UK vs US, the cost of education in US is on higher side. In England the universities can charge up to £9000 (around $14,300) per year as per the law passed in 2012. This is the fees prescribed for the residents of the UK and the European Union and the fee for international students is higher comparatively. The tuition fees limits are set by the government and the individual colleges set their fees within that prescribed fee limit.

However, in the USA the government exercise very little control over the university fees. As per the US education system the in-state tuition fees and out-of-state tuition fees differs. Also, the fee for public and private universities is different. For public institutes, the average tuition fee is around $3000 per year and the average tuition fee is around $29,000 per year.

In both the countries, the education loans and scholarships are available to help the students to fulfil their dream of studying.


The education systems in both the countries provide high quality education with best infrastructure but the learning approach differs and there are pros and cons to both. If you are planning to study in one of these countries, you should keep the above factors in mind while comparing UK Vs USA education structure.

You have to select the country by deciding on major factors like time span to finish your degree, tuition fees and the most important part whether you want to gain the breadth/wide knowledge or you want to attain in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

United States of America United Kingdom
Time Span Bachelor’s Program: 4 years
Master’s Program: 2 years
PhD: 5-7 years or even longer
Bachelor’s Program: 3 years
Master’s Program: 1 year
PhD: 3 years
Academic Calendar Mostly Universities follow the semester system. Only a few follow a trimester or quarter term system. Most of the schools start in mid or late August and end in May. UK schools also follow semester system and only a few follow trimester or quarter systems. The term start and end varies according to universities.
Structure of University Centralized education system with centralized control over the different schools segregated on subject basis. The colleges or Schools are autonomous bodies where university act as a guide. Colleges control the day to day functioning.
Learning System Wide and Varied studies. Students are encouraged to study beyond the major. You have to focus on your subject area and get thorough knowledge through classroom studies.
Focus Point Breadth Depth
Assignments Require you to do lots of assignments. Very less or no assignments.
Grades Based on assignment performance and final results Based on final exam results
Cost of Education High Moderate
Sports and Athletics Lots of focus on sports development. Athletic scholarships available In-house sports activities and Athletic scholarships not available
Accommodation Stay in dormitories with at least one roommate. Off-campus staying options available occasionally. Stay in dormitories without roommate. Off-campus staying generally available.
Degrees Available Associates, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., many vocational and professional degrees available. Higher National Diploma, Certificates of Higher Education, Diploma of Higher Education, Foundation Degree, Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D., professional and vocational degrees. Master’s degrees segregated into taught and research degrees

Hope this comparative discussion of studying in UK Vs USA will help the students to take the right decision. If you have any queries, please ask in the comment box below, we will try to resolve it.