US vs. UK: A Comparative Study Guide
Use this guide to help compare your options between a US or UK higher education experience.
As you well know, some of the world’s best universities are located in the United States and the United Kingdom. Given their stellar reputations, it may be confusing for you to decide between the two for your higher studies. There are many things to consider: What type of college life do you want to experience? Do you know what you want to study? How much can you afford to pay?
This guide highlights the major differences between the university structure and systems in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Duration of Program
The most obvious difference between the UK and US higher education structure is the time it will take for you to earn your degree.
US: The typical undergraduate program in the United States lasts four years and a Master’s program takes two years to complete.
UK: In contrast, to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in the UK will take you three years and a Master’s Degree will take you one year (except in Scotland, where the higher education structure is similar to the US).
This difference exists primarily because the education system in America has a wider scope—students often have to complete classes across a variety of subjects outside of their main field of study. In the UK however, the focus is on completing core subjects, which results in a shorter college program.
Living in the university residences is an enriching experience—it gives you ample opportunity to make friends and create a support-system away from home.
US: In the US, student accommodation on-campus is typically an option throughout your tenure at the university. In fact, many schools mandate that international students use university provided accommodation for their first year. Most rooms are shared with one to three roommates and food plans are also provided.
UK: Students in the UK are usually not provided with a food plan; university housing is generally self-catered, which means you are responsible for buying your own groceries and making your own meals and snacks. You are, however, awarded more privacy at a UK school as it is unlikely that you would share a room with another student.
The teaching and grading process in the US and UK differ significantly; it is important that you are comfortable with the system you choose.
US: Continuous assessments are given at American universities in the form of homework, quizzes, tests, projects, finals, and more. Your final grade is based on how well you do in all this and at times, even on attendance and group participation.
UK: Classes in the UK are lecture-based; you may be assigned the odd presentation or essay, however, your entire grade is usually based on your end-of-term finals.
The teaching and grading process in the US and UK differ significantly
Obtaining a degree from either country is not cheap. Generally though, an undergraduate program in the United States will be more expensive than in the UK.
US: According to reports, for the 2014/15 school year in the United States, the average tuition fee for out-of-state students at public, four-year colleges was $22,958 (about GBP 16035.26) and for private, non-profit, four-year colleges, it hovered around $31,231 (approximately GBP 21,815). Though the US schools have higher tuition fees, it is important to note that there are many financial aid and scholarship options available to students studying in the United States.
UK: In line with a law passed in 2012, universities in England may charge up to GBP 9,000 (about $12,852) in tuition to UK and EU citizens; international student fees may run up to twice this amount. The UK government sets limits for tuition and each university can establish fees up to that limit.
There are many differences between studying in the US and the UK and we have touched on a few of the most important here. It is essential that you are self-aware about what you want and need from a college education to best help you make your decision between universities in these two countries.
It is essential that you are self-aware about what you want and need from a college education
Best of luck in your search for either the right US or UK college!
About the Author: Muneeza Kizilbash grew up in the United States and Pakistan and was active in her university’s International Student Council. Now settled in Dubai, she loves to inform, educate and entertain her readers through her writing.