This site uses cookies to provide a better experience. Continuing navigation accept the use of cookies by us OK

British universities


British universities


Academic life

Academic life in the UK is slightly different from the one in other countries. Study programmes comprise of lectures, laboratory sessions, seminars and group projects as well as individual studying. Each student is assigned a mentor or a personal tutor. Attendance is mandatory and it is rarely possible to retake an exam. In addition, sometimes students live on campus where the academic life meets sport activities and social gatherings.

Courses and academic titles

The British university system is characterised by a wide range of courses as well as a flexible approach, which gives students the chance to build up a personalised university path that can easily adapt to their needs. Generally, the first or undergraduate degree lasts 3 years, but it is possible to undertake a fourth year during which a student can go study abroad or carry out an internship.

The academic title received at the end of this first university cycle reflects the main subject of study:

Bachelor of Arts – BA (Humanities)

Bachelor of Science – BSc

Bachelor of Education – BEd

Bachelor of Engineering – BEng

Bachelor of Law – LLB

Bachelor of Medicine – MB or BS

Pursuing a post-graduate degree in the UK

After the undergraduate, it is possible to pursue a higher degree, a postgraduate degree, or a master’s (the equivalent of the Laurea magistrale in Italy). They have a duration that can very between 1 and 2 years and lead to a master’s in the main area of study (e.g. Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Law). It is also possible to pursue a Doctorate – PhD, which will be awarded to students who have conducted research for a minimum of 3 years.

British grading system

The British grading system is completely different from the Italian one. Firstly, grades are given on a 0-100 scale, with 0 being the lowest and 100 the highest.

In order to pass an exam, it is necessary to get at least 40, which corresponds to an E in the American system or to an 18 in the Italian one. Anything below 40 is an F (failure). Many universities adopt 50 as the minimum grade to pass an exam at a master’s level.

These are the grades compared to the Italian system:

Pass with Distinction/First Class (1:1): 70-100

Pass with Merit/Second Upper Class (2:1): 60-69

Pass/Second Lower Class (2:2): 50-59

Pass/Third Class: 40-49

Fail: 0-39

Admissions and fees

Entry requirements

The entry requirements to access the university system in the UK depend on the type of studies a person wants to pursue. Generally, it is necessary to have completed 13 years of school education in the country of origin or in the United Kingdom, and to have obtained a final qualification such as the UK A-levels. Some faculties (e.g. Medicine, Mathematics) as well as some universities (e.g. Oxford) have an admission test that has to be taken during the summer before applying. A personal statement, one or more references and a CV are required as well.

The access to the British undergraduate degree is done through an agency named Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which helps both students and institutions to manage the process of application. Applications to Master’s degree and PhD are not managed by UCAS; students have to apply to the institution of their interest directly.

English language

In order to enrol in a British university it is necessary to have a good knowledge of the English language. Generally, it is necessary to get a C1 or B2 level according to the Common European Framework of Reference. It is advisable to check the language requirements of the university of interest directly since some institutions may require specific certifications or language tests for foreign students.


The following are some of the dates to be kept in mind in order to apply to a British university:

· Mid-September: from this moment on applications can be submitted (year preceding the start of the academic year);

· October 15th: deadline for degrees in Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary / Pharmacology, and for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge;

· January 15th: deadline for EEA students applying to all other universities, except for arts and design degree courses (deadline: March 24th).

It is advisable to check updates on the UCAS platform regularly.

It is also important to highlight the fact that submitting the application well before the deadlines is seen as a positive element during the admission process.

Admission process

Based on students’ high school final grade and other tests when required (such as interviews, essays, admission tests and language ones), universities make their selections and communicate an outcome by the end of March. These are the possible outcomes: unconditional (admitted without conditions), unsuccessful (not admitted) or conditional (the candidate is asked to take another test such as an interview or an essay).


What can you do if you do not get admitted?

Between July and September, remaining places within different universities are published through UCAS. Thus, this system helps students to find available places. This is the most common way used by students who get their high school results after the aforementioned deadlines.

University fees

University fees in England and Wales are approximately 9,000 GBP per year, whereas in Northern Ireland university fees are about 3,500 GBP per year. EU citizens studying in Scotland do no pay any fees. Postgraduate programmes have fees that differ based on the chosen university and on the field of studies.


In England, university students can apply for a financial support from the British government. More information can be found here. It is possible to ask for financial support, before the deadlines, even if a confirmation of admission has not been received yet. In Scotland, the agency responsible is the Student Awards Agency for Scotland.