The structure of higher education in Great Britain is very complex. The main sources of higher educational institutions are: universities (including the Open University1), teacher-training colleges and polytechnics. British universities come in all ages, sizes and shapes. The oldest of them, Oxford and Cambridge, founded in the 12-th and 13-th centuries took the students from all over the country. The younger civic or “Redbrick” universities serving the needs of their cities were organized in the 19-th century. The newest “Whitebrick” universities came into existence during the 1960s. Admission to universities is by examination or selection in the for of interviews. Applications from candidates for admission to nearly all universities are submitted to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). It is the UCAS that sends the copies to different universities and each university selects its own students.
British universities are independent, self-governing institutions. Although they all receive financial support from the state (about 79 per cent), the Department of Education and Science has no control over their regulations, curriculum, examinations and the way in which the money is spent. Teacher education includes all forms of education provided mostly by teacher-training colleges which receive their grants directly from the Department of Education and Science. The great majority of colleges are maintained by the Local Education Authorities. The most usual route to a teaching qualification is by way of three or four year course, leading to the Bachelor of Education Degree.
The universities and teacher-training colleges are classed as higher educational institutions because they award degrees. The normal duration of a first degree course is three of four years. At the end a Bachelor Degree is awarded on the results of examinations. A Master Degree is usually awarded after a further year or two years of studies. The highest degree is the Doctor of Philosophy. It is awarded for research and submission of a thesis-normally after Bachelor and Master Degrees.
Apart from the Universities and teacher-training colleges there are 30 polytechnics in England and Wales and 14 Scottish central institutions. The work of the Polytechnics is of university level. But the universities, funded directly by the state, are less controlled than the Polytechnics. Local Education Authorities are responsible for the budgets of the Polytechnics. Their work is planned and financed by the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.
Most degrees in Polytechnics are awarded by a national body called the Council for National Academic Awards. The Council ensures that the degrees awarded in polytechnics are equal to the degrees awarded by universities. Polytechnics award the Diploma in Technology. The usual course for the diploma is 3 years for full-time students and 4 years for “sandwich” course ones. The “sandwich” course students alternate periods of full-time education and full- time employment. These courses provide many people with the opportunity of receiving higher technical education.