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UK qualifications explained

Two students walking on campus at Queen's University Belfast

UK qualifications are respected and recognised by employers and academics worldwide.

On this website, you can find thousands of UK courses with the Search tool at the top of the page. You can also read about the main qualifications and course types in the following sections:

  • English language courses may be studied at any age, on their own or alongside your other studies. Find out more in Learn English.
  • For students aged 16 and under, see our guide to Schools and boarding schools.
  • Further education is for students aged 16 and over. This includes:
    • Academic courses, which help you prepare for higher education (e.g. A-levels and the International Baccalaureate). They aim to develop your analytical skills, critical thinking and knowledge.
    • Vocational courses, which are career-focused and give professional training (e.g. BTECs and NVQs). They give you the skills and qualifications needed for a successful career.
  • Higher education is for students aged 18 and over (17 in Scotland). There are two stages of higher education:
    • Undergraduate qualifications, which include bachelors’ degrees, foundation degrees, HNDs and more.
    • Postgraduate qualifications, which include masters’ degrees, PhDs, MBAs and more. This level is for students who have already completed their undergraduate studies, and want to gain a higher qualification.

Education in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

In the UK, there are different education systems for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

  • In England, legislative responsibility for education lies with the UK Parliament at Westminster.
  • For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, responsibility for education law and guidance has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies.

In general, these four systems are very similar and offer many of the same courses and qualifications, but there are some differences.

In the Your study options section, we have summarised general information about UK education, and pointed out some of the main differences between the four systems.

If you would like more detailed information about each national education system, please visit the relevant government website for England, Northern Ireland and Wales. For university-level education in Scotland, visit the Study in Scotland website, or for general information about other types of education in Scotland, visit the government website for Scotland. For information on further and higher education in Northern Ireland visit www.delni.gov.uk.

Other useful resources

The Register of Regulated Qualifications contains details of Recognised Awarding Organisations and Regulated Qualifications in England (Ofqual), Wales (Welsh Government) and Northern Ireland (Ofqual for vocational qualifications and CCEA Accreditation for all other qualifications).

  • UK NARIC offers a paid service giving information on how overseas qualifications compare to UK qualifications.