This kind of selection procedure means that not everyone in Britain with A-level qualifications will be offered the chance of a university education. Critics argue that this creates an elitist system with the academic minority in society whilst supporters of the system argue that this enables Britain to get high-quality graduates who have specialized skills. The current system will be modified by the late 90s and into the 21st century, since secondary system is moving towards a broader-based education to replace the specialized ‘A’ level approach. The reasons for this lie in Britain’s need to have a highly skilled and educated workforce, not just an elite few, to meet the needs of the technological era.
The independence of Britain’s educational institutions is most noticeable in universities. They make their own choices of who to accept on their courses and normally do this on the basis of a student’s A-level results and an interview. Those with better exam grades are more likely to be accepted. Virtually all degree courses last three years, however there are some four-year courses and medical and veterinary courses last five or six years. The British University year is divided into three terms, roughly eight to ten weeks each. The terms are crowded with activity and the vacations between the terms – a month at Christmas, a month at Easter, and three or four months in summer – are mainly periods of intellectual digestion and private study.
The courses are also ‘full-time’ which really means full-time: the students are not supposed to take a lob during term time. Unless their parents are rich, they receive a state grant of money, which covers most of their expenses including the cost of accommodation. Grants and loans are intended to create opportunities for equality in education. A grants system was set up to support students through university. Grants are paid by the LEA on the basis of parental income. In the late 80s (the Conservative) government decided to stop to increase these grants, which were previously linked to inflation. Instead, students were able to borrow money in the form of a low-interest loan, which then had to be paid back after their course had finished. Critics argue that students from less affluent families had to think twice before entering the course, and that this worsened the trend which saw a 33% drop in working-class student numbers in the 1980s.
Students studying for the first degree are called undergraduates. At the end of the third year of study undergraduates sit for their examinations and take the bachelor’s degree. Those engaged in the study of arts such subjects as history, languages, economics or law take Bachelor of Arts (BA). Students studying pure or applied sciences such as medicine, dentistry, technology or agriculture get Bachelor of Science (BSc). When they have been awarded the degree, they are known as graduates. Most people get honours degrees, awarded in different classes. These are: Class I (known as ‘a first’), Class II, I (or ‘an upper second’), Class II, II (or ‘a lower second’), Class III (‘a third’). A student who is below one of these gets a pass degree (i.e. not an honours degree).
Students who obtain their Bachelor degree can apply to take a further degree course, usually involving a mixture of exam courses and research. There are two different types of post-graduate courses – the Master’s Degree (MA or MSc), which takes one or two years, and the higher degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which takes two or three years. Funding for post-graduate courses is very limited, and even students with first class degrees may be unable to get a grant. Consequently many post-graduates have heavy bank loans or are working to pay their way to a higher degree.
The university system also provides a national network of extra-mural or ‘Continuing Education’ Departments which offer academic courses for adults who wish to study – often for the sheer pleasure of study – after they have left schools of higher education.
Ðåôåðàò îïóáëèêîâàí: 12/01/2010