The structure of higher education in Great Britain is very complex. The main sources of higher educational institutions are: universities, teacher-training colleges and polytechnics.

There are more than 60 universities in the U.K. They greatly differ from each other in date of foundation, size, history, tradition, general organization, methods of instruction and way of student life.

The 2 intellectual eyes of Britain – Oxford & Cambridge Universities – date from the 12 & 13 centuries. They are known for all over the world and are the oldest and most prestigious universities in Britain. They are often called collectively Oxbridge, but both of them are completely independent. Only education elite go to Oxford and Cambridge.

In the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries the so-called Redbrick universities were founded. These include London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Birmingham. During the late sixties and early seventies some 20 'new' universities were set up. Sometimes they are called 'concrete and glass' or “Whitebrick” universities. Among them are the universities of Sussex, York, East Anglia and some others.

There's an interesting form of studies which is called the Open University. It's intended for people who study in their own free time and who 'attend' lectures by watching TV and listening to the radio. They keep in touch by phone and letter with their tutors and attend summer schools. The Open University students have no formal qualifications and would be unable to enter ordinary universities.

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.

Good A-level results in at least 2 subjects are necessary to get a place at a university. However, good exam passes alone are not enough. Universities choose their students after interviews.
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 the money is spent.

Teacher education is 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 universities and teacher-training colleges are classed as higher educational institutions because they awarddegrees. The normal duration of a first degree course is three or four years. The Bachelor Degree is awarded on the results of examinations. The Master Degree is usually awarded after one or two years of studies. The highest degree is Doctor of Philosophy. It is awarded for research and defense of the thesis.

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.

The academic year in Britain's universities, Polytechnics, Colleges of education is divided into 3 terms, which usually run from the beginning of October to the middle of December, the middle of January to the end of March, from the middle of April to the end of June or the beginning of July.

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