Which education system is better? American or British?

Times Higher Education’s world university ranking says, more than half of the world’s top 200 universities are located in the US or the UK. Both countries share a rich tradition of quality education, excellent research facilities, and a culture that promotes intellectualism and academic freedom. However, there are many differences between the 2 countries regarding the structure of the university as well as student life.
Let’s analyse which education system will be the best for you:

Duration of the Course

One of the most important differences in the education system between the US and the UK is the amount of time it takes to finish the degree. In general, degree programs in the US take about one year longer than programs in the UK. In both systems, you can go straight away for a PhD program out of your undergraduate program, but in the UK it is more common to complete a Master’s degree program before moving on to a PhD. Study courses are shorter in the UK because the programs happen to be much more focused in the UK.

Academic Timeline

Most universities in the US begin their terms in mid to late August. Others take a lengthy break beginning in mid-December and begin the second semester in early to mid-January. A few universities run on different calendars, such as a trimester or quarter-based system, they begin their winter break at the end of November.

The academic term in the UK is a bit more varied. While most use the semester system, the trimester and quarter systems are used in some universities. Most schools start in September or October and end in May or June. The academic term is much less standardised in the United Kingdom; if you happen to study there, your university might have a much different calendar.

University Organization
Many universities in the UK are made up of “colleges” that are only dedicated to a specific subject matter. Rather than applying to the central university admissions department, like it happens in the US, you either apply directly to the college of the subject you want to pursue or for undergraduate programs, you apply through a centralised system which eventually allows you to apply to several colleges at once.

In contrast, for the US, you apply to the large university and for the first year or even more, you take courses from a variety of fields and only then declare a major at the end of the first year or maybe even during the second year. American universities have different “schools,” or branches, such as the School of Arts and Sciences, which holds a number of related majors.

For this, the general emphasis of higher education in the US is breadth or getting a range of knowledge from a variety of different subjects. Whereas in the UK, the emphasis is more on depth; getting a thorough understanding of the chosen subject.

Homework and Grades

Because the US system emphasises breadth, the courses require weekly or biweekly readings as well as other assignments such as small writing projects, major research papers, and oral presentations throughout the course of study. The grade will be based on your performance on the variety of assignments, with the final exam making up only a percentage of your total grade.

In the UK, most schools are much more lecture-based, with only a few occasional assignments throughout the semester. In some cases, there are no actual required assignments and instead, the entire grade may be based on one final exam.


The cost of education is far from cheap. But if we compare,United States is generally higher. According to a law passed in 2012, universities in England can charge up to £9000 ($14,300) per year. This applies only to citizens of the UK and the EU, not international students.
In contrast, the government has minimal control over what universities charge in the United States. It differentiates between in-state tuition fees and out-of-state tuition fees, as well as between private and public universities. The average tuition fee for public two-year institutions is around $3000 per year, while the average fee for private four-year institutions is around $29,000 per year. Finally, some private four-year institutions can cost up to $50,000 per year.


They are roughly equivalent, although in the UK it is pretty usual to have a bedroom by yourself, whereas in the US, you can easily share a bedroom with another person. However, after the first year, students in the US has additional housing options available to them, such as private housing or off-campus housing.


While both countries provide a great education, each system approaches education slightly differently, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. If you are aiming to pursue your studies in either the US or the UK, you should take into consideration the various differences, especially the duration of the degree, the tuition fees and whether you prefer more depth or more breadth in your degree program.

America Britain
Duration of the Course BA: 4 years
MA: 2 years
PhD: 5-7 years or longer
BA: 3 years
MA: 1 year
PhD: 3 years
Academic Timeline Most schools use the semester system, but some use a trimester or quarter system. Most schools start in mid to late August and end in May. Most also use a semester system, but some use trimester or quarter systems. The start and end of an academic year vary by university.
University Organization Universities are often divided into schools by subject, but these schools do not typically have a lot of autonomy from the university. University acts an umbrella organisation for the different colleges. Colleges are fairly independent of one another.
Style of Education More varied, liberal arts, study outside your major. Take only classes in your college.
Depth vs Breadth Breadth Depth
Homework Constant reading and writing assignments General assignments or no assignments throughout the semester
Cost High Moderate
Grades Based on overall performance on all assignments Based mostly on the final exam
Athletics Important social activity; athletic scholarships available. Intramural sports; generally no athletic scholarships available.
Living Situation Dormitories with roommates. Off-campus housing occasionally available. Dormitories without roommate generally. Off-campus housing generally available.
Types of Degrees Associates, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, a variety of vocational and professional degrees. Higher National Diploma, Certificate of Higher Education, Diploma of Higher Education, Foundation Degree, Bachelors, Masters, PhD, a variety of professional and vocational degrees. Postgraduate degrees divided into taught and research degrees.

This covers all the details and essentials that you need to know and analyses to decide which country will be the best for you to pursue your higher education. Make a wise decision and comment below to let us know how much this article helped you in making the right choice.