Education systems in the UK and USA vary in a number of respects, including entry qualifications and grading scales.

Studying at universities and colleges in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) offer excellent educational opportunities. However, future students should be aware of the similarities and differences between the education systems that can affect how their grades in previous courses will be understood in the respective education systems. Additionally, navigating the intricate details of entry requirements can be overwhelming. Students need to know before embarking on an education abroad if their entry qualifications satisfy the requirements of their future schools of choice.

Grades, Credits, Transcripts, and Degrees

Transferability of previous university or postsecondary work should be of utmost concern for students pursuing higher or tertiary education in the UK or the US. The systems are not the same, even though they may carry some similarities. For example, universities with a Bachelors of Science degree from either country may express the degree requirements quite distinctively regarding requirements between the two programs. A Bachelors of Science in Engineering may require students to complete 120-140 credits in the US (Penn State University, USA, 2014). A similar Bachelor of Science Foundation Degree in the UK (Queen Mary University of London, UK, 2014) may require that a student complete 16 course modules.

What is the difference between credits and modules? How are these differences accounted for when applying to programs in either country? How do you know if your degree is transferable? Here, we provide some first steps to take to ensure you gain the information needed to make an informed decision.

Contact your future institution

This seems like a simple solution, but many students may not feel confident in calling or reaching out to an institution they haven’t attended about their grades and transcripts. However, this is the best way to find out the most current information regarding the transferability of your degree, credits, and grades. You may contact your future institution in various ways. Feel free to conduct an Internet search for the international student office of your future institution (Birmingham University, 2014). In the US, offices of international student affairs usually have toll-free numbers for international students to use. Next, sending an email outlining your questions and concerns will help you gain information that you can use to organize your next steps in the application process. Lastly, use your network of peers, friends, professors, and other educators to find out how you can find a direct contact at your future university who can personally assist you with any questions you have about the aforementioned topics.

Send detailed information about courses and programs.

Once you have made contact with your institution of choice, you may be asked to submit documentation needed to verify the types of courses and modules that you took, and the content of those courses. This is one of the ways that universities the value of your course or degree content. Is a UK ‘Chemistry Foundations’ course of study and a US ‘Chemistry 140’ major at a specific university comparable in content and rigor? You can work with your present and future institutions to supply documents such as course syllabi, letters from instructors, and examination records to help determine the compatibility of course of study or program major.

 Learn popular academic terms used in the US and the UK

There are several ways to explain the construction of degree programs between the US and the UK. We find learning these terms is most helpful for students who want to understand the international variances and communicate effectively. Here is a short list of words that your should be aware of:

Course: In the US and the UK this can mean one university class

Course of Study: May signify the whole structure of a degree in the UK

Credits: An element used in the US to assign value to a Course

Lecture: Can refer to a university class in a major in the US.

Major: Usually signifies the whole structure of a degree in the US

Module: Can refer to a university class in a course of study in the UK

Programme:  Can be used to discuss graduate level courses in the UK

Unit:  An element used in the UK to assign value to a Module or Course

This is just a short list, and there are many exceptions. Please familiarize yourself with these and other higher education terminology, as they will frequently arise.

Entry Requirements

Get all the information you need on entry requirements by considering the three most important elements of gaining entry into your future institution. First, make direct contact with your future institution and ask about degree requirements in addition to the information on transcripts and grades aforementioned. Are you eligible to be in the US or the UK as a long-term (over six months) student? You must have a special student visa to study in UK and the US. For now, anticipate that these requirements are important! A detailed post on the Importance of Visas types in the US and UK will help guide the navigation process of gaining your student visa to study in your future institution.  Good luck on your journey to a world-class education!

Sources: Pennsylvania State University Office of International Programs website; Birmingham University, International Student Office website. Accessed February 2014.