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The Differences Between UK and US Undergraduate Program

3 Min Read
November 07, 2022

Undergraduate Program: US vs UK

The amount of time it takes to finish hourglass-time-hours-sand-39396

Generally, program in the US takes one year longer than in the UK. It normally takes four years to finish a bachelor program in the US. Whereas in the UK, you only need three years. Courses in UK universities are more focused towards your degree requirements, i.e. no or less elective subjects. In Scotland, however, a bachelor degree also takes four years.

pexels-photo-273011Academic terms

In the US, the academic year starts in mid to late August for most universities. The second semester begins in early to mid January. In the UK, semester starts in September or October and ends in May or June. Both countries have long breaks at the end of the year for Christmas and New Year. Academic year in UK is slightly longer. There are universities which use tri-semester or quarter-based system in both countries.

Grades and assignments

Since UK universities compact their courses in three years, assignments are only given occasionally. It is possible that there are no actual assignments. In this case, grades will solely be determined by final exams. This makes exams become more "challenging" in UK. In the US, grading is based on the combination of your performances: class participation, assignments, midterms and final exams. It tends to be more of a holistic evaluation. You could expect frequent assignments; more essays, research and presentations throughout the semester.

Admission process

A lot of UK universities are actually collections of colleges with a specific subject. This means you need to apply todocument-agreement-documents-sign-48148 the college rather than to the central university admission. There is also a dedicated system called Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS). UCAS allows you to apply to a few colleges at once. This centralized system requires you to know exactly what you want to study before you apply. Important to note, you are only allowed to apply to up to five colleges. We have covered UCAS before, click here if you wish to find out more.

In the US, you apply through the Common App platform. It is a centralized system. Each university can customize their own application requirements including the number of essays and questions. Unlike in the UK, you can still apply as “undecided” if you are not sure what you want to study yet. You only need to confirm your major by the end of the second year in university.


pexels-photo-164661Tuition rates for both countries are the highest in the world according to various sources. It is generally higher in the US though. In the UK, university tuition and costs are governed by a law. There is a standardized limit for each educational level. Universities are free to set up their own costs up to that limit. By contrast, in the US, universities are more independent in determining their costs. Private universities cost more than public universities in both countries. They also charge more for international students.