Across the Pond

Undergraduate degrees in the UK

At the undergraduate level, British universities offer a wide range of subjects, and students have the option to combine several subjects or concentrate on one primary subject throughout their degree program. Students who pursue undergraduate programs in the UK focus on their major coursework from the start of their degree, without needing to take any general education courses.

Download our Studying in the UK: An Undergraduate Guide (see form to the right) to learn more about the following: 

  • Why you should study in Britain
  • The difference between an American and a British undergraduate degree
  • The cost of study in the UK
  • UK entry requirements
  • How Across the Pond helps you apply
  • Opportunities awaiting you beyond your degree


If you want to study at one of Britain’s leading universities as an undergraduate student, our partner universities have varying expectations in terms of standardized test scores, which are required in addition to a high school diploma or the GED.  Our advisors will help you navigate these entry requirements to help you find the right program at the right academic level for you. Our Studying in the UK: An Undergraduate Guide discusses entry requirements in more depth.



At the undergraduate level, students have the option to pursue three different types of programs.  

The Foundation Year

A foundation year is a pre-university program that aims to get a student up to speed for a particular course. This year-long program works quite well for certain sciences and engineering programs and also for some art programs, but in many instances, foundation years at British universities are specifically designed for students whose first language is not English. 

American students need to be especially careful when considering foundation programs as they may not be a necessary or a worthwhile investment of both time and money. A student with good grades and relevant tests scores (AP, ACT, SAT) should not undertake a foundation year as our student advisors can assist in identifying which universities accept students’ current qualifications. In very rare cases, a foundation program is the correct route for an American student, but only a handful of our partner universities offer foundation years that are appropriate for Americans.  Also, note that most foundation years are not covered by US federal funding.

Two Different Undergraduate Degrees

In England and Wales, American students can undertake a 3-year undergraduate degree and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc). They can also opt for a 4-year sandwich course, which includes one year’s professional experience in industry or a year studying abroad. Typically, the three-year programs are more focused than their American counterparts, eschewing general education courses and electives for a more direct and focused approach to the field of study. 

If students choose to study in Scotland, they will follow a system that is more similar to the US one. In fact, the American university education system is modeled after the Scottish system; however, a Scottish undergraduate degree still tends to be more focused than a typical American degree. 

An undergraduate degree in Scotland takes four years to complete. While students will study a wider range of subjects than in England, and Wales, unlike in the US, students must declare a main focus of study at the start of their degree (though this can be changed during their studies, if they wish).  Also, confusingly, ancient Scottish universities label their humanities or social science undergraduate degrees as Master of Arts (MA), which tends to mislead students into thinking the completion of the program results in a master's degree or involves graduate-level work.  However, this is not the case.

There are 2 types of British undergraduate degrees:

Single-honours programs involve the focused study of a single subject. The core of each program is already designed and you have the opportunity to shape your work by choosing additional modules.

Joint-honours programs/Combined programs enable you to study a combination of subjects, creating opportunities for you to build a degree program to suit your personal interests and needs. Note that the combination of subjects is made by the university.  Students do not have the option to combine subjects themselves. 



  • Lectures - Formal presentations by experts in the respective field to large groups of students, who take notes on what is said.
  • Seminars - Small groups of 8-20 students who discuss assigned topics with a tutor. 
  • Tutorials - More informal meetings in which 1-3 students discuss their work with a tutor. The close contact between student and tutor in seminars and tutorials is unique to British universities and a particular strength of UK degree courses.
  • Continuous assessment - Depending on your degree course you will be expected to produce coursework, participate in projects, seminars and exams. Plus, depending on the course, produce a final dissertation and take final exams.


Our Across the Pond expert advisors will assess your academic background, test scores and personal interests before recommending the universities and the programs that will best serve your professional goals. As an Across the Pond student, you will receive free guidance and advice throughout the entire application process – from choosing the right university for your goals to writing a strong personal statement to complete the student visa application.  

Contact one of our UK Student Advisors to get started!

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