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The World - Education in the UK and the USA

Education in the UK and in the USA

In the UK, a student is said to study a subject (or, at Oxford or Cambridge, to read a subject), while in the USA, a student either studies the subject or majors in it (except at a few Ivy League schools, such as Princeton University, Brown University, and Harvard University, where one "concentrates" in it). Unlike most of the world where university students pursue a single field of study, United States universities often require a variety of courses. To major refers only to the student's principal course of study, while to study may refer to any class being taken.

In BrE, a subject is taught by a lecturer, while in AmE, a class is taught by a professor at the tertiary level, or by a teacher at the primary and secondary levels. The term "lecturer," in an educational context, would be perceived in AmE as denoting anyone, professor or special guest, giving an actual lecture before a class.

BrE: "She studied history at Bristol." "She read history at Oxford."
AmE: "She majored in history at Yale."

The word course [pronounce it external link correctly, please] is ambiguous in American usage. It may refer to a student's major (as in the phrase "course of study") but more commonly it refers to the study of a restricted topic (for example, "a course in Early Medieval England", "a course in Integral Calculus") and is equivalent to a module at a British University.

In the UK, a student revises or does revision for an examination, while in AmE, the student reviews for it. When taking or writing the examination, a student in the UK would have that examination supervised by an invigilator whereas in AmE it would be a proctor or (exam) supervisor.

In the UK, a student is said to sit or take an exam, while in the U.S., a student takes an exam. In the UK, a teacher sets an exam, while in the U.S., a teacher writes or gives an exam. The expression he sits for an exam also arises in BrE, but only rarely in AmE; American lawyers-to-be sit for their bar exams, and American master's and doctoral students may sit for their comprehensive exams, but in nearly all other instances, Americans take their exams.

BrE: "I sat my Spanish exam yesterday.""I plan to set a difficult exam for my students, but I haven't got it ready yet."
AmE: "I took my exams at Yale." "I spent the entire day yesterday writing the exam. I'm almost ready to give it to my students."

Another source of confusion is the different usage of the word college. (See a full international discussion of the various meanings at college external link.) In the U.S., this refers to a post-high school institution such as a university, while in the UK and most Commonwealth countries it refers primarily to a tertiary institution between secondary school and university (normally referred to as a Sixth Form College after the old name in secondary education for Years 12 and 13, the 6th form) where intermediary courses such as A Levels external link or NVQs can be taken and GCSE courses can be retaken, with the interchangeability of college with secondary school being rare but not unknown. Americans may be surprised to hear of a 14 year old attending college in the UK, mistakenly assuming it is at the university level. It should be noted however, that in the case of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Durham universities, all members are also members of a college, for example, one is a member of St. Peter's College, Oxford and hence the University.

In both the U.S. and UK, college can refer to some division within a university such as the "college of business and economics". Institutions in the U.S. that offer two to four years of post-high school education often have the word college as part of their name, while those offering more advanced degrees are called a university. (There are exceptions, of course: Boston College, Dartmouth College and The College of William and Mary are examples of colleges that offer advanced degrees.) American students who pursue a bachelor's degree (four years of higher education) or an associate degree (two years of higher education) are college students regardless of whether they attend a college or a university and refer to their educational institutions informally as colleges. A student who pursues a master's degree or a doctorate degree in the arts and sciences is a AmE: graduate student and BrE: post-graduate student. Students of advanced professional programmes are known by their field (business student, law student, med(ical) student). Some universities also have a residential college system, the details of which may vary from school to school but generally involve common living and dining spaces as well as college-organized activities.

"Professor" has different meanings in BrE and AmE. In BrE it is the highest academic rank, followd by Reader, Senior Lecturer and Lecturer. In AmE "Professor" refers to academic staff of all ranks, with (Full) Professor (largely equivalent to UK meaning) followed by Associate Professor and Assistant Professor.

There is additionally a difference between American and British usage in the word school In British usage this refers only to primary (elementary) and secondary (high) schools, and to sixth forms attached to secondary schools - if one "goes to school", this type of institution is implied. By contrast, an American student at a university may talk of "going to school" or "being in school"; it may surprise a British person to hear that a 20 year old American is still in school. However, the word is still used in British universities to describe a division grouping together several related subjects, for example the School of European Languages containing departments for each language.

Among high school and college students in the United States, the words freshman (or the gender-neutral term frosh or first year), sophomore, junior and senior refer to the first, second, third, and fourth year respectively. It is important that the context of either high school or college first be established, or else it must be stated directly (that is, "She is a high school freshman." "He is a college junior."). Many institutions in both countries also use the term first-year as a gender-neutral replacement for freshman, although in the U.S. this is recent usage, formerly referring only to those in the first year as a graduate student. (An exception is the University of Virginia; since its founding in 1819, the terms "first-year", "second-year", "third-year", and "fourth-year" have been used to describe undergraduate university students.) In the UK, first year university students are often called freshers, especially early in the academic year; however, there are no specific names for those in other years, nor for school pupils. Graduate and professional students in the United States are known by their year of study (a "second year medical student" or a "fifth year doctoral candidate").

While anyone in the US who finishes studying at any educational institution by passing relevant examinations is said to graduate and to be a graduate, in the UK only degree and above level students can graduate. Student itself has a wider meaning in AmE, meaning any person of any age studying at any educational institution, whereas in BrE it tends to be used for people studying at a post-secondary educational institution.

In the UK, the U.S. equivalent of a high school is often referred to as a secondary school regardless of whether it is public or private. Secondary education in the United States also includes middle school or junior high school, a two or three year transitional school between elementary school and high school.

A public school has opposite meanings in the two countries. In the U.S. this is a government-owned institution supported by taxpayers. In England and Wales, the term strictly refers to a select group of prestigious independent schools funded by students' fees, although it is often more loosely used to refer to any independent school. Independent schools are also known as private schools, and the latter is the correct term in Scotland and Northern Ireland for all such fee-funded schools. Strictly, the term public school is not used in Scotland and Northern Ireland in the same sense as in England, but nevertheless, Gordonstoun, the Scottish private school which Charles, Prince of Wales attended, is sometimes confusingly referred to as a public school. Government-funded schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland are properly referred to as state schools — but are sometimes confusingly referred to as public schools (with the same meaning as in the U.S.); whereas in the U.S., where most public schools are administered by local governments, a state school is typically a college or university run by one of the states.

Both the United States and the United Kingdom use several additional terms for specific types of secondary schools. A prep school or preparatory school is an independent school funded by tuition fees; the same term is used in the UK for a private school for pupils under thirteen, designed to prepare them for fee-paying public schools. An American parochial school covers costs through tuition and has affiliation with a religious institution. In the UK, the state-funded education system grew from parish schools organised by the local established church, the Church of England (C.of E., or C.E.), and many schools, especially primary schools (up to age 11) retain a church connection and are known as church schools, C.E. Schools or C.E. (Aided) Schools. There are also faith schools associated with the Roman Catholic church and other major faiths, with a mixture of funding arrangements.

In the U.S., a magnet school receives government funding and has special admission requirements: students gain admission through superior performance on admission tests. The UK has city academies, which are independent privately sponsored schools run with public funding, and which can select up to 10% of pupils by aptitude.

(From Wikipedia)