There are different types of pre-university courses in the UK, which are subject-based qualifications conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education. There are three main pre-university courses that students need to finish in order to apply for a university course.
GCSE - The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification awarded in a specified subject, generally taken in a number of subjects by students aged 14–16 in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The qualification is equivalent to a Level 1 or Level 2 (grade depending) Key Skills Qualification. Prior education to GCSE level is generally required of students wishing to pursue A-level courses or the International Baccalaureate.
Foundation - Foundation programmes which are one-year preparation course for international students are designed for school-leavers who have studied a non-British curriculum but wish to pursue a degree at a UK university. The foundation course is for international students who need additional academic preparation and English language for entry to a UK university undergraduate course. It acts as a bridge between students' current qualifications and UK university undergraduate entry requirements. In other words, it is designed to plug academic gaps, improve English capability and familiarise international students with UK life and culture in preparation for university.
A-Level - The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level generally termed the GCE Advanced Level or more commonly the A-level, is an academic qualification offered by educational institutions in the UK to students completing secondary or pre-university education. A-levels require studying an offered A-level subject over a two-year period and sitting for an examination at the end of each year. A-levels are recognised by many universities as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for admission in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and many such universities base their conditional admissions offers on a student's predicted A-level grades.
In the UK, an undergraduate degree is an academic step up from A-levels (or their equivalent). A Bachelor's degree is usually a 3 year program at a university or higher education college. Wide ranges of degree courses are available, which provide skills for a variety of jobs or further study. An honours degree with thousands of available courses is the most common and widely studied undergraduate qualification across the UK. The two most common denominations of Bachelors degree are Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Arts (BA). Studying for a Bachelors degree at university will give students an in-depth understanding of one or more subjects. Tuition fees for UK students are different from international students from outside of the European Union (EU).
In the UK, A postgraduate or masters course is an academic step up from an undergraduate degree. Students with successful completion of an undergraduate degree can apply for their Master's degree that it can be research-based or a taught course or a combination of the two and will prepare students for a particular career or a doctorate qualification and are offered in a variety of fields. The master course typically will be a 12-month program and taught Master's qualifications to include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Business Administration (MBA). Research master's qualifications include Master of Research (MRes) and Master of Philosophy (MPhil). Postgraduate courses are intensive programmes that will be hard for those students that experience the UK's educational systems for the first time and the key to successful study at this level is good preparation for their course through a Pre-MBA or Pre-Master's programs. International students may be required to take a Pre-master's program if their English language and study skills and qualifications do not meet the requirements to begin a Master's degree.
A PhD (doctorate degree) is a type of research degree and is the highest award available at universities in the UK. Doctorate programs (e.g. PhD/DPhil, EdD, DBA, DClinPsy) require students to undertake an original piece of research. The applicant needs to provide a Bachelor's or Master's degree, and usually the period of study for a UK doctoral degree is 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time.