Studying abroad: College education systems around the world

Another year gone means another cohort of students leaving their final year in school and deciding what to study in college. A question that comes along for some with it is: Which country should I study in? Different countries have different structures for college education. So it is natural to wonder which country's tertiary education system would be best-suited to your needs.

In response to this question, here is an analysis of popular education destinations across the world for undergraduate degrees and the structure they follow for college education:

United Kingdom

Universities in the United Kingdom are, for the most part, collegiate universities, similar in structure to Delhi University. In this structure, a number of colleges responsible for the teaching process are affiliated to a single university, which is responsible for the award of degrees and other administrative duties.

Colleges may enjoy varying degrees of autonomy. The exceptions are the so called red-brick universities, which were established in the Victorian era, and are largely engineering and technical institutions.

Degrees normally take three years to complete.


The tertiary education system here is significantly different from that in the rest of the UK. Degrees are normally four years long, with the students being able to take a wide variety of optional and external courses and change to a different degree after the first two years. The last two years, called 'honours year', is dedicated to the subject of the degree and the preparation of the dissertation.

Additionally, the four ancient universities in Scotland grant the Master of Arts degrees as an undergraduate qualification instead of a Bachelor of Arts. This is often called the Scottish MA, as opposed to the more common postgraduate MA.


The United States of America has the world's largest tertiary education system. It is unique in the world for its strong emphasis on a liberal arts education, with a large number of courses and universities requiring students to study a wide array of subject before specialising in any single field.

In addition to liberal arts colleges, there are also a number of research universities, which produce world-leading research. For their high-quality teaching and research, these universities are renowned the world over.

At both liberal arts colleges and research universities, degrees are normally awarded after four years of studies.


Singapore is home to several high-quality universities, and is a popular destination for Indian students. In addition to the numerous public and private universities, a number of international universities have also established campuses in Singapore.

Universities in Singapore, particularly the National University of Singapore, are well-known amongst international students for high standards of teaching, and courses in medicine and engineering are immensely popular.


Regulation of universities in Canada is the responsibility of the provinces, not the centre. As such, there is a great deal of variance in the governance of Canadian universities. Universities in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia are known for their extremely high levels of teaching across subjects, and are a popular choice for international students looking to study a wide array of subjects.

Three-year degrees are the most common, but they are slowly being phased out in favour of 4-year degrees.


Some of the best universities in the world are found in Australia, with several being permanent residents of the top 100 universities internationally, according to a number of rating systems. Australia's universities are extremely autonomous and self-regulating, with little governmental interference and many differences from university to university.

It remains a major destination among students looking to obtain degrees in engineering. Courses are normally three years long, with exceptional candidates becoming eligible for four-year honours degrees.

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