Since I started studying at Newcastle University, I have come across some differences between the educational system in the U.K. and back home in Venezuela. These, however, are nothing to be worried about because at the end of the day it has the same purpose as in any other country: to provide efficient education over a wide range of interests so that suits everyone and where people can develop their skills or interests.
A clear example of the difference in the structure can be primary and secondary school. In Venezuela you start Primary school when you are about 7 years old and have to study from 1st to 6th year. Then you go to High School, which is divided into two. The first three years (i.e.7th, 8th and 9th) are common to every one and you have a range of subjects from history and literature to maths and chemistry. After that you can take one of two roots: the Humanitarian Sciences route or Science route. In the first one you will see subjects like Latin, French, Philosophy, etc. On the other hand, if you like the science route, you will study maths, chemistry, physics, biology, etc. Nevertheless, either route has common modules such as history, literature, geography, among other subjects. Both last two years and you have about ten modules every year. When you finish you are ready to go to university if you wish so!
In the UK the structure is a bit different towards the end of secondary school. So, primary school is basically the same; then you do years 7, 8 and 9. After that you do what is called GCSE for 2 years, and if you wish to continue further education, then you can do what is called A Levels. This last part lasts 2 years where students take about 4 subjects the first year and continue with 3 in their final year (although the number of subjects may change slightly). This basically means that people who went to school in the U.K. have more in-depth knowledge in subjects related to what they wish to study at uni.
However, universities in England provide what is called “Foundation Year” which is an option to help students get up to the right level to start uni if their educational background is different or if the grades don’t meet the British requirements.
As I have mentioned before, being a student in the UK is great for both, academic and lifestyle reasons. Academically, universities here have quite a good reputation and a well organised and robust system. They are very concerned about student progress and for this reason they have help students in many ways. Universities will usually have an International Student office, well equipped libraries, Student Accommodation Office and even a Help Line for any kind of support you may need at any point. In addition to this, universities are at the forefront of social and scientific progress and it is quite interesting to think that something famous or important to the modern world was probably invented in one of these universities.
One thing I believe doesn’t change regardless where you go is that lecturers always have the best interest on sharing their knowledge, and in the UK that’s is definitely not an exception!
"Uni" can be used to refer to "university" in informal speaking.