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3.

EDUCATION IN GREAT BRITAIN


As in the case of so many other aspects concerning British culture and civilization, the framework of the educational system is largely very old, but, besides the old models some others, surprisingly new, can be discovered. As elsewhere in the world, the first institution responsible for the preoccupations concerning education/learning was Church, just from the first stage of the Middle Ages; the educational system continued to develop along the Renaissance to our modern age when culture, in general, and, education, in particular, became mass culture and mass education; this is a characteristic feature for Britain, where, starting with the 19th century, education was to be considered from this perspective.

3.1 The Educational System. The Development and the Learning Progress over the Centuries Some knowledge regarding the school history is essential for understanding the present and current developments, preoccupations and concerns regarding the educational system in Great Britain. Christianity, by Church activity, can be considered as the first promoter of learning and education over the entire area of the former Roman Empire, as an efficient way of communicating in ecumenical matters, and not only. At that time, Latin was the official language within the Catholic Church used as a means of communication in theological studies. Some famous scholars of that remote time, were among others, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scottus, Roger Bacon. Beginning with the 6th century, after the population had been converted to Christianity, Church had the possibility, due to its central position, to set up the first schools in England; at that moment, they were mainly intended to prepare young people for priesthood.

However, here and there, some other types of schools were also established either by kings or rich individuals, schools which, included different disciplines of study such as: the liberal arts of the trivium, including grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, of the quadrivium, including arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, and later on, medicine. Those schools were mostly confined to the sons of the aristocratic, rich and influential families, while the majority of the population received no formal education, being illiterate. In the centuries to come, the church as well as some wealthy philanthropists established an increased number of schools which provided elementary education for a minority of children; they generally received only a basic instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. Thus, in the very beginning, the monasteries were the only places of learning, but later on, other schools, and even the first universities also started to be set up in Europe, while education became more specialized and institutionalized. The Oxford University was established in the 12th century (1160) by a number of scholars expelled from the University of Paris, as a consequence of the dispute between the king Henry II and archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett and the latters murder; some years later, a group of dissidents from Oxford went to Cambridge and established another university, in 1289. In time, the universities became more and more emancipated from the religions authority, more lay in spirit and more autonomous. Any person intending to get a position in the administration of the county (as a governor or clerk) should have acquired specific skills in some of these famous universities. The Renaissance meant, by its humanistic approach of studies, a new impulse towards liberal learning placed in the service of the individual and his earthly ideals; the new sources of inspiration represented by the discovery of the Latin and Greek classics meant a real renewal of the old theological scholastic learning. Thus, some examples of scholars, famous at their time, are Sir Francis Bacon and Baron Verulam important representatives of the English Renaissance, real authorities in the field of natural science.

Soon, under the influence of the Renaissance and its emancipated thinking, another important event took place: the Reformation, extended within the Catholic Church in many European countries, including England, Scotland and Ireland. The Reformation highly influenced the further development of learning, mainly by causing the translation of the Bible in other languages, and, in this way, by making these languages not only a means of popular worship, but also an accepted means of communication among scholars. (The first authorized version of the Bible in English was published in 1611; however, some previous versions were known: the translation done by John Wycliff in 1380, and by Thomas Cranmer in 1539). The Renaissance determined the flourishing of modern learning. Thus, new learning centres were established called Societies or Academies; they were dedicated to the study of natural science unlike the traditional universities, dedicated to humanities. Some of the most famous learning centres of this kind were the Royal Society in England (1660) or the Irish Royal Society in Ireland (1795) etc. Education continued to develop towards its peak in the 19th century, which became an age of extensive education; the people engaged in the field of learning were active in making known both the great cultural tradition of the past and the achievements of their contemporaries. Some important names worth-mentioning include Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) who made known the German learning and Goethes work in Britain; John Ruskin (1819-1900) an academic art critic, who extolled the greatness of the Gothic architecture and the special art of the late medieval period, prior to Raphael; Mathew Arnold (1822-1888), who admired the culture of the past and the French cultural life of his contemporaries. A special mention should be made of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873); he was an important literary historian and critic, a feminist and a teacher of liberty. His brilliant mind created a series of essays which represented the fundamentals of later important sciences, such as modern logic and political economy. (A System of Logic 1843; Principles of Political Economy 1848; On Liberty 1859). Another important trend which appeared during the Victorian Age, was agnosticism developed by Thomas Henry Huxley, and supported by

Trend starting from Lamarck and Darwin and combined with the hermeneutic, textual and historical interpretation of the Bible; it represented the commitment of giving up the intellectual authority of the Bible.

numerous writers and intellectuals (One of them was Mary Ann Evans/ George Eliot). All these scholars represent reference names not only for the British culture, but for the European one as well. The cultural preoccupations and the thinking trends determined the emergence of different schools of literary and cultural criticism. An outstanding example is that of the Pre-Raphaelite school, known as an avant-garde and unorthodox one, with anti-Victorian accents; it included among others the painters John Everett Millaes (1829-1896), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), the poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rosette. Learning and education have already been highly valued in Great Britain, and not accidentally, since the oldest times, many statesmen were scholars themselves or had scholars as their counsellors; here are some examples: Henry VI of Lancaster, he himself a scholar, was patron of learning., establishing the Eton College in 1440.; Elisabeth I was known as a cultivated woman and patron of art, giving her name to a famous age. Her support to the theatre and drama made this genre the most brilliant in the English culture and worldwide accepted as a reference value; during the reign of King James I Stuart the Bible translation was authorized, a fact already discussed as an important event and a turning point in the English culture; the translation is known as King James Bible. Besides the heads of state famous for their interest in learning and the strong support given to education and culture, there is a large number of leaders advisers selected for their specially educated abilities and knowledge from among the best learned individuals of their days. Such a person was Thomas Becket chosen by Henry II as his friend and adviser, or Thomas Morus, one of the most famous minds of the Renaissance and the writer of Utopia who was the adviser of Henry VII; Edmund Spenser, was the secretary to the Lord Deputy of Her Majestys Governor of Ireland during Elisabeths reign, while the poet John Milton was Cromwells secretary.

All these famous personalities, and many, many others were the offsprings of an old and well established educational system and select universities; over centuries they have been producing elites, person well instructed in different fields of culture besides the professional skills. The educational system represents a factor which highly explains and marks the accepted greatness of the British culture, as well as the impressive reactions of the common people to both special events and everyday life situations. However, until the 19th century, real educational opportunities for most children were still non-existent, the state playing no central role in the school system. The school structure was fragmented and developed randomly; thus, there were all kinds of schools, provided by the different churches in Britain (Roman Catholic, The Church of England, Nonconformist churches, etc.) which protected their independence from state and secular interference; side by side with them, there were the old grammar and public schools attended by the sons of the middle and upper classes. The young people coming from the working class still received no formal or adequate education. The early 19th century meant the first state preoccupation and implication in educational matters. Thus, in 1833, Parliament supplied finance for the construction of school buildings, while grants were made to local authorities for being used in their local areas for educational purposes. It was only in late 19th century that an Education Act was passed (1870), by which boards for local areas were created in the country, to look over the educational system; besides, the Act established a dual system of schools, namely that of the state elementary schools supplying non-denominational training, and the religious voluntary schools serving denominational needs, and financially supported by the state. In 1880, a national system of education was set up, which provided free and compulsory elementary schooling for all children between 5 and 10.

But, these schools provided education only at an elementary level, while the secondary education remained the field of independent, private sector, largely opened only to those people who could afford paying fees for educational service. During the first decades of the 20th century a number of Acts were passed which extended the secondary education to young people of lesser means, by providing scholarships to clever elementary schoolchildren, or by establishing a few state secondary schools (the Balfour Act, 1902; the Fisher Act, 1918). In spite of these attempts for expanding the provisions for secondary education, the non-fee-paying sector was still limited in the early 20th century, and inadequate for the society demands. Under these circumstances, the state primary and secondary system was entirely reorganized in 1944 under a new legislation (the Butler Act), which profoundly influenced the further development of an educational system which is still valid, in spite of many discussions and controversies. A Ministry of Education was set up, with a national educational service covering the whole country; the Ministrys role was to draw up the educational policy guidelines, while the local education authorities (LEA) were to decide upon the specific forms of schooling in their areas; the system was a decentralized and flexible one, able to adapt the educational requirements to the demands of the specific areas. Two types of schools were accepted and are still coexisting: county (primary and secondary) schools provided by the LEA of each county, and voluntary schools (elementary) established by religious or other groups (Muslims, Hindus, etc.) and partially financed by local authorities. The intention of the Act was to provide universal and free primary and secondary education in the country. However, the Act did not refer to the independent sector of education on which it had no influence.

3.2 The School System Nowadays

According to recent statistics, some 9 million pupils are attending the state and private schools nowadays, being taught by over half a million teachers. Out of the high school graduates, one in three enters higher education in universities and colleges. There are further educational institutions, adult colleges and centres, as well as universities providing continuing education for adults, an increase in older students interest in learning being noticed in recent years. The present state educational system in Great Britain emerges from the Butler Act (1944) and it seems to be rather complicated. As a general characteristic one may observe its complexity, with a diversity of schools at different levels; state education is free, being financed from public funds (It covers 93 p.c. of the pupils, while the rest of them attend independent schools where the fees are paid by the parents who have chosen this type of school for their children). Attendance at school is compulsory for children from the age of 5, the school leaving age being 16. Before the age of 5, state schooling is not compulsory, although there are lots of parents interested in finding school provisions for their infants, and there is a general lack of opportunities in this respect. (It is estimated that only 25 p.c. of 3-4 years-olds attend a state nursery education at present).

3.2.1 State Education

State education is divided into three stages: 1) primary from the age of 5 up to the age of 11; 2) secondary from 11 to 16; 3) further postschool training. According to the Act in 1944, the state schools at the secondary level were divided into grammar schools and secondary modern schools, (sometimes, a third type, the secondary technical schools or colleges, were in existence) the children being accepted to one or another, according to the result of an examination. (The 11-plus examination, consisting of intelligence tests and covering linguistic,

mathematical, and general knowledge). The children sat in for the exam in the last year of primary education and those who passed it were accepted in grammar schools, while those who failed had to attend the other type(s) of schools. The grammar schools prepared the children for G.C.E. (General Certificate of Education) at the age of 16, at ordinary (O) and advanced (A) levels, qualifying them for entry into higher education, professions or better positions. As regards the secondary modern schools, the education was based, at least in the beginning, on practical schooling with less examinations. Later on, an examination for General Certificate of Secondary Education was introduced (G.C.S.E.). Soon, the system became the battlefield of political parties, being severely criticized by the Labour Party who considered the 11-plus examinations wrong in principle as it determined the class-system perpetuation since most middle-class children predominated in the grammar schools and higher education. Consequently, when the Labour Governments came to power they tried to abolish the 11-plus examination and secondary school division, by replacing them with nonselective comprehensive schools providing the same education for all children, irrespective of their ability level, aptitudes and social background. In their turn, the Conservative Governments acted for the preservation of grammar schools and the system of selection by 11-plus examinations. Finally, it was the LEAs that were asked to choose the type of school considered the best to their local needs, while the debates about the comprehension schools vs. selection by examination, with for and against options, continued. Meanwhile, the number of grammar schools diminished dramatically, (most of them have turned into independent ones) as well as of secondary modern schools; at present, some 90 p.c. of state pupils move from primary to comprehensive schools; sometimes, there are important differences in the standards of these schools, some of them being really good, while others suffering because of a multitude of problems of economic, social or educational nature. However, a permanent improvement of educational standards is taken into consideration, and it has determined the introduction of a broad and balanced curriculum at a national level; the curriculum was designed to meet both the individual needs of pupils and the requirements of training them in such a way as to be able to face the responsibilities and experience of life, as adult people.

The National Curriculum consists of some core subjects, including English, mathematics and science, history, geography, technology as well as music, art, physical education and a modern foreign language, it is considered reviewable in order to become better adapted in time and more manageable. With the large majority of pupils attending the comprehensive schools, the main means for assessing the attainment of the Curriculum subjects has become the G.C.S.E. (General Certificate of Secondary Education), a system of national examinations at the secondary level, which are taken in all types of schools in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The examination subject questions and marking are undertaken by specially designed independent examination boards; for giving the final grade, they take into consideration, besides the written examinations, some project work and the pupils continuous assessment. The intention is to obtain a more comprehensive evaluation of the pupils abilities; at the same time, the prospective employers are offered a better image of the candidates abilities. The examinations are taken after five years of secondary education. The third stage of state education is represented by further education, meaning some more courses taken in education institutions after the age of 16. Thus, after getting G.C.S.E. the willing ones can attend some more advanced levels of education and training. One of them is represented by the Sixth-form Colleges in case of England and Wales, with other forms developed in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as well. In other cases the pupils can stay on at schools and continue their study for other two years in preparation of the examinations representing the standard for entry to higher education, or some other professional training. As a result of these examinations (based on course work and written test paper) they obtain the academic General Certificate of Education (G.C.E.), Advanced (A) level. In case of sixth-form pupils, there are Advanced Supplementary (AS) levels, enabling them to study a wider range of subjects. This second examination which is also at a national level has in view the pupils who are interested in being accepting at an institution of higher education or the professions; they are interested in getting high grades, because the competition for a place at a university or

college is really tough. For this examination the pupils can choose between one and four subjects, but a number of three seems to be generally required for admission into universities; this means concentration on few subjects, which indicates an early specialization in the British system of education. Another form of education is represented by training course for acquiring different vocational qualifications, GNVQ Advanced level (General National Vocational Qualification); there are national standards which define the competence, knowledge and understanding that future employers need, and accreditation is awarded by the National Council. Much of this form of education is work-related, the system being flexible; the students have the possibility to attend part-time courses either by day or block release from employment (for one/two days each week), as well as evening courses.

3.2.2 Independent/Private Fee-paying Schools

There is a large variety of independent schools in Great Britain, ranging from the ancient foundations to the new ones (including the experimental schools), and form small kindergartens to large day and boarding establishments. Some of the independent schools have been set up by religious orders or ethnic minorities. They are fee-paying institutions, with fees varying on an average between 300 a term (for a day pupil at nursery age) to 4000 a term (for senior boarding pupils). It is said that however good the state schools may be, the parents would still prefer to send their children to an independent school if they could afford paying the fee (48 p.c. of parents, Monpoll, 1987). Statistics show that above 7 p.c. of school children attend independent schools which are in a number of about 2,500. These schools financing is dependent not only upon the fees paid by the parents, but also upon investments, charitable gifts, endowments and taxexempt status. (There is no tax on the school income, in case it is used only for educational purposes). Many of these schools offer scholarships to the gifted pupils coming from less well-off families, and the

Government also provide funds (the Governments Assisted Places Scheme) for income-related financial assistance, so that some categories of pupils can benefit from independent education. These educational institutions must be registered with the appropriate educational department under whose control they are, being open to inspections. It is possible that they may be asked to improve their instruction or accommodation according to the agreed standards, to remedy any important shortening, and to eliminate the teaching staff or owner considered unsuited for the profession. The independent school sector includes the pre-preparatory schools (age 4-8), preparatory schools (age 8-13), public schools (age 13-18) and other independent establishments (age 11/13-18); they vary a lot as regards quality or reputation. It is worth mentioning that the terms primary/secondary education do not refer to independent schools where the transfer age from one level of education to another is usually thirteen and not eleven. The prepreparatory schools/departments are for younger children, while the preparatory schools (for boys, girls or mixed) about 600 in number prepare the pupils for entry to senior schools. These schools are generally very small, (50-100 pupils) boarding or day also, accommodated in country houses or in small towns; the classes are very small, the headmasters/teachers having the possibility of a close personal interest in the real development of each and every pupil. Many of the pre-preparatory/preparatory schools are private in its full sense, being operated as private enterprises with the schoolmaster often as its owner, but working himself as a teacher; these schools are under the control of governing bodies. They prepare the children for the entrance examination to some public schools, to which they are sometimes closely attached; this is a real advantage for the pupils whose parents want them to study on with a public school, as the state system does not offer any training in this respect. Thus, the change from one system to another would be very difficult for the children, even if possible, for adaptation reasons. Besides, these schools more often enjoy beautiful surroundings and good playing fields absolutely wonderful for the young ones.

Independent schools for older pupils are often referred to as public schools, but they are not private in the full sense, and not public at all; they do not try to have any profit out of their activity, they have only to balance their budget (They belong to different well known associations such as The Headmasters Conference, The Governing bodies Association, the Society of Headmasters and Headmistresses of Independent Schools, The Girls Schools Association, The Governing Bodies of Girls Schools Association). There are roughly 250 public schools in Great Britain nowadays, including a number of ancient Grammar schools, some other schools several hundred years old, side by side with others founded during the past 120 years up to our modern times. (However, the modern public schools system is not older than one hundred years). When the average Englishman, as well as a foreigner thinks about public schools, they generally have in view one of the old institutions, famous worldwide, such as: Winchester (founded 1382); Eton (1400); St. Pauls, London (1509); Harrow (1571); Rugby (1567); Shrewsbury (1552); Charterhouse (1611); Merchant Taylors, London (1561); Westminster, London (1561); etc. The years when they were founded are really impressive, but there are some other schools even older: St. Peters, York (627) or St. Albans, Herts (948). The public schools are considered to play a significant role in British education and a pupil s acceptance at such an institution is difficult, as the demand is high and the places are limited; if the parents have decided to send their child to a public school, the arrangements must be done some years in advance (some jokes say that this should be done when the baby is three days old), by direct contact with the school authorities, in order to put his name on a list. Anyway, the child will be finally accepted only after passing an entrance examination, centrally arranged. (Common Examination for Entrance to Public School); but the decision of admission belongs entirely to school authorities who take into account some other factors; among them, the headmasters report of the preparatory school the pupil comes from, or the general impression on the pupils personal character.

Each public school has something specific to itself, its customs and traditions, uniforms and ties, even a language of its own. There is much interest paid to sports, maybe not so much as in the past, but the pupils are still encouraged to play cricket, football or other games, to row on a neighbourhood river or practise some other physical activities. It is considered that, in this way, the pupil will understand what the team spirit is, and that on the playing grounds he learns more than simply the technicality of the game. At the same time, they are encouraged to form their own associations for the pursuit of various interests, the final goal being the acquisition of knowledge in organizing collective activities, and jointly following these interests. It is said that nobody can claim that public schools are somehow better in offering instruction than other schools, but their attempt is to provide and develop a formative character; maybe under the influence of Plato they try to create condition in which the mind can develop in breadth as well as depth and not only the mind but the whole personality as well [4, p. 161]. This is determined by the whole atmosphere of the school which develops and breeds a combination of loyalty and competitiveness. Thus, it is also said that by the pupils training for a certain kind of activity in the future, the public schools main objective is the training of characters. As mentioned before, there are a lot of other independent schools in addition to the public ones, as this type of education has permanently grown, representing an attraction for the parents, in spite of the still limited number of places and high fees; however, due to different insurance schemes the payment of school fees has become possible, offering opportunities for the less well-off to be independently educated. There is enough criticism about the independent sector, being said that it perpetuates the class distinction, as it is based on the ability of some parents to pay for education; there were some political attempts (The Labour Party) to abolish these schools by trying to remove their charitable and tax exemption status, and by eliminating the assisted places schemes. But independent schools are now firmly established, and for many provide an element of choice in what would otherwise be a state monopoly an education [31, p. 251]. In Scotland, the educational system is generally different from that of the rest of the country; the policy of the system is decided by the Scottish

Education Board, the public schools are state institutions, being supported from public funds, while the comprehensive schools were established a long time ago. A significant role in the administration and management of these schools is played by the school board consisting of parents, staff members and coopted members. The transfer of pupils from primary to secondary education takes place at the GLASGOW UNIVERSITY age of 12, and the way in which the final examination is organized is different from one area to another. Northern Ireland also shows differences in the educational system. Here, there are different categories of schools established on religious grounds, Catholic or Protestant; besides, there are integrated schools, encouraged by the state policy through immediate government funding in view of breaking down the sectarian barriers; there are more than 20 integrated schools in Northern Ireland providing education for some 4,000 pupils. The comprehensive schools are less numerous, the transfer from primary to secondary education taking place at the age of 11, after an entrance examination in case of grammar schools, where, generally, the performances are considered high.

3.3 Higher Education

After having obtained the GCE A level, the pupils may continue their education with an institution of higher education, a university or other college, for a period of at least three years in England and Wales, an four years in Scotland; there are some four-year courses in England/Wales as well, and the medical and veterinary courses require five years of study. At the end of the period of study and after passing the examinations, the student becomes the graduate of the respective institution, receiving a degree.

There are variations regarding the degree titles; thus, for the first degree, the most common titles are those of Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and for the second degree (post-graduate degree), Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D); in Scotland, the title of Master is used for the first degree in arts and subjects. The BA or BSc is usually taken as a result of the final examination at the end of the last year of study, but, sometimes, the continuous assessment over the whole period of study is also considered. Generally, the students work hard in order to get a good degree as, according to it, they can obtain a good job, or continue their higher education in research with MA/MSc or Ph.D.

CAMBRIDGE KINGS COLLEGE CHAPEL

The MA/MSc is conferred for a thesis based on the activity of one year, sometimes longer; usually, there are no regular courses for this degree, although some universities offer seminars for post-graduate students. The Ph.D is given for a thesis, which represents an important contribution to the field of science and knowledge under consideration. For those who do not possess the GCE A level or equivalent qualifications, there are foundation courses and appropriate tests offering them access for enrolment on a course of higher education. In Scotland, SWAP (Scottish Wide Access Program) was specially designed to support both the adult students and those lacking the entry LONDON UNIVERSITY requirements in enrolling higher education. There is a permanent preoccupation at the Government level for increasing the number of young people attending higher education institutions, with the expectation of one in three young people graduating a university or college at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. With the

polytechnics and some other higher education establishments being given the status of University in 1992, there are, at present, 83 universities in Great Britain, 12 of them being in Scotland. There are two important universities in Northern Ireland: the University of Ulster as well as of Belfast. The Open University as well as the Independent University of Buckingham represent additional institutions of higher education. All British Universities are private institutions, having their own governing councils; they are established by royal Charter or by Act of Parliament, and are considered independent although, in practice, they are dependent upon government money, which is supplied to the Universities Funding Council, for distribution to universities. It is considered that it means, sometimes, a tight control from the authorities, and the government interference with the running of the universities; such policies determined some opposition from the latter. Anyway, Universities enjoy academic freedom, appointing their own staff, deciding upon the students to admit, providing their own syllabuses and courses, and awarding their own degrees. There are more types of universities in Great Britain. The first to be mentioned are the ancient ones, Oxford and Cambridge (composed of more colleges), the only English universities until the 19th century, and where only the men were admitted. The universities in Scotland can also be considered as belonging to the group of universities of ancient origin and distinctive quality; they were established in the 15th and the 16th centuries: St. Andrew (1411), Glasgow (1450), Aberdeen (1494) and Edinburgh (1583). It is known ST. JOHNS COLLEGE, CAMBRIGE that the universities in Scotland have always had among their students the most gifted young people from all social strata of society, being really democratic, enjoying a high prestige and an old tradition of scholarship granting. On the other hand, Oxford and Cambridge are very similar in many respects, and, at the same time, different from the others in Great Britain; they are also difficult to understand. One of their

common feature is that, besides being very old, both of them are based on colleges, each of these colleges with an average of about 300 students; they are very expensive in comparison with other universities, but, unlike the public schools, they have ceased to be attended only by the sons of those belonging to the upper and upper-middle classes; this is due to the grants offered by the public authorities to those who have won a place at one of the colleges, but whose parents are not well-off enough to cover the fees for studies and the living cost at the university. Oxford University is a collection of twenty-three colleges for men and five for women, which were set up at different dates, over centuries, starting with the 12th century; they are a sort of federation of colleges, each of them acting as a parallel and equal institution among the others. It is the university that prescribes syllabuses, arrange lectures, conducts examinations and awards degree, but there is not a special place which can be recognized as the University or an area which can be called a campus [2, p. 171]. Each college is run by a number of Fellows, between twenty and thirty; they are also responsible for teaching their own students, the head of the college being elected from them (The title used for each head of a college vary with the college: Master for the Balliol College, President for the Magdalene College, Lector for Exeter, Provost for Oriel, Principal for Jesus and so on). The teachers are known under the name of dons, and they usually deliver one or two lectures a week on subjects representing their area of study and research. Students attendance at lectures is not compulsory, but the students have the possibility of choosing attendance at any lectures they consider of interest for them out of a list of lectures given by the dons, and published at the beginning of each term. This system has the advantage of developing the students independent thinking and judgement in decision making. Another important aspect of teaching is the individual tuition and which is represented by the tutorial system, in fact, the main foundation of these universities greatness.

The system, organized by colleges, consists in the existence of tutors; they are Fellows with the college, guiding the activity of the undergraduates assigned to them, in their own subjects. Each student has to meet his tutor weekly in order to discuss with him an essay which he has written, enjoying the obvious advantage of a constant and personal contact with the teacher. When the students topic of study is out of the teachers area of interest he may be assigned for it to another don in the college, or even to one in another college. The second group of universities are those known as the red brick or civic universities, and they were set up between 1850 and 1930. In many ways, they are different from Oxford and Cambridge. One of the oldest universities in this group was that founded at Durham, in 1832; in 1836, the University of London, consisting of more colleges, was also given a charter; nowadays, there are more than 40,000 students studying in its twenty colleges placed in the various part of the capital, with other 30,000 students being trained outside the colleges. In the period between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th, a lot of universities were set up in many industrial towns, first as university colleges, in order to provide local higher education for those unable to afford the living cost away from home. In the beginning, these university colleges established in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bristol, Reading, Nottingham, Leicester, Exeter, Hull and in many other places trained the students for the London University examinations, as they were not allowed to give degrees by themselves. In time, as they grew bigger and better provided, they obtained independent status, developing into genuine universities. The third group consists of the universities founded after the Second World War and in the 1960s. One category includes the Universities of Keele, Staffordshire (1949), York, Lancaster, Sussex, Kent, Warwick, Essex and East Anglia,; the specific characteristic of these universities is their location in a campus built in a rural area, near a town which is neither too large nor very industrialized.

Another category is represented by local technical colleges which gained a special prestige in the 60s and which were given the status of universities; they are mainly situated in important industrial cities which already had a university, but got a second one; for example, the University of Aston in Birmingham, Salford near Manchester, Strathclyde in Glasgow, Bradford in Yorkshire and others. They are mainly concentrating on science and technology, but with some specialization on languages and social sciences as well. The fourth group is represented by the new universities set up in 1992; that was the year when the decision was also made that polytechnics and some other colleges should attain university status. In Scotland the number of universities also increased, including the University of Stirling, or that of Dundee. Although the number of universities has permanently increased, there is a strong competition to enter them, and unless a pupil got a high grade at A level examination he might not find a place at a university. As regards students grants, over 90 per cent of full-time students are awarded a financial grant from their local education authorities (England and Wales), covering tuition fees and maintenance expenses during the term time. (Similar schemes are administered by the Scottish Office Education Department and the Northern Ireland Education and Library Board. [53 p. 416]). The part of the grant representing maintenance expenses depends upon the parents income, a fact which makes the students complain, as many parents fail in making their contribution to the childrens education. Besides, in the 90s, the grant level was frosen at its current-level. However, the students have the possibility to get a top-up loan from the Student Loan Company to help them pay the maintenance costs. This loan has to be paid back at the moment when the student graduates and gets a job. There are also some limited access funds that are under the administration of universities and which become available for students facing financial difficulties.

3.4 The Open University

They were set up in 1969, with the courses starting in 1971, and with the intention of offering a second chance to the people who had not the possibility to benefit of the advantages of conventional higher education. The Open University is non-residential, and, for the teaching purposes it uses a combination of specially produced written texts, T.V. and radio broadcasts, audio and videocassettes, CDs as well as some residential schools. There are not courses to be attended, the students, mainly employed, receiving at home, by mail, the courses they need, as well as TV and radio broadcasts or other means, including Internet services. There is a network of part-time tutors and counsellors in the local areas, who directly supervise the students activity by marking their written tests and regularly meeting them for discussions on their progress. Besides, during the academic year, special courses are held at the universities/colleges headquarters on some weekends in order to give the students the possibility to attend intensive activities. It is important to mention that no formal academic qualification is required from those who are eager to register with most of the open universities, but their educational and training standards regarding the degrees are similar to those of any other university. Lately, similar institutions have been set up in many other countries.

3.5 Continuing Education for Adults

A remarkable aspect which is worth mentioning, is represented by the British peoples growing interest in knowledge, even since the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, as a consequence of the generalization of elementary state education and mass literacy. Today, this thirst for knowledge is quenched by a wide range of training opportunities provided by further education institutions (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education; Scottish Community Education Council, etc), different kinds of colleges, adult centres universities, the Workers Educational Association (WEA), a voluntary body , local societies and clubs, etc. The courses offered can be either vocational, being related to the employment of the persons attending them, or recreational or cultural; in the latter case the courses are followed for the mere pleasure of studying the respective subjects. Besides, there are courses leading to academic or vocational qualifications or others, which provide access to higher education.