Universities in the United Kingdom have generally been instituted by Royal Charter, Papal Bull, Act of Parliament or an instrument of government under the Education Reform Act 1988; in any case generally with the approval of the Privy Council, and only such recognised bodies can award degrees of any kind. Undergraduate applications to almost all United Kingdom universities are managed by UCAS - the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
The universities in the United Kingdom (with the exception of The Open University) share an undergraduate admission system which is operated by UCAS. Applications must be made by 15 October for admissions to Oxford and Cambridge (and medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses) and by 15 January for admissions to other UK universities.
Many universities now operate the Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) and all universities in Scotland use the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) enabling easier transfer between courses and institutions.
The vast majority of United Kingdom universities are government financed, with only two private universities (the University of Buckingham and BPP) where the government does not subsidise the tuition fees.
British undergraduate students and students from other European Union countries who qualify as home students have to pay university tuition fees up to a maximum of £3,375 capped (for 2011/12). A government-provided loan is available which may only be used towards tuition fee costs. Welsh undergraduate students studying in a Welsh university have to pay a maximum university tuition fee of £1,200. However, if they choose to study outside of Wales they are subject to the same tuition fees as students from that country. i.e. if a Welsh student studies in England they pay £3,125. Scottish and European Union students studying inScotland have their tuition fees paid by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland. Students are also entitled to apply for government-provided loans to pay for living costs, a portion of which is also means-tested. A new grant is also available, which is means-tested and offers up to £2,700 a year. As part of the deal allowing universities to charge higher tuition fees, all universities are required to offer bursaries to those in receipt of the full government grant. Different funding arrangements are in place for students on National Health Service (NHS) being eligible for a non-means tested bursary, while healthcare students on degree level courses are eligible for a means tested bursary, and are not eligible for the full student loan as a result of their bursary entitlement. Students living in the UK, if they are from non-European countries, have to pay the same fees as Overseas students at a very high rate, even if they have been in the UK for more than 3 years, without Indefinite Leave to Remain. Such students are not eligible for loan from the Students Loan Company either.
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Students in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are also eligible for a means-tested grant, and many universities provide bursaries to students with low financial capabilities. Non-European Union students are not subsidised by the United Kingdom government and so have to pay much higher tuition fees.
In principle, all postgraduate students are liable for tuition fees, though a variety of scholarship and assistantship schemes exist which may provide support. The main sources of funding for postgraduate students are research councils such as the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council).
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