топик Modern University System in Great Britain

There are 90 universities in Great Britain today, compared with 47 in 1990, and only 17 in 1945. They fall into five broad categories: the medieval English universities, the medieval Scottish ones, the nineteenth century “redbrick” ones, the previous polytechnics, and finally the twentieth-century “plate-glass” universities. They are all private institutions, receiving direct grants from central government There are not very important legal distinctions between the various types of universities in the country. But it is possible to discern a few broad categories.


This name denotes the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, both founded in the medieval period. They are federations of semi-independent colleges, each college having its own staff, known as “Fellows”. Most colleges have their own dining hall, library and chapel and contain enough accommodation for at least half of their students. The fellows teach the college students, either one-to-one or in very small groups (known as “tutorials” in Oxford and “supervisions” in Cambridge). Oxbridge has the lowest student/staff ratio in Britain. Lectures and laboratory work are organized at university level. As well as the college libraries, there are the two university libraries, both of which are legally entitled to a free copy of every book published in Britain. Before 1970
all Oxbridge colleges were single-sex (mostly for men). Now, the majority admit both sexes.
The students of these universities make up one of the most elite elites in the world. Many great men such as Bacon, Milton, Cromwell, Newton, Byron, Darwin, Rutherford and many other scientists and writers were educated there as well as members of the Royal family. Nowadays their pre-eminence is diminishing, but not extinct.
These two ancient universities have, through the centuries, had a major role in English politics– Oxford more than Cambridge. Of the nine prime ministers since 1955 Mrs Thatcher was the seventh to have been to Oxford University. In 1988 her cabinet of twenty-one included seven who had been to Oxford, seven to Cambridge; two had been to old Scottish universities, one to London, none to any other university in England. The top civil servants have a similar background. This preponderance of Oxford and Cambridge graduates among the political elite (and among MPs in general) has declined, but it is still significant. The Old Scottish University Scotland is proud of its four ancient universities: Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St Andrews, all founded in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The last of these resembles Oxbridge in many ways, while the other three are more like civic universities (see below) where most of the stud ents live at home or find their own rooms in town. At all of them the pattern of study is closer to the continual tradition than to the English one –there is less specialization than at Oxbridge. Created with strong links with the ancient universities of continental Europe they followed their longer and broader course of studies.
Even today Scottish universities provide four-year undergraduate courses, compared with usual three-year courses in England and Wales.

The Early Nineteenth-Century English Universities

Durham University was founded in 1832. Its collegiate living arrange ments are similar to Oxbridge, but academic matters are organized at university level. The University of London started in 1836 with just
two colleges. Many more have joined since, scattered widely around the city, so that each college (most are non
— residential) is almost a separate university. The central organization is responsible for little more than exams and the awarding of degrees.

The Older Civic (‘Redbrick’) Universities

During the nineteenth century various institutes of higher education, usually with a technical bias, sprang up in the new industrial towns and cities such as Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. Their buildings were of local material, often brick, in contrast to the stone of older universities (hence the name ‘redbrick’). They catered only for local people. At first, they prepared students for London University degrees, but later they were given the right to award their own degrees, and so became universities themselves. In the mid twentieth century they started to accept students from all over the country.

The Campus Universities

These are purpose-built institutions located in the countryside but close to towns. Examples are East Anglia, Lancaster, Sussex and Warwick. They have accommodation for most of their students on site and from their beginning, mostly in the early 1960s, attracted students from all over the country. (Many were known as centres of students protest in the late 1960 and early 1970s.)
They tend to emphasise relatively ‘new’ academic disciplines such as social sciences and to make greater use than other universities of teaching in small groups, often known as ‘seminars’.

The Newer Civic Universities

These were originally technical colleges set up by local authorities in the first sixty years of this century. Their upgrading to university status took place in two waves. The first wave occurred in the mid 1960s, when ten of them (e.g. Aston in Birmingham, Salford near Manchester and Strachclyde in Glasgow ) were promoted in this way. Then, in the early 1970s, another thirty became ‘polytechnics’, which meant that as well as continuing with their formers courses, they were allowed to teach degree courses (the degrees being awarded by a national body). In the early 1990s most of these (and also some other colleges) became universities. Their most notable feature is flexibility with regard to studying arrangements, including ‘sandwich’ courses (i.e. studies interrupted by periods of time outside education). They are now all financed by central government.

The Open University

This is one development in education in which Britain can claim to have\led the world. It was started in 1969. It allows people who do not have the opportunity to be ordinary ‘students’ to study for a degree. Its courses are taught through television, radio and specially written course-books. Its students work with tutors, to whom they send their written work and with whom they then discuss it, either at meetings or through corres pondence. In the summer, they have to attend short residential courses of about a week.

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