Thursday, 25th April 2019


Schools, colleges and universities in the UK are popular destinations for students from all over. Conversely, many young people embark on courses of study at institutions abroad, either by choice or because their parents move around with work.

With each country having a different education system, as well as different qualifications, it is sometimes difficult to work out what courses and qualifications are on the same level as ours in the UK. However, studying abroad can be seen as favourable by some employers and within certain job roles as it shows incredible independence and personal skills.

However, UCAS does give a list of qualifications that they recognise, and the organisation ECCTIS can provide valuable information for UK citizens wanting to study abroad, or for international students coming to study in the UK.

What qualifications are accepted?

Here is a short guide to some of the English-language qualifications that can be obtained abroad and are accepted by UCAS:

The Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)

This is the qualification awarded after successful completion of secondary education in Hong Kong, with subjects being taught to students between the ages of 15 and 18 (Higher Secondary). According to UCAS, a top mark for an HKDSE subject is the equivalent of an A grade at A-level. Students can study up to eight subjects, the following four of which are compulsory in the HKDSE curriculum:

  • English Language
  • Chinese Language
  • Maths
  • Liberal Studies

The remaining subjects can be chosen from a list of around 20 elective. Some schools use English exclusively as the language of instruction, others opt for Chinese; most UK universities will require top grades in English language for non-native speakers.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB)

This programme is an internationally recognised system for pupils between the ages of 16 and 19 which prepares for entry into higher education. There are currently over 200 schools in the UK that offer the IB to students.

Students can study for the IB after GCSEs as an alternative to AS and A-levels and the scope of subjects that are studied under the program is wider than that of A-levels. The three characteristic core requirements of the IB include a 4,000-word extended essay, 150 hours of creativity, action and service and theory of knowledge, along with six additional subjects, one taken from each of the following groups:

  • Maths and ICT
  • Science (Biology, Chemistry, Design Technology, Physics)
  • First Language
  • Language
  • The Arts (Art, Music, Theatre)
  • Individuals and Society (History, Geography, Psychology)

Of these optional subjects, a student can choose to place more emphasis and time on three or four subjects.

For more information and assistance on how to compare international qualifications to the UK's qualifications framework, and on studying in a foreign country, UK NARIC (managed by ECCTIS) is very helpful. Please visit our section on ECCTIS or click on the following link: UK NARIC