Students aspiring to study in England await an enriching experience as England is a multicultural, multi ethnic and cosmopolitan society. Higher education often begins with a three-year bachelor's degree. Postgraduate degrees include master's degrees, either taught or by research, and the doctorate, a research degree that usually takes at least three years.
Students normally enter university from age 18 onwards, and study for an academic degree. Full-time education is compulsory for all children aged between 5 and 16, with a child beginning primary education during the school year he or she turns 5. Students may then continue their secondary studies for a further two years (sixth form), leading most typically to A-level qualifications. The Advanced Level General Certificate of Education, commonly referred to as an A-level, is a qualification offered by education institutions in England, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cameroon, and the Cayman Islands. A-levels are studied over a two-year period and are recognised as the standard for assessing the suitability of applicants for academic courses in English, Welsh, and Northern Irish universities.
In the academic year 2011-2012, most undergraduates paid fees that were set at a maximum of £3,375 per annum. These fees are repayable after graduation, contingent on attaining a certain level of income, with the state paying all fees for students from the poorest backgrounds. Postgraduate fees vary but are generally more than undergraduate fees, depending on the degree and university. There are numerous bursaries (awarded to low income applicants) to offset undergraduate fees and, for postgraduates, full scholarships are available for most subjects, and are usually awarded competitively.