Mahal Resources on Education in the UK

General Information about the UK


 Transnational Issues 
Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the nineteenth century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. The British Empire covered approximately one-fourth of the earth's surface at its zenith. In the first half of the twentieth century its strength was seriously depleted by two world wars. Since the end of World War II, the British Empire has been dismantled, and Britain has rebuilt itself into a prosperous, modern European nation with significant international political, cultural, and economic influence. As the twentieth century draws to a close, Britain is debating the degree of its integration with continental Europe. While a member of the EU, for the time being it is staying out of the euro system introduced in January 1999. Constitutional reform, including the House of Lords and the devolution of power to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is an ongoing issue in Great Britain.


Location: Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France

Geographic coordinates: 54 00 N, 2 00 W

Map references: Europe

total: 244,820 sq km
land: 241,590 sq km
water: 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands

Area—comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon

Land boundaries:
total: 360 km
border countries: Ireland 360 km

Coastline: 12,429 km

Maritime claims:
continental shelf: as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

Climate: temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast

Terrain: mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast

Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Fenland -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m

Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica

Land use:
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 46%
forests and woodland: 10%
other: 19% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 1,080 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment—current issues: sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants contribute to air pollution; some rivers polluted by agricultural wastes; and coastal waters polluted because of large-scale disposal of sewage at sea

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol

Geography—note: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters


Population: 59,113,439 (July 1999 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 19% (male 5,822,901; female 5,522,122)
15-64 years: 65% (male 19,393,706; female 19,103,882)
65 years and over: 16% (male 3,821,181; female 5,449,647) (1999 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.24% (1999 est.)

Birth rate: 11.9 births/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Death rate: 10.64 deaths/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Net migration rate: 1.11 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1999 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (1999 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 5.78 deaths/1,000 live births (1999 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.37 years
male: 74.73 years
female: 80.15 years (1999 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.71 children born/woman (1999 est.)

noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
adjective: British

Ethnic groups: English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

Religions: Anglican 27 million, Roman Catholic 9 million, Muslim 1 million, Presbyterian 800,000, Methodist 760,000, Sikh 400,000, Hindu 350,000, Jewish 300,000 (1991 est.)

Languages: English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)

definition: age 15 and over has completed five or more years of schooling
total population: 99% (1978 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%


Country name:
conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
conventional short form: United Kingdom
abbreviation: UK

Data code: UK

Government type: constitutional monarchy

Capital: London

Administrative divisions: 47 counties, 7 metropolitan counties, 26 districts, 9 regions, and 3 islands areas; England—39 counties, 7 metropolitan counties*; Avon, Bedford, Berkshire, Buckingham, Cambridge, Cheshire, Cleveland, Cornwall, Cumbria, Derby, Devon, Dorset, Durham, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucester, Greater London*, Greater Manchester*, Hampshire, Hereford and Worcester, Hertford, Humberside, Isle of Wight, Kent, Lancashire, Leicester, Lincoln, Merseyside*, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Nottingham, Oxford, Shropshire, Somerset, South Yorkshire*, Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Tyne and Wear*, Warwick, West Midlands*, West Sussex, West Yorkshire*, Wiltshire; Northern Ireland—26 districts; Antrim, Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Larne, Limavady, Lisburn, Londonderry, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh, Strabane; Scotland—9 regions, 3 islands areas*; Borders, Central, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Grampian, Highland, Lothian, Orkney*, Shetland*, Strathclyde, Tayside, Western Isles*; Wales—8 counties; Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwent, Gwynedd, Mid Glamorgan, Powys, South Glamorgan, West Glamorgan
note: England may now have 35 counties and Wales 9 counties

Dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands

Independence: England has existed as a unified entity since the 10th century; the union between England and Wales was enacted under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284; in the Act of Union of 1707, England and Scotland agreed to permanent union as Great Britain; the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was implemented in 1801, with the adoption of the name the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927

National holiday: Celebration of the Birthday of the Queen (second Saturday in June)

Constitution: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice

Legal system: common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; no judicial review of Acts of Parliament; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations; British courts and legislation are increasingly subject to review by European Union courts

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES (son of the queen, born 14 November 1948)
head of government: Prime Minister Anthony C. L. (Tony) BLAIR (since 2 May 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; the prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons (assuming there is no majority party, a prime minister would have a majority coalition or at least a coalition that was not rejected by the majority)

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of House of Lords (1,200 seats; four-fifths of the members are hereditary peers, two archbishops, 24 other senior bishops, serving and retired Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, other life peers, Scottish peers) and House of Commons (659 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)
elections: House of Lords—no elections; House of Commons—last held 1 May 1997 (next to be held by NA May 2002); note—in 1998 elections were held for a Northern Ireland Parliament; in 1999 there will be elections for a new Scottish parliament and a new Welsh Assembly
election results: House of Commons—percent of vote by party—Labor 44.5%, Conservative 31%, Liberal Democratic 17%, other 7.5%; seats by party—Labor 418, Conservative 165, Liberal Democrat 46, other 30

Judicial branch: House of Lords, several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life

Political parties and leaders: Conservative and Unionist Party [William HAGUE]; Labor Party [Anthony (Tony) Blair]; Liberal Democrats [Jeremy (Paddy) ASHDOWN]; Scottish National Party [Alex SALMOND]; Welsh National Party (Plaid Cymru) [Dafydd Iwan WIGLEY]; Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [David TRIMBLE]; Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [Rev. Ian PAISLEY]; Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [John HUME]; Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Gerry ADAMS]; Alliance Party (Northern Ireland) [Seamus CLOSE]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Trades Union Congress; Confederation of British Industry; National Farmers' Union; Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

International organization participation: AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CERN, CP, EAPC, EBRD, ECA (associate), ECE, ECLAC, EIB, ESA, ESCAP, EU, FAO, G- 5, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, MTCR, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, UN, UN Security Council, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNOMIG, UNOMSIL, UNRWA, UNU, UPU, WCL, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sir Christopher J. R. MEYER
chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 588-6500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-7870
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
consulate(s): Dallas, Miami, and Seattle

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Philip LADER
embassy: 24/31 Grosvenor Square, London, W. 1A1AE
mailing address: PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040
telephone: [44] (171) 499-9000
FAX: [44] (171) 409-1637
consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh

Flag description: blue with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); known as the Union Flag or Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories


Economy—overview: The UK is one of the world's great trading powers and financial centers, and its essentially capitalistic economy ranks among the four largest in Western Europe. Over the past two decades the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance, now employing only 18% of the work force. Economic growth is slowing, and Britain may experience a short recession in 1999. As a result, unemployment probably will begin to rise again. The BLAIR government has put off the question of participation in the euro system until after the next election, not expected until 2001, but Chancellor of the Exchequer BROWN is committed to preparing the British economy for eventual membership.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$1.252 trillion (1998 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 2.6% (1998 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$21,200 (1998 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 31.5%
services: 67% (1997)

Population below poverty line: 17%

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.4%
highest 10%: 24.7% (1986)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.7% (1998)

Labor force: 28.8 million (1998)

Labor force—by occupation: services 68.9%, manufacturing and construction 17.5%, government 11.3%, energy 1.2%, agriculture 1.1% (1996)

Unemployment rate: 7.5% (1998 est.)

revenues: $487.7 billion
expenditures: $492.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $23.1 billion (1997 est.)

Industries: production machinery including machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods

Industrial production growth rate: 0.5% (1998 est.)

Electricity—production: 309.672 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—production by source:
fossil fuel: 72.28%
hydro: 1.28%
nuclear: 26.33%
other: 0.11% (1996)

Electricity—consumption: 326.322 billion kWh (1996)

Electricity—exports: 0 kWh (1996)

Electricity—imports: 16.65 billion kWh (1996)

Agriculture—products: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish

Exports: $271 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Exports—commodities: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco

Exports—partners: EU countries 56% (Germany 12%, France 10%, Netherlands 8%), US 12% (1997)

Imports: $304 billion (f.o.b., 1998)

Imports—commodities: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, foodstuffs

Imports—partners: EU countries 53% (Germany 14%, France 10%, Netherlands 7%, Ireland 5%), US 13% (1997)

Debt—external: $NA

Economic aid—donor: ODA, $3.4 billion (1996)

Currency: 1 British pound () = 100 pence

Exchange rates: British pounds () per US$1—0.6057 (January 1999), 0.6037 (1998), 0.6106 (1997), 0.6403 (1996), 0.6335 (1995), 0.6529 (1994)

Fiscal year: 1 April—31 March


Telephones: 29.5 million (1987 est.)

Telephone system: technologically advanced domestic and international system
domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems
international: 40 coaxial submarine cables; satellite earth stations—10 Intelsat (7 Atlantic Ocean and 3 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and 1 Eutelsat; at least 8 large international switching centers

Radio broadcast stations: AM 225, FM 525 (mostly repeaters), shortwave 0

Radios: 70 million

Television broadcast stations: 78 (in addition, there are 869 repeaters) (1997)

Televisions: 20 million


total: 16,878 km
broad gauge: 342 km 1.600-m gauge (190 km double track); note—all 1.600-m gauge track, of which 342 km is in common carrier use, is in Northern Ireland
standard gauge: 16,536 km 1.435-m gauge (4,928 km electrified; 12,591 km double or multiple track) (1996)

total: 372,000 km
paved: 372,000 km (including 3,270 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: 3,200 km

Pipelines: crude oil (almost all insignificant) 933 km; petroleum products 2,993 km; natural gas 12,800 km

Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Scapa Flow, Sullom Voe, Tees, Tyne

Merchant marine:
total: 155 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,460,361 GRT/2,517,875 DWT
ships by type: bulk 3, cargo 29, chemical tanker 6, combination ore/oil 1, container 25, liquefied gas tanker 1, oil tanker 51, passenger 8, passenger-cargo 1, roll-on/roll-off cargo 17, short-sea passenger 12, specialized tanker 1 (1998 est.)

Airports: 497 (1998 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 356
over 3,047 m: 10
2,438 to 3,047 m: 32
1,524 to 2,437 m: 169
914 to 1,523 m: 91
under 914 m: 54 (1998 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 141
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 23
under 914 m: 117 (1998 est.)

Heliports: 12 (1998 est.)


Military branches: Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49: 14,458,646 (1999 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 12,053,320 (1999 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $36.7 billion (FY98/99)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: 2.6% (FY98/99)

Transnational Issues

Disputes—international: Northern Ireland issue with Ireland (historic peace agreement signed 10 April 1998); Gibraltar issue with Spain; Argentina claims Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas); Argentina claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Mauritius claims island of Diego Garcia in British Indian Ocean Territory; Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland (Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area); territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory); Seychelles claims Chagos Archipelago in British Indian Ocean Territory

Illicit drugs: gateway country for Latin American cocaine entering the European market; producer and major consumer of synthetic drugs, synthetic precursor chemicals; transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin; money-laundering center



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