In Canada we used to be licensed. This is where we would go to an acredited school 3-6months 3 for nails, 6 for full esthetics, have to pass the school qualifications then there was a governement exam that all nail,esthetics and hair care people would have to take (different exam for each of course) where we would do a long written test as well as a practicle on a model. It was very intense. I did it and got my license a few months before the government exam stopped being manditory. It was government funded and now no longer is, as it was a cut back from our last government in BC.
I wanted to get my license because now I always have that piece of paper that says I did it. Whatever school you went to ,good or bad, everyone had to pass the same government test so it all equaled us out in the end. They are thinking of bringing it back and I hope they do, it really is a good thing to keep the bar raised in our industry.
Im not sure the law in the UK but you can look at what we have here if you want by going to the Cosmatologist Association of BC website.