How to apply for university in the United Kingdom for English Students

Cristina García


Every country has its own processes on how to apply to university. This guide will help you understand how this works in the United Kingdom.

Higher education in Britain offers a huge variety of universities with different degree programs for students from the UK and abroad. In the UK, most undergraduate degree programs take three years to finish. You can also add an extra year, which involves one year in the workplace. This practice is becoming more and more popular with UK students. In Scotland, however, Honours degree courses are four years in length for undergraduate programs.

Graduate or master´s programs are generally shorter in length and undertaken after graduation from your undergraduate program. If you wish to continue past the master´s program, there is the doctoral level (PhD), which usually takes at least three years.

  • UCAS

When you have finished your GCE Advanced Levels (A-levels) at age 18, you will need to apply for higher education throughUCAS. UCAS stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and it is a special organisation that oversees the application process for British universities and everyone who wants to study for an undergraduate degree in the UK will have to apply through them. They also offer all kinds of online services such as a course search engine to see which course is most suitable for you.

  • Research

You should start researching universities and courses between March and September 2017 for the following student year. Why? This is the time when most universities run open days, conferences and other fairs or conventions. Take advantage of the summer holidays and visit your favourite institutions as most of the open days are held in June!

There are several excellent websites which allow you to compare universities and the courses they offer including The Times Good University Guide and The Guardian University Guide.

  • Application

The process of applying to UK Universities is relatively simple: visit the UCAS website to fill in a special Application form. The steps to get your application through are as follows:

  • Register on the UCAS website.
  • Find your course. This can be a tough decision as you will be committed to your course for at least 3 years, but we are sure you will make the right choice! All courses have a code that you will have to write down for the following steps.
  • Find your universities. Think carefully about this as you will need to take into account the location, price, and prestige of where you want to study! Make a shortlist and record their unique codes. (This is why we recommend you start your research in advance!)
  • Application Form. You will have the option to choose from up to 5 different options when applying. At this stage, you will have to write a personal statement as well.
  • Submit it! Once you send your application, you will be in the system!
  • Key dates

It is important to take into account the deadlines for your application!If you want to apply for a course starting in the autumn of 2018, the 15th of January 2018 is the deadline for most courses, whether you are applying from the UK or elsewhere in EU. You can see in more detail the deadlines here. There are some exceptions for some art and design courses. Double-check with the universities you have chosen, but the deadline is usually they 24th of March 2018 for these courses.

If you have forgotten to add another university to your application, don´t worry as you will have another chance before the 25th of February 2018 and a final one by the 4th of July 2018.

You will have received your A-level results by the 16th of August, but remember that by the 20th of September you should have submitted your application for your 2018 entry courses.

  • Admissions

The admissions and entry requirements can vary depending on the institutions. They make their own admissions policies and the minimum entry requirements for each program they offer. However, we can say that, in general, for a bachelor´s degree the minimum entry requirement is usually two or three A-level passes, as well as a minimum number of General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) passes at grade C or above. It is important to mention that UCAS tariffs also taken into account as a point scoring system, which is comparable between different types of qualifications in the UK.

If you have submitted your application before the 15th of January, you will get your admission letter by the 3rd of May. You will have one month (until the 7th of June) to get back to your preferred university.

  • Clearing and dates

What does clearing mean? Essentially, it is a way for universities and colleges to fill any spaces they still have available for the new academic year. It is a good opportunity for applicants who do not yet have an offer to have another chance of finding a place at a university. The 5th of July is when the clearing vacancies will appear on the UCAS website.