Study in the United Kingdom
Higher Education in the UK is highly regulated by the British Government. Institutions must meet certain criteria to be awarded the title 'university'. These are assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education on behalf of the Privy Council. The Privy Council is responsible, under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, for approving the use of the word 'university.'
Applications to the United Kingdom are made via a centralized system known as UCAS. There are just over 300 member institutions of UCAS including colleges of higher education and further education colleges, but only about 115 universities. The UK has a range of universities and courses for students to choose from.
Please Note: If you are applying to the UK using UCAS, you will only be able to apply to 5 courses/programs, regardless of whether they are in the same university or not.
Here is a short overview of the different options available to you in the UK
Oxford and Cambridge
Oxford and Cambridge have their own unique status and are very competitive. Students must choose between Oxford and Cambridge. They cannot apply to both. The deadline for this application is October 15th.
The large "civic" or "red brick" universities
The large "civic" or "red brick" universities built mainly in the late 19th century, such as Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, and Manchester tend to be quite competitive for entrance and their degree programs’ structure are less flexible than newer universities.
The Russell Group
The Russell Group represents 24 UK universities that are committed to high levels of research, strong teaching and learning experiences, and links with business and the public sector. Again, these tend to be quite competitive for entrance. More information can be found at www.russellgroup.ac.uk/
The "new" universities
The "new" universities refer to two types of universities. First are the academic institutions founded in the 1960s such as York, Sussex, Essex, East Anglia, and the “technology" universities founded in the 1960s, such as Brunel and Aston, that offer very highly regarded degrees in pre-professional fields. These universities vary in competitiveness depending on the course. Programs are more flexible and often interdisciplinary.
The term "new" universities, also applies to the universities that were polytechnics granted university statusin 1992. These "new" universities tend to have strong industrial and commercial links and offer more applied and vocational courses on a *sandwich basis (*alternating periods of study and related work experience, normally lasting for four years). They offer more science, technology, design and business-oriented courses. Many of them prepare students for specific careers and have strong job placement records in industry. They are generally less competitive for entrance and have a wider age range of enrolment.
Scottish universities offer four-year courses and a more broadly based first year, hence greater flexibility.
Entry to all courses in the UK varies in competitiveness. Medicine is one of the most competitive courses, and there are very few spots available to non-UK citizens. Other courses that are also quite competitive include Philosophy Politics & Economics (PPE), Economics, Social Anthropology, Psychology, History, and English.
In the UK, the criteria for selection vary from course to course and from university to university; however, as a general rule, universities consider:
- grades achieved in any external exams (SAT, ACT, BMAT, AP, etc.) and predicted performance in future AP exams
- the personal statement
- high school courses and how they have prepared an applicant for the course the are applying to
- demonstrated commitment to a chosen course, shown through courses, experiences, and tests
- the letter of reference and to what extend it indicates the applicant is likely to be a suitable and successful student for the course they have applied to
- fee status
Once an application has been considered by the admissions tutor, either with or without an interview, UCAS will communicate the decision to the student. Universities may contact applicants directly, but your decision is not considered official until you are notified by UCAS. The decision will be either an unconditional or conditional offer, or a rejection. If students receive a conditional offer, their final acceptance to the program will be received only after they have taken the required AP examinations and met the conditions of their offer. Unlike the United States, AP courses cannot be used to fulfill credit in UK universities because the undergraduate degree is normally 3 years in length (with two years for a masters). Students may be able to sit in advanced courses, but their degree is not shortened as a result. Most European countries use this approach.
Vocabulary used in British Education
Single Honors: Study of one subject, within which a range of specialized options may be available.
Joint Honors: Study of two separate but equal subjects, which may or may not be related
(Note: There is often little or no coordination between the departments; this may in effect be a double degree.)
Combined Honors: The study of several subjects, which may or may not be related, often narrowing as the course progresses to two or three subjects.
Sandwich Courses: Alternating periods of study and related work experience, normally lasting for four years.
Modular Courses: A wide variety of unit courses is offered, and students select their own program, often after a common subject. They are most frequently offered in the new universities.
Foundation Year: A pre-degree program during which students take courses to qualify for a specific degree program. These are intended for students whose high school courses, or their grades, do not meet course requirements. Students can then ‘top-up’ these courses and complete a Bachelor degree.
Foundation Year in Art: The year required before acceptance into a degree program in art. A portfolio is required.
University and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS): This is the central organization through which all higher education applications are made and processed. UCAS does not make decisions. It is a centralized online service for applicants. UCAS sends a copy of your application to each of the courses to which you have applied. An admissions tutor then considers the application in your chosen subject.
Vocabulary used by UCAS
Apply: Apply is the online application system for applying to higher education courses.
Clearing System: Procedure used toward the end of the admissions cycle when students have not secured a place in the courses they originally applied to. It enables students to apply for course vacancies.
Conditional Offer: an offer made by a university or college whereby students must fulfill certain criteria before they can be accepted to the relevant course.
Confirmation: when an accepted conditional offer becomes unconditional or is declined. Confirmation is dependent on qualification/exam results.
Deferral: holding an offer until the following year.
Entry Profiles: comprehensive information about individual courses and institutions, including statistics and entry requirements. Entry Profiles are found on Course Search on the UCAS website: www.ucas.com
Extra: the opportunity to apply for another course if the student was denied by all five of his/her original choices.
Firm offer: university offer of admissions the student has accepted as their first choice.
Institution: a university or college offering higher education courses.
Insurance offer: university offer of admissions the student has accepted as their second choice, in case requirements are not met for their firm offer.
KIS: Key information sets that must be provided by each university. This is official data on each UK University and college's satisfaction scores in the National Student Survey, jobs and salaries after study and other key information for prospective students.
Personal ID: a 10-digit individual number assigned to a student when you register to apply. It is printed on UCAS letters and is displayed in the format 123-456-7890. This number is needed to contact the UCAS’s Customer Service Unit.
Point of entry: the year of entry to the course. For example, 2 refers to the second year of the course.
Scheme Code: used with the Personal ID to uniquely identify an application.
Track: a system where the progress of applications are tracked online, replies to any offers received, and amendments such as change of address or email
Unconditional offer: an offer given without conditions by a university or college if all criteria are satisfied.
Unistats: a website for students who want to research and compare subjects and universities before deciding where to apply. Student satisfaction ratings and figures about getting a job after completing a course can be explored.
Unsuccessful: the student has not been accepted by the university or college concerned.
Withdrawal: either the student or a university/college cancels a choice before a decision has been made - a reason will be included if the withdrawal was issued by an institution.
Possible Admission Tests
Some universities and colleges require applicants to pass an admissions test as well as standard qualifications for courses in certain subjects. The details for some of these tests are provided below. However, other admissions tests may be required which are not listed on this page.
Please check the Entry Profiles for chosen course(s) on Course Search in UCAS, contact the chosen universities and colleges or check their websites. Full information about tests is available at: http://www.ucas.com/students/choosingcourses/admissions/
BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
For entry to medicine and veterinary schools.
English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT)
For entry to English courses at the University of Oxford.
Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
For entry into medicine.
History Aptitude Test (HAT)
For entry to modern history and joint honors degrees involving modern history at the University of Oxford.
The National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT)
For entry to law.
Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA Oxford)
Formerly known as the PPE Admissions Test For entry to the Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and the Economics and Management Courses at the University of Oxford.
Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)
For entry to European social and political studies at University College London (UCL).
UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)
For entry to medical and dental schools.
Important dates for the UCAS application
There are different dates to be aware of when completing a UCAS application and waiting for decisions from chosen universities and colleges. The application deadlines vary from year to year and at Avenues earlier internal deadlines are set to allow time to check applications, to complete references, and to make sure students are not disadvantaged by the winter break.
Note: some art schools with foundation courses will accept separate applications. Students are not limited in any way by UCAS if they are only applying to these. Deans will offer advice and guidance in completing the UCAS application.
Below is a rough guideline of the dates important for those students completing applications through UCAS:
UCAS opens for registration and applications can be sent starting in mid- September.
Mid – October
Application deadline for UCAS applications to medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and veterinary science courses and for all Oxford and Cambridge courses.
Internal Avenues deadline for all UCAS applications (except those listed above, and art and design courses) due to the Christmas Holidays. This allows deans time to make final checks and make sure applications reach UCAS by the January close date.
Extra becomes available to some students. This is a service offered to students who have already made five choices; received decisions from all these choices, and either had no offers or have chosen to decline all the received offers. Eligible students will be able to apply to courses that still have vacancies.
Deadline for Art and Design courses that do not have the earlier general deadline.
Most universities and colleges will have sent their decisions by this date for students who met the general January deadline.
If students have received decisions from all their universities/colleges, and they have not made an Extra application, they need to reply to any offers in early May. If they do not receive replies, UCAS will decline offers on the student’s behalf.
Technically it is possible to submit applications until June. However, these applications are not given preference by UCAS and may go straight to clearing. students would only have this option in extreme/extenuating circumstances.
Deadline for last applications to Extra. Clearing starts. This is a service available between July and September, but for most people it is used after exam results are published in July.
Adjustment opens. Adjustment is a service for students who have exceeded the conditions of their conditional firm choice. Students may try to apply for an alternative course of study. Adjustment closes at the end of August.
Mid-September will be the last date you can apply for courses starting the same year.