The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)
UCAS Application Process
Unlike most countries the UK has a centralised system for applying for courses in Higher Education. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is the central organisation that processes applications for full-time undergraduate courses at UK universities and colleges. It is a charity, funded by fees paid by applicants and universities.
To apply through UCAS, you must first register to open a personal account. This allows access to a well-designed website which contains a huge amount of tailored information, enabling you to search universities by course, region, tuition fees and grade requirements.
To progress your application, you must electronically pay the required fee – this is critical.
The UCAS application process is complex. Whilst the process “belongs” to the student, Education Advisers Ltd can provide bespoke support to achieve the best outcomes.
Key dates are:
- Deadlines for Oxford, Cambridge and Medical applications are in late October*.
- All other UCAS applications should be completed by late January*. Whilst late international applications will be accepted, the choice of university will become more restricted.
- Universities will complete making offers to prospective students by the middle of May*.
- Results day in mid-August* allows offers to be confirmed by students – this means that you accept the associated fees for the course and accommodation (if provided). Students who do better than expected may wish to enter “adjustment”, where they try to secure a course with higher entry criteria. For students who have not done as well as expected, “clearing” allows them to explore courses which fit their actual grade profile.
*See UCAS website for the exact date.
Predicated Grades and Subject References
It is vitally important that the grades you are predicted are accurate. In a UK school, prior attainment data and teacher assessed class grades allow this to be done by the end of Y12. In the UK, this information will be entered by the exam centre. This allows you to focus on the universities and courses which you are academically suited to.
UK schools will also provide a reference, with a paragraph on each of the subjects you study at 16+, outlining your current aptitude, effort, interest and suitability for undergraduate study. This will also touch on your extra-curricular achievements. This reference is limited to 4,000 characters.
Overseas applicants will be expected to provide a similar “letter” from their school, containing information on study since 16+ and current aptitude, effort, interest and suitability for undergraduate study. It will also touch on your extra-curricular achievements. This reference is limited to 4,000 characters. Importantly, this letter will also contain predicted grades - International students should contact the International Admissions Office of the universities they are applying to, to establish how their predicted grades match course entry criteria.
It is vital to stress that schools / exam centres should not be pressured to inflate predicted grades – this will simply cause unrealistic applications being made. Therefore, accurate professional judgement is key in being guided to the correct undergraduate destination.
English Language proficiency and testing for international applicants
Universities want you to succeed, so they need to be sure that you are linguistically proficient and have the academic skills to access the course. Undergraduate lectures, seminars and assignments require a complex vocabulary, and a high understanding of English is needed. Therefore, many courses ask international students to take an English language assessment.
Different universities and courses will require different test scores, but Law and Medicine require very high levels of proficiency. It is therefore vital that you check with the International Admissions Office of the universities you are applying to establish what level of qualification you need.
Universities have preferred tests (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic and Cambridge English Advanced) and require a minimum grade in writing, speaking, listening, and reading. Each provider has a particular test structure, and their website will inform you of this. It is important to understand how the papers will be assessed, so doing mock papers is good preparation (these can be found online). Speaking and listening to English (ideally conversing with UK nationals) is also great practice, and so is watching British films and television – remember to listen for regional accents and colloquial phrases. Reading relevant British newspapers and journals is also good way of expanding your vocabulary.
Please contact Steven, our Senior Educational Consultant, at email@example.com / +44(0)1622 813870 to discuss how Education Advisers Ltd can support your pathway to university.