The UK uses a universal university application system, known as the Universities College and Admissions Service (UCAS). It costs £20 to apply for one course, or £26 to apply for multiple courses and applications are open from 19 May 2020 for the 2021 entry.


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Students are generally allowed to apply for five university-subject combinations. They write a single application and statement for all the Universities they apply for and the universities cannot see  the others they've applied to. There is no way to indicate a preference of one institution over another, and having a preference is generally discouraged.

Applying for more than one type of subject area is not advisable - applications, especially personal statements, need to show commitment to a chosen subject and this is impossible if applying for a range of courses.

The application will ask for:

  • Personal Details
  • Education and Qualifications
  • Employment History
  • Chosen Course(s) and Institution(s)
  • Personal Statement
  • References

UCAS uses a tariff system which allows qualifications to be converted into points (for example, an A at A-Level is worth 120 points). These points are added together to give a total. Each course will stipulate the minimum number of points a student needs to gain a place. The UCAS tariff covers all UK qualifications and some foreign qualifications (foreign qualifications that aren’t covered are often still accepted by Universities). It is also possible gain points for qualifications such as music grades, drama exams, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award.



Each applicant is given their own unique ID by UCAS, and they will receive emails notifying them of any offers. Offers can either be conditional or unconditional:

  • Conditional - This means that the offer is dependant on the applicant getting certain grades in their A Levels. The offer may stipulate that they achieve at least 360 UCAS points, at least AAA or may specifically require a certain grade in a certain subject e.g. A in Maths.
  • Unconditional - This means that the applicant has a place at University, irrelevant of their grades. These types of offers are usually given to students who have already taken their A Levels but are becoming more common, even for those who have yet to take their exams.

Prior to acceptance some students may be required to take an interview, attend an audition, submit a portfolio, or take an additional test. If this is the case, following the interview, audition etc. offers will be processed in the usual way.

If an application is received by 15th January universities should make a decision by 31st March. However, response times tend to vary greatly. Students can track the progress of their application online.


Accepting Offers:

Following an offer, applicants will be invited to attend a post-application Open Day, to help them get a feel for the University, and to help them chose which offers to accept. Two offers can be accepted:

  • The Firm Acceptance - This is the applicant’s prefered University, and if they have an unconditional offer, they are guaranteed a place here.
  • The Insurance Acceptance - This is the applicant’s back-up choice. If their first choice is a conditional offer, they may not get the grades required. In this case, they will attend their Insurance University. Therefore, students should chose a University with lower acceptance grades that their first choice.  

After submitting their choice, students should start thinking about accommodation and funding. Those that did not receive any offers, or any that they want to accept, can apply for another university through UCAS extra.  


Results Day:

A Level results are released on the second Thursday of August. Students who achieve their required grades will then have a confirmed place at their first choice University. Those that do not, can use Clearing to find a place at a university that still has spaces. Alternatively, those that far exceed their expected grades can upgrade to a better university through UCAS Adjustment.


Key Dates

First Applications Accepted: 1st January

Deadline for Oxford, Cambridge, Medecine, Vet, Dentistry: 15th October

Deadline for the majority of the Other Courses: 15th January (you can check the course details using the UCAS search tool for the correct deadline)


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