The basics
THE UK: Applying to University - Must read

Applying to study in the UK

How do you apply to a university in the UK? Read our full guide to the process including deadlines, application tips and more...


A global hotspot for academics and professionals alike, the UK is a popular study choice for international students. With a spate of programme options, qualifications from the UK are globally recognized to best equip students for entry into the professional world. The admissions process may seem like a lot to tackle from the outset, but if you follow the procedure step-by-step you’ll find that it’s actually quite straightforward.

Let our overview of the applications process help make things seem less scary...




The application process to study abroad in the UK differs slightly for EU and non-EU students, but in most instances is done through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the official UK application service.

If your institution is not listed with UCAS, you will need to contact them directly to confirm specific application procedures. Students of the Performing Arts will need to apply via the Conservatories UK Admissions Service (CUKAS).

Entry into UK institutions is competitive, so it’s important that students begin their research at least an academic year in advance to ensure they meet all the requirements and have sufficient time to work on their application.


Find out if your institution is listed with UCAS

Learn more about CUKAS


Intake and deadlines

The academic year in the UK runs from about September-July of the following year.  Undergraduate applications from EU students via UCAS for a start in term one of the academic year are as follows:

Non-EU students can submit their applications from 1 September in the year preceding their proposed commencement date all the way up until 30 June. Students however are encouraged to apply as early as possible, and to double check any institution-specific deadlines for non-EU applications.

Applications processes for undergraduate study at non-UCAS listed institutions should be pursued directly with the host institution, but broadly speaking shouldn’t deviate too much from the above dates. Universities may also have specific policies and deadlines for midyear intake.  

Whilst some institutions accept postgraduate applications through UCAS, most must be lodged directly to the host, particularly if the course is research-based. Each institution, whether using an application service or not, has separate application dates for different postgraduate programmes. However, any postgraduate performing arts, teaching or Masters of Arts in social work or medicine programmes may be submitted via UCAS. You can also apply for selected postgraduate programmes through the UCAS service UKPASS.

Find out if you can apply for postgraduate study through UCAS

Find out if you can apply for postgraduate study through UKPASS

Click here for a full list of all UCAS undergraduate deadlines and application dates


What documents will I need?

Students will need to ensure their existing qualifications are recognized by the UK, and prove their proficiency of the English language if relevant via a recognized exam score card, as specified by the institution. For example, students may be required to produce either IELTS or TOEFL scores. All academic transcripts and qualifications to date will need to be included in your application, in as much detail as possible.

You will also need to write a personal statement outlining why you want to complete your proposed course of study. Students applying to multiple providers through UCAS are advised to leave individual institution names out of their statement, as all will receive the same document. Some universities will also require that you include two-three letters of recommendation from previous professional or academic superiors.

As well as these, you’ll need to provide proof of identification documents such as a photocopy of your passport photo page and/or your home country ID card or drivers licence. All non-EU students will require a student visa to study in the UK, and should apply for one after receiving their official offer.

Learn more about UK student visas

Learn more about UK university admissions tests

Check if you are an EU student

Application checklist: essential documents


Admissions and aptitude tests

Students may also need to sit additional admissions and aptitude tests, depending on the requirements of their institution and programme. Common admission rests required are the GAMSAT, for entry into postgraduate Medicine programmes, and the LNAT for entry into Law programmes. You can find a full guide to required UK university admissions tests by subject area on the national Admissions Testing Service website.

Learn more about UK university admission tests


Application tips

The applications process is competitive and students are urged to lodge their applications as early as possible. Most universities and colleges will consider a late application up to a point only if there are vacancies left in the course. Late applications can be sent through UCAS until 30 June for a start in term one of the academic year.

Your personal statement will be a key point of your application and it’s important you spend sufficient time and effort writing it. You should display your enthusiasm for the subject, your command of English academic language, and explain why you specifically want to study in the UK rather than your own country.

UK academic prose is formal and direct, and so students should avoid superfluous language, over- use of descriptors or ‘gushy’ language when explaining why they want to study at their prospective UK host.  UCAS application forms allow a maximum of 4,000 characters so it’s important you be economical with your language choices.

Students should be sure to explain clearly why the course of study is specifically suited to them, and outline any lateral skills or practical experience that might demonstrate this. Remember: admissions officers go through hundreds of applications per term, so you should think hard about how you can make yours stand out in a positive way.

Now that you’ve got a handle on the UK applications process, why not start browsing courses in the UK now and plan your study abroad adventure?


Useful Links

'Writing your application'

'What an admissions officer looks an admissions officer'

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.


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