The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Undergraduate courses: How to apply?


In order to apply for an undergraduate course in the UK you will need to prove that you have finished your secondary or high school. Additionally, you will have to prove that your English language is at proficiency level, so you can face the academic demands of undertaking a higher education degree in the UK.


Secondary School Certificate / International Baccalaureate Diploma 

International students are required to have completed 12 years of primary and secondary education before applying to a UK university. When applying for undergraduate courses in the UK, you will need to check with your prospective institution regarding qualifications for direct entry to an undergraduate programme.


English language ability

If you are applying to study in the UK and English language is not your first language, you will need to have reached a certain standard in an IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam before the course begins.

Usually this is around 4.0 to 5.0 for an access course, 5.5 to 6.0 for an undergraduate degree and for postgraduate study a 6.5 or 7.0 is usually needed. Some universities may accept alternative English language exams such as TOEFL. Be sure to check with the university as to which English language qualification they recognise before you apply.


Immigration status

As an international student you will be asked to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa to study in the UK. You will need to present evidence of your qualifications reached so far, your English level and proof that you hold sufficient funds to pay for your tuition and living costs.

Your chosen institution must be included in the list of Highly Trusted Sponsors, which guarantees that the institution has complied with the rules for accepting international students into their institutions. You can check the Register of Tier 4 Sponsors from the UK Border Agency website.

Tier 4 student visa


Undergraduate application process 

Undergraduate applications for full-time degree courses are processed by UCAS, the UK central organisation through which students apply for entry to undergraduate education.

You should start your application process between 12 to 18 months before your intended study date in order to research different institutions and course options, as well as giving yourself time to complete and supply your application.

Check that you are able to prove the minimum entrance requirements for your chosen course(s). Though fulfilling the minimum entry requirements doesn't guarantee you a place in itself.

Before applying, you might want to consider a Foundation course or pathway to undergraduate degree, which will help you reach the required level to undertake a course in English.

The UCAS Apply system allows you to apply directly through the UCAS website. There are many benefits to using this system, such as the automatic checks which help ensure accuracy, you can amend and update your application at any time prior to sending it and you can monitor your progress online after it is made. You'll be asked to supply the following information:

  • Personal details
  • Student finance: How you will fund your course
  • Course Choices: You can apply for up to five courses in a single UCAS application (apart from medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, where you can choose up to four).
  • Education: current qualifications and what you expect to gain if you haven’t finished.
  • Employment history
  • Personal statement: You need to tell the university why you want to do the course you are applying for.
  • Academic References: It could be provided by a professor that knows you well.
  • Final Declaration

You can submit UCAS application from September the year before you want to study, but need to have it completed by January every year. The exceptions to this are medical, dentistry and veterinary courses, and applications to the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford. These need to be completed by October. UCAS will pass on your application to the relevant institutions who will get back to you individually regarding whether your application has been successful.


How much will it cost?

If you choose to apply to more than one course, university or college you need to pay £23 GBP when you apply (2013 entry). If you only apply to one course at one university or college, you pay £12 GBP (2013 entry).

Deadlines for next academic year:

15 January 2013 - application deadline for the receipt at UCAS of applications for all courses except for medicine, dentistry and Oxford and Cambridge applications (October 15).

Universities and colleges do not guarantee to consider applications they receive after 15 January, and some popular courses may not have vacancies after that date. Please check with individual universities and colleges if you are not sure. You are advised to apply as early as possible.

24 March 2013 - application deadline for the receipt at UCAS of applications for art and design courses except those listed with a 15 January deadline.


More information

Check this flowchart prepared by UCAS, clearly explaining the application process [pdf].

Find out more information tailored for international students about the application process.

Get a better understanding of the qualifications awarded in the UK by checking our Qualification table.

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Aspiring journalist and Cambridge University graduate, Londoner 'by adoption'. Tweeting for @hotcourses_Abrd


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