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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Undergraduate courses: How to apply?

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In order to apply for an undergraduate course in the UK you will need to prove that you have finished secondary or high school. Additionally, you will have to prove that you are proficient in English, 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 13 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 6.5 for an undergraduate degree and 6.5 is usually needed for a postgraduate degree with some universities requiring a 7.5. Other 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. Check the Register of Tier 4 Sponsors.



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 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 an 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 their 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: This could be provided by a professor that knows you well.
  • Final Declaration


You can submit a 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 GBP 25 when you apply (2019/2020). If you only apply to one course at one university or college, you pay GBP 20 (2019/2020).


Deadlines for next academic year:

15 January 2020 - application deadline for UCAS 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.


20 October 2020 – Deadline to add clearing choices and for institutions to accept places through clearing.


More information

Check this infographic by the Complete University Guide, clearly explaining the application timeline.


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

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