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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Undergraduate study

undergraduate study

Pathways to undergraduate

International Foundation Year (IFY) programmes offered by colleges in the UK lead to internationally recognised pre-university qualifications such as A-levels or BTEC Nationals. These one-year courses follow the full UK programme of academic study, but offer language tuition as well.

Depending on which exams you took in your home country, you might need to top up your qualifications to meet UK university entry requirements by taking a foundation or access course.

To enrol, you must be at least 17, have a good standard of English (usually IELTS 5.0) and should have completed a standard school education. Many further education colleges have progression agreements to degree courses at local universities, so look into whether this is the case at your chosen college. Many UK universities also run their own International Foundation Year programmes leading to direct entry to an undergraduate course.

Undergraduate courses 

In the UK an undergraduate degree is usually your first degree following school or further study. A bachelor's degree is the most popular choice of undergraduate qualification, however there are other options such as a HND/HNC, Foundation Degree and DipHE, many of which can be used as access to the final years of a bachelor's degree course.

• Bachelor's degrees 

In England, Northern Ireland and Wales, undergraduate or bachelor's degrees are usually studied over three years leading to an honours degree (such as a BA Media Studies or BSc Business). In Scotland, it takes three years to complete an ordinary degree and four years to gain honours. Scottish undergraduate degrees are sometimes awarded with the title master's (MA, MSc or MEng, etc.), depending on the tradition within the awarding institution.

With many undergraduate degrees, your first-year examination results don't count towards the final degree classification. The 2nd and 3rd year results, combined with a mark awarded for your undergraduate dissertation (a long essay you may have to undertake in your third year), make up your final result. Often you'll have to choose a series of modules, some mandatory and some chosen, that make up your daily study on the course. However, the course set-up will be unique to the history of whichever university or college you are studying at.

Undergraduate studies

The majority of institutions which offer degree courses give you the chance to study two or more subjects in a combined or joint honours degree. A combined degree will involve different subjects that don't necessarily have equal weighting (such as a BA Business Studies with French). Sandwich courses are the same as other degree programmes, but involve an extra year of gaining real-life work experience related to your course. This usually means that the course lasts for four years instead of the usual three.

• HND or HNC
An HND (Higher National Diploma) is a two-year, full-time qualification which combines career preparation witha recognized qualification. An HNC (Higher National Certificate )is a similar qualification, but usually taken part time. HNCs and HNDs can also enable you to join the second or third year of some undergraduate degree programmes. They can be taken at a further or higher education colleges, or at university, in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

HNCs in Scotland are full-time, one-year courses. The HNC is aligned with the first year of a degree course, the HND with the second year. In many cases, there are opportunities for holders of HNCs to progress to the second year of an undergraduate degree programme and for holders of HNDs to the third year.

 • Foundation degree
Foundation degrees are employment-related qualifications, often providing professional development in a broad range of vocational areas. While they are UK qualifications in their own right, they can also offer you progress to the second or third year of a bachelor's degree. Foundation degrees generally take two years of full-time study and combines work experience with the academic instruction of a degree programme. It can also lead to a full honours degree (additional year) or help you enter the world of employment.

• Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
A DipHE is a qualification in its own right, awarded after two years of study at a UK higher education institution. However, it also offers students access to bachelor's degree-level study at a UK university. A Dip HE usually offers guaranteed entry to the second or third year of an undergraduate degree. In this way, students can complete a Diploma and then bypass the early years of an honours degree and covert their DipHe into a bachelor's-level qualification.


More information

Read more about studying in the UK.

Find more information about postgraduate courses.

If you want to understand better how qualifications in the UK are organised, check our table of academic qualifications.

Study in the UK


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