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THE UK: Applying to University

What an admissions officer is looking for w/ Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin university

We speak to Mark Coates, Senior International Admissions Officer at Anglia Ruskin University. He has been working in the higher education sector for around 5 years, with the last 2 years at Anglia Ruskin. In our Q and A, Mark gives us an insight into what admission departments are looking for in prospective international students...


What is the process to review an application and how long it takes to get an offer?

'Our goal to respond to the majority of standard applications in 48 hours, by standard, for courses that do not need faculty input or that are for advanced entry.  However, courses that require faculty input take longer (up to 5 working days). The process of reviewing an application is undertaken by experienced admissions officers, who understand what the academic faculty is looking for, with regards to academic qualifications and the students’ overall suitability for the course.

Our admission officers will always try to offer the applicant the course, or a similar course (if they are not suitable for the original course they applied to) or constructive feedback upon how the student can reach their desired goal or course.'


How do you assess academic references?

'We look for the students’ overall ability to succeed and contribute to the course. We would expect to see details of the students’ academic achievements’, as well as details of any hardships the student may have faced during their studies.

 In particular, the information on specific qualifications that an applicant is studying should be easy to identify and ideally self-contained, with a paragraph on each. The content of each subject-specific paragraph should be provided by the subject specialist in the school/college/University, and the most relevant subjects for the chosen course should appear first.

If there are issues over the available space, more detail should be given to the most important and useful subjects for the applicant’s course. The reference should be an endorsement of what the student has written in their personal statement, but it should not repeat information. It is common for referees to acknowledge and support what is in the personal statement, such as pointing out a student’s self-motivation in organising their own work experience, but this is only necessary if the referee feel it would benefit the student to do so.

It is important that when the referee is collating the reference, they are aware of what courses the student is applying for, so they can refer to these in the reference. This is also true of students who have a particular career in mind: if, as the referee, they can show that you are aware of the applicant’s career plans, it strengthens the student’s commitment to that career.'


What is the importance of the personal reference? What do you expect to see here?

'These are highly useful if the student has been out of education for a period of time. For example, if the student has been in work, then a personal reference should ideally come from their employer  / line manager and should follow a similar line to what is outlined above. The personal reference should address the student’s suitability to the course and what they have in specific and transferable skills that they can use in contributing to the course.'


How do you work out the equivalences for grades from different countries?

'We use a mixture of UK Naric, Noosr (National Office of Overseas Skills Recognition) and our own country specific specialist’s to keep up to date on the most recent developments within qualifications’ from overseas and map them on to what we believe to be equivalent to the length and breadth of the UK qualifications’ needed for entrance to the applicants level of chosen course.'


How can international students find guidance during the application process?

'Our recruitment partners, enquires and recruitment team are able to guide applicants thought the application process. In addition there is general information on our web site for the role of the admissions office. Our offer letters and offer holder packs give invaluable information to students on the admissions and visa processes. Furthermore, if the student is applying through the online UCAS or GTTR systems’ these both have very good guides on the overall application process.'


Do you have any advice for completing an application?

'In general, the best piece of advice is to complete all sections of the application form in full and make sure that they provide as much information and detail as possible. In addition, to make sure that any gaps in their education and work history are explained, for example a gap year would be mentioned in the personal statement. To note, if the student is applying through the online UCAS or GTTR systems’ these both have very good guides on how to complete the application form.'


Do you carry out interviews for prospective students? If so, what do you expect from the student?

'Yes, interviews are carried out for a number of courses due to the practical aspect of the course or the nature of the research that is carried out. We would expect a prospective student to prepare any materials’ requested beforehand, and be able to express their interest and how their knowledge, experience and qualifications’ make them suitable for the course.'


What kind of questions can the student expect?

'There is no set number of questions for prospective students’, however in general, we would expect students to able to give responses as to why they wish to study this course, why in the UK and at our university and what they hope to achieve during and after completing the course.'


What impresses you the most in a student application and personal statement?

'A good student application would look to promote their own skills as much as possible and show their desire and aptitude to study their chose course. Within a personal statement a prospective student should include:  

  • Why they have chosen the course or courses selected  
  • The reasons why that subject area interests them
  • Aspects of their current studies related to the course(s) that they have chosen
  • Why they think they would be a good student
  • Details of jobs, placements, work experience or voluntary work which they have undertaken, particularly if it has relevance to their chosen subject
  • Any hobbies, interests and social activities that demonstrate they are a well-rounded person
  • Details of non-accredited qualifications and any other achievements that they are proud of (e.g. being selected for their county cricket team) 
  • Details of any positions of responsibility that they have held both in and out of school (e.g. School / College representative prefect or representative)
  • Any attributes that make them interesting, special or unique
  • Whether they have any future plans of how you want to use the knowledge and experience that they gain.'


What are the most common mistakes that students make in their personal statements?

'One of the most common mistakes that occur in personal statements are that prospective students do not personalise their personal statement to the course that they are applying to and sometimes refer to other courses.'


Apply to a UK university today! You can even use our FREE i-Apply service to get support while applying.


Read more:

'Writing a personal statement'

'Acing an interview'

'University applications'

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About Author

Anglia Ruskin university

Paul Ellett is the editor for Hotcourses Abroad. His role is to plan, produce and share editorial, videos, infographics, eBooks and any other content to inform prospective and current international students about their study abroad experience. When he's not thinking about student visas in Sweden and application deadlines, Paul is an avid fan of comedy podcasts and Nicolas Cage films.

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