University and College admissions


Choosing a degree subject is one step of the way to higher education, choosing a university or college is the next stage. However, in addition to such features as location, entry requirements, accommodation, students' facilities and the subjects offered, many universities differ in the wya they organise and teach their courses.

Although universities and colleges have their own distinct identites and course characteristics, they have many similarities. Apart from full-time and sandwich courses, one-year Foundation courses are also offered in many subjects which can help the student to either convert or build on existing qualifications to enable them to start an Honours degree programme. All universities and colleges also offer one-year international Foundation courses for overseas students to provide a preliminary introduction to courses and often to provide English language tuition.


Although the UCAS application process is standard for all undergraduate Honours degree courses the admissions policies adopted by individual departments in universities and colleges often differ, depending on the popularity of the course and the quality of applicants.

Mature students (defined as those aged over 21 on entry) are often interviewed. Normal published offers may not apply to mature students. In all institutions certain courses require Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks or medical examinations; students should check these requirements before applying for courses.

The acceptance of deferred entry varies, depending on the chosen course, and many admissions tutors ask that the intention to take a Gap Year be included on the application if firm arrangements have been made.

Several universities and colleges advise that if a student fails to achieve the grades required for an offer, they may still be awarded a place; however, they may receive a changed offer for an alternative course. Applicants are strongly advised to be wary of such offers, unless the course is similar to the original course choice.  

Applicants for places at popular universities or for popular courses cannot assume that they will receive an offer even if their predicted grades are the same or higher than a stated standard offer. Even though the government has npw removed the cap on the number of places that universities in England are able to offer, meaning that they can admit an unlimited number of home and EU undergraduates for most courses, not every institution has adopted these reforms.

All institutions have a number of schemes in place to enable admissions tutors to identify and make offers to applicants who, for example, may have had their education affected by circumstances outside their control. A major initiative is Widening Participation in which various schemes can assist school and college students in getting into university. These programmes focus on specific groups of students and communities including:

  • students from low participation areas
  • low-performing schools and colleges or those without a strong history of progression to higher education
  • students with disabilities
  • people living in deprived geographical areas, including deprived rural areas
  • students from black or ethnic minority backgrounds
  • students from the lower socio-economic groups 4–8 including mature learners
  • students requiring financial assistance or who are disadvantaged in various ways
  • families with little or no experience of higher education
  • students from homes with low household incomes
  • students returning to study after a period of time spent away.

Applicants are strongly advised to check prospectuses and websites for up-to-date information on admissions and, in particular, on alternative qualifications to A-levels as well as any entrance test to be taken. Applicants whose first language is not English should check for details of the English Language entry requirements.


The university profiles accessible through the course search feature of this site include a selection of relevant aspects of admissions policies and practice. 

Information on alternative qualifications to A-levels such as the Cambridge Pre-U, BTEC qualifications, Functional/Essential Skills and Access courses is not always published in prospectuses, it is usually available on universities’ websites. While it can be assumed that applicants will be considered and accepted with these alternative qualifications, depending on the requirements for individual degree programmes, it is important to check with university admissions staff before you make your application that your qualifications will meet their requirements. Applicants whose first language is not English should refer to Information for International Students for details of the English Language entry requirements.