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Entry requirements

Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for higher education courses and these vary widely…depending on the subject, the specific course and the institution.

  • Entry requirements are there to ensure that you have the right skills and knowledge to successfully complete the course. They can identify you have the essential prior learning, a proven track record in a particular style of learning and assessment, your breadth of knowledge and ability and demonstrate your focus and commitment to a particular subject area.

  • They are usually a mix of qualifications, subject or exam grades they recommend you have or are working towards when you apply.

  • Most courses will also expect you to have some pre-16 qualifications such as GCSE English and maths or their equivalent (such as IGCSEs or National 5).

  • Some universities and colleges use UCAS Tariff points in their entry requirements too. This is a points total achieved by converting qualifications such as A levels into points, making it simpler for universities and colleges to compare applicants. Don’t worry if your school qualifications are not listed in the Tariff - UK universities are knowledgeable about a wide range of non-UK qualifications. UCAS provides lots of advice and useful tools to help you work out your Tariff points.

  • Entry to some courses can include an admissions test or have requirements for health, financial or DBS check (Disclosure and Barring Service - to check any criminal record), an interview or audition – this information will be set out in the course details. UCAS provides tips and guides to help you with these. You can find information on admissions tests here and on auditions here.

  • International and EU students also need to demonstrate their English language skills. This may involve taking a test to get a place on a course. If you need a student visa, you may need to take an English language test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). If you get a place on a course, your university or college will let you know what you need to do and will have with your visa application.

Conditional offers

Most people applying to university are still in full time education and studying towards qualifications when they apply. Universities and colleges often set conditions when they offer you a place. These are usually specific grades you need to achieve in exams and are known as ‘conditional offers’.

Depending on the uni or college, the course, and the numbers of applicants, the grades set in the conditional offers can vary from the grades indicated in the Entry Requirements given in the course description. It’s a good idea to think about applying for courses with higher and lower grade requirements, so you have different options come results day.

Unconditional offers

Universities and colleges can make unconditional offers to applicants who have already met entry requirements (e.g. mature students), and for some courses like Fine Arts, where offers could be based on a strong portfolio.

Recently, there has been an increase in unconditional offers made to applicants who have not yet completed their entry qualifications. This often happens when an institution considers you to be the best candidate for a course, with good predicted grades. While it may feel great to have a secure place at university, you also need to be careful.

  • Don’t be tempted to ‘take your foot of the pedal’. You still need to study hard and get the best grades you can to be ready for the demands of degree level study. Remember - your future employers will not only look at your degree result, they’ll also compare candidates’ A levels (or equivalent qualifications) too.

  • What happens if you change your mind? Yes, lots of people do! You’re making course choices and applying more than six months before you get your exam results. So, to keep your options open, make sure you get the best grades you can.

Top tip: If you have a particular course in mind or subject area you want to study, look up the entry requirements for these courses on the UCAS course search website. Course descriptions often mention skills, interests or experience it’s good to have, so look for these details when you’re exploring your options.

Don’t worry if you can’t meet the exact requirements or if your qualification isn’t listed on the course description or tariff. If you have something similar, you’ll probably still be considered – just contact the college or university to check.

Mature students (over 21) who don’t have the qualifications needed are often able to meet the entry requirements in a different way. For instance, their life and work experience can be assessed (this is called Accreditation of Prior experiential learning (APEL)) or their learning from self-directed study, work or training can be assessed (this is called Accreditation of prior learning (APL)).

We will hear from some Admission teams next week about entry requirements and what they’re looking for in applicants as well as looking in more detail at making your course choices and applications.

In the meantime, you can find more information about entry requirements on UCAS website - there are some links below to key information you may find useful.

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This article is from the free online course:

Smart Choices: Broadening Your Horizons