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Studying in the UK: 5 things you need to know before you apply

Many FutureLearners take our courses because they want to improve their English and come to study in the UK. If you’re one of them, read on for five useful tips from Callie Hawkins, an International Professional Development Executive at UCAS – the UK’s universities and colleges admissions service.


If you want to study at a university or college in the UK, you’ll need to apply with UCAS. You complete one application and you can select up to five choices. To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s important to do as much research as possible into which universities and colleges are right for you, and which courses are most suited to your skills and qualifications.

We have lots of information to help you on our website – not just with completing your application but also with other aspects of coming to study in the UK. There are five key areas to consider:

1. Entry requirements

When you begin to research courses (our search tool is a great place to start) you’ll often see “Tariff points” mentioned alongside entry requirements. Tariff points are used by some universities to assess and score different types of qualification. Most of these qualifications are UK based, but some international qualifications do have Tariff points.

If your qualification is not listed in the entry requirements for your chosen courses, check directly with your chosen universities. There is also advice to help you with this in the how to get a place on a course part of our website.

2. Admissions tests

Depending on the subject or course you want to study, you may have to sit an admissions test. This is particularly common for students who wish to study competitive subjects like medicine, or those applying to Oxford and Cambridge. See our admissions test advice to find out more.

3. Stand out from the crowd

Competition for places at UK universities is high – among both UK and international students. Universities’ admissions officers are keen to see applications from students with a variety of skills and experience. Ultimately, they would like well-rounded individuals who thrive in new environments.

Non-academic experiences are definitely worth including in your personal statement. For example, if you’re in a school sports team or you play an instrument in a band or orchestra, use this to demonstrate your dedication and show that you can work well with other people.

4. Visas

Unless you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you’ll need a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.  To apply for a visa, you need to contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). See our immigration and visas advice for advice about visa requirements.

5. English proficiency

The UKVI states that international students must demonstrate their English language proficiency as part of the visa application process. However, nationals from a number of English-speaking countries (listed here under the “Exceptions” heading) are exempt from these tests.

EU citizens are also exempt from UKVI tests (as they don’t require a visa to study in the UK), but individual universities and colleges may set their own English language requirements for these students. Non-EU students whose first language is not English may have to take additional university-set language tests as well.

An international foundation year is a great way to improve your English, as language tuition is often covered in depth. UK universities can often recommend suitable courses for students that want to find out more.

For more tips on applying to study in the UK, visit the how to apply page on the UCAS website. You might also find some of the courses in our “Languages & Cultures” and “Teaching & Studying” categories useful.

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