The United Kingdom has some of the best universities in the world. Not only do they offer world-class education, but they also boast beautiful venues, a life-changing student experience and bustling city experiences.

If you're looking to study in the UK, getting into a university can seem like a daunting task. This is because you need to consider many things, from your grades and test scores to your personal statement.

Typically, the entry requirements for University courses revolve around specific A-level subjects that provide the foundational knowledge to get you started on the course. However, there are a number of alternative routes into higher education. In this blog, we outline the steps you can take to get into university and improve your chances of being accepted.

Entry requirements in the UK

Many universities and colleges in the UK have their own set of requirements for admission. The requirements will vary depending on the college or university, the courses and subjects you’re interested in, and the course providers.

The reason for the requirements is to ensure that each student can complete their degree or course successfully. Certain skills and qualifications mean that students aren’t getting in over their heads.

  • Qualifications, subjects and grades: A-Levels are a basic requirement for most universities - A-levels are often converted into numerical values known as UCAS Tariff points. GCSE English, maths and science are commonly required for universities, but each school has its own set of requirements - usually 16 pre-qualifications.
  • Admission test: For competitive universities, you may be asked to sit an admission exam to test your aptitude and other natural skills. Admission tests help universities find and select the strongest candidates for their school.
  • Interviews: Some of the top universities like Oxford, Imperial College London and Cambridge will invite you for an interview to assess your personality and skillsets.
  • Portfolio: If you’re applying for a creative arts course or subject, you will most often need to produce a portfolio that expresses your capabilities from school or your free time.
  • Health requirements: For certain health and finance courses, you may be required to complete a Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check or Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Can I go to uni without A-Levels UK?

A-levels are an important requirement for getting into a university. However, some universities are slowly changing the way they view grade requirements, with A-levels being one of them.

While most universities require A-Levels, there are still options for those without their A-Levels to be admitted to a university. One way is completing an Access to Higher Education (Access to HE) course. The course results in a Level 3 qualification and access to university.

There is also the option of completing your A-levels through Oxbridge home learning courses. Your A-levels allow you to demonstrate competency in a multitude of disciplines, which can grant you admission to universities or further studies.

How many GCSEs do you need for university?

Many universities require you to take a minimum of 4 GCSEs, but ideally more than 5. Maths and English Language GCSE qualifications at a grade 4/5 are almost always prerequisites. Some of the higher universities will require a science GCSE.

GCSEs are as important as your A-Levels, as the A-level reform has resulted in admission tutors paying as much attention to your GCSE results.

Application process

It can be rather tricky knowing how to navigate the exact requirements and process for your chosen university. So if you have your heart set on a university or college, and a career path is calling you, you can use the following steps to get an easy handle on the application process.

Step 1: Pay attention to key dates & have your documents in order

Now that we’ve outlined the requirements for your dream course or degree, you can start the application process early. Starting early is key because if application deadlines are missed, you’d have to wait until the next year to apply. If you’re unsure about deadlines, the UCAS website is always updating its admission dates.

This step includes double-checking that you have all the important documents on hand:

  • An up-to-date passport
  • IELTS test*
  • Proof of funding to complete degree
  • International students might be required to do a Tuberculosis test

*IELTS test is an English proficiency test that needs to be taken by all students wishing to study in the UK. It basically indicates to the university that you have sufficient language skills to complete your degree.

Step 2: Write your own personal statement

A personal statement is a requirement for your UCAS application. This is your opportunity to let the university know what you’re hoping to achieve by taking a course or degree. It’s also a chance to demonstrate the passion you have for a subject, what your achievements are, which extracurricular activities you're involved with, and what interests you about the university.

The length of your statement depends on the school or college. Generally speaking, a personal statement sits around 400-600 words or a maximum of 47 lines on an A4 page.

Try to be clear and write a concise statement that’ll help you stand out from the other applicants. Write the whole thing yourself, show off your experience, put in the time and get as many eyes on it as possible.

Step 3: Apply through the UCAS website

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is the organisation that is responsible for all full-time undergraduate applicants. You can register with UCAS through their online system or through your chosen university, who will then submit the application on your behalf.

When applying, you have the opportunity to apply to up to five universities. It’s best not to rush this process; explore the universities that have caught your eye and do your own research on what student life is like, head to some open days, and speak to some of the local students. You will also need to plan how to gain enough UCAS points, essential for getting into your top choice.

The UCAS application fee for 2024 entry is £27.50. Read about this and other significant changes to the application process.

The application form requires the following information:

  1. Your personal statement
  2. Proof of payment for your UCAS application fee
  3. Personal information and details
  4. Reference letter from a teacher or someone who knows you

Step 4: Tracking your application

Once you have successfully completed your UCAS application, you’ll receive a welcome email with details on how to log into UCAS Track. The portal allows you to see whether you have offers, interview invitations or any important updates.

Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see any action for a couple of weeks; some offers can end up taking months. When an offer does arrive, you’ll receive the following offer statuses:

  • Conditional: You have been provisionally accepted, but you still need to meet the entry requirements, such as your A-levels.
  • Unconditional: You have been allocated a place, yet there are a few documents still required, such as a DBS check
  • Withdrawn: The university has decided to withdraw you from a course you have selected.
  • Unsuccessful: The university has decided not to offer you a place for the degree or course you have applied for.

Step 5: Student Finance

Student Finance is an initiative set up to help students in England pay for University, it is currently used by over 1.5 million students each year. Yet, it shouldn’t be a factor that stops individuals from applying for a foundation degree. Full-time and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students can apply for financing through UCAS.

It’s important that you apply for financing as soon as possible so that your funding is in place before your course begins. You can visit the Student Finance section on the government website to learn more about funding solutions.

How Oxbridge can help you retake your A-levels or GCSEs

Both A-levels and GCSEs remain an important requirement for getting into university, with the added benefit of boosting your CV and employability. Taking your GCSEs online with Oxbridge means that you can complete your studies in a time that is appropriate for you, allowing you to have the perfect work/life balance.

Oxbridge students get 20% higher grades and pass 30% faster than those studying at a traditional college. With the help of online tutors, you’ll also have someone to guide you along the way and assist you in achieving the grades you deserve.

If you are feeling lost when it comes to choosing a course, speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable learning advisers. They'll be more than happy to help you on your way!