UCAS: Applying as an International Student

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is the organisation responsible for handling applications to higher education courses in the UK. They supply a general application form for study at all UK universities, and will submit your application on your behalf.

The UCAS system has a number of features, allowing you to:

  • Access up-to-date information about courses, institutions and criteria for selection through the Entry Profiles available on the UCAS website
  • Apply online for up to five different courses or institutions in the UK in one application
  • Check the progress of your application through the decision-making process using UCAS Track.

How to apply

All applications are made through the easy-to-use online application system, Apply, which is available 24 hours a day. You fill in the form when it is convenient for you, and you do not have to complete it all at once.

If you are applying through a school, college or other organisation registered with UCAS, you will be given a buzzword by your tutor or careers adviser. When you enter this buzzword during the registration process, it links your application to your school so that your tutor can write your academic reference.

If your school or college is not registered with UCAS or if you are applying as an individual
, you do not require a buzzword. You will need to obtain your reference from your teacher and enter it into the 'reference' section of the application. Once you have completed the application, you can then send it to UCAS online.

You can find out more about the UCAS application service in the applying section of the UCAS website.

Please note, all the information in this international students section only applies to undergraduate courses in the UK. If you are an international student looking to study a postgraduate course in the UK, please see our postgraduate study section.

What is a personal statement?

Once you have access to your online UCAS form, you will notice that there is a section called Personal Statement.

The UCAS personal statement is a 47 line (or 4000 character) piece of writing that allows you to tell the universities and colleges you are applying to why they should offer you a place on the course.

In order to do this successfully, you need to convey your passion and enthusiasm for the subject to the admissions tutors, as well as demonstrate your suitability to the course.

Please be aware that application personal statements and essays vary between countries, and that the guidance available on Studential is only applicable to those applying to a UK higher education institution through UCAS.

Before you start writing, remember this is a 'personal' statement, i.e. it's about YOU.

What we've written in our personal statement writing guide is just that, a guide, and should not be stuck to rigidly. You may find that using your own ideas on how to put together your personal statement gives a better reflection of yourself than using advice from anywhere else.

When to apply

If you are applying from outside the UK or EU, whatever your nationality, you need to be aware of the three application deadlines but many universities and colleges will consider your application up until 30 June 2010. However, this does not apply to applications for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science. For all of these, you must apply by 15th October 2009.

Insitutions do not guarantee to consider applications they receive after 15th January 2010, and some popular courses may not have any spaces left after this date - check with individual universities and colleges if you are not sure. It's recommended you apply as early as possible in order to avoid disappointment.

Remember to allow enough time for entry clearance or immigration, as well as travel and accommodation arrangements, which can take longer during the summer when immigration departments are busy.

How much does it cost?

If you choose to apply to more than one course, university or college you will need to pay £19 when you apply. If you only apply to one course at one university or college, you pay £9.

If you are applying through your school, college or other centre, it will let you know how to pay. It will be either by credit or debit card online, or by paying your centre which will then pay UCAS.

If you are not applying through a school, college or other centre, you will need to make the payment online using a credit or debit card. The card does not have to be in your own name, but you must have the consent of the cardholder. If you use a credit or debit card that you do not have permission to use, your application will be cancelled.

UCAS accept UK and international Visa, Visa Debit, Delta, MasterCard, Maestro, Solo and Electron credit or debit cards. They do not accept American Express, Diners Club or JCB cards.

If you have difficulties paying with a credit or debit card, you should contact your local British Council who may be able to provide alternatives. You can also pay by:

  • Cheque (payable to UCAS)
  • Postal order (payable to UCAS)
  • Direct payment to the UCAS bank account

The bank account details are:

Bank name: Barclays Bank plc
Bank address: P.O. Box 11, 128 High Street, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 1EL
Account name: UCAS International Account
Account number: 20802182
Sort code: 20-20-15
Swift code/BIC number: BARCGB22
IBAN number: GB52 BARC 2020 1520 8021 82

All payments must be in GB pounds. UCAS do not accept Uniform Euro cheques. You will need to write your name, address and Personal ID on the back of your cheque, postal order or other payment document and post it to UCAS, Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, GL52 3LZ.

What are the most common mistakes made by international applicants?

Mistakes can be avoided by reading the 'How to Apply' booklet that comes with the application form. The most common mistakes are:

  • Incorrect date of birth;
  • Untidy writing;
  • Completing the form in coloured ink (you should always use black ink);
  • Making an error in completing the university and course codes;
  • Forgetting to get the reference completed (preferably by one of your teachers);
  • Forgetting to sign the form;
  • Not completing the criminal convictions question;
  • Forgetting to enclose the application fee and/or acknowledgement card with the form;
  • Sending other information, such as examination certificates, with the form.

Choosing a course

It is important you do as much research as possible when choosing which courses to apply for, especially when it comes to accepting a formal offer. Once you have accepted an offer, ask the admissions tutors if there is any reading material or other ways to help you prepare for the course before actually starting.

Although UK qualifications are widely accepted and highly regarded around the world, it’s a good idea to check that employers and professional organisations in your country, or the country you want to work in, will accept the course and qualification you have chosen to study.

You should also check that the course covers the subject areas that you want to study and the ones you need for any career plans you have, too.

You can read more advice in our choosing a degree section. The Stamford Test on the UCAS website is also useful for helping you match your interests and abilities to possible subjects.

Choosing a university

Each university and college in the UK is unique, though won’t appeal to every prospective undergraduate – again, it’s important to do your research carefully, and make sure the institution(s) you apply to have all the characteristics that will make your time studying in the UK as enjoyable as possible.

You may want to find out whether other students from your country will be studying in the same university/college, as well as other factors that you can read about in our choosing a university section.