Applying to uni or college

If you are applying to start a full-time undergraduate course, you should apply through UCAS. UCAS is currently accepting applications for higher education courses starting this year. Although their main deadline of 29 January has passed, you can still apply up to 30 June 2021.

All applications received by UCAS after 30 June are entered into Clearing. There is more information in our Clearing section below.

If you want to study part time or by distance learning you may need to apply directly to the university or college that you want to attend. The admissions team there will be able to explain the application process and when you need to apply.

Take a look at the sections below for information about applying to university as a returner to education.

Clearing is the system that universities and colleges use to fill any spaces they have on their higher education courses. From 6 July – 20 October, you can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places.

Clearing is run by UCAS. They hold the official vacancy list, so you can find courses that still have spaces using their search tool.

You can find full details of the Clearing process, and access the UCAS search tool, on the Clearing section of the UCAS website.

When you’ve found a course you’d like to apply to, don’t forget that you can also access official data and information about it on Discover Uni.

As you are returning to education, it’s likely that you won’t have the same support to fill out your application forms that many schools and colleges provide. UCAS has published a guide aimed at helping mature students complete their forms successfully. It includes tips for writing your personal statement and gathering references to support your application.

You will be asked to list any qualifications you hold, and you will be asked to provide proof of these before you start your course. If you do not have your original certificates, you can usually obtain a copy from the exam board, but this may incur a fee.

  • For those in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the gov.uk website provides guidance on how to obtain replacement certificates. Please note that you cannot get a replacement certificate for an O level, CSE, GCSE or A level - your exam board will send you a ‘certified statement of results’ instead, which your higher education provider should accept. Replacement certificates for other qualifications may be available.

As part of the application process you will be asked to provide a reference. If you are studying at a college, your course leader can provide a reference for you. If you are applying independently then you will need to provide details of a referee.

The person should ideally know you in an academic capacity. If you don’t have anyone, then you can ask an employer or someone who has known you in a formal capacity. Your referee cannot be a family member or friend. For a guide on how to choose a referee please see the UCAS website.

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