UCAS

Tom Austin Affiliations

UCAS Logo2

Applications process

As a higher education institution and a member of UCAS, The Heritage School offers all students wishing to study for undergraduate degrees in the UK application through UCAS. All our applicants submit a single application via our UCAS’s officer with a list of up to five courses for which they are applying. Choices are not listed in preference order. All five choices are confidential during the application process so universities and colleges considering an application cannot see any of the candidate’s other choices. Applications must be completed by the middle of the January of the year that the student wishes to start university.

Medical courses

Those applying for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses can only make up to four choices (although the other choice can be used to apply for different courses). The deadline for these courses is October 15 in the year before starting.

Art and design courses

The Route B system, where applicants applied for up to three art and design choices in preference order, was scrapped in 2009, with all prospective students now using the standard admissions procedure. Some art and design courses, however, have a later application deadline in March to apply to allow them time to complete their portfolios.

Oxbridge

Applications to the highly selective universities of Oxford and Cambridge have an earlier deadline of October 15, in the year before the student wishes to start university (the same also applies to Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science applicants for all British universities). An additional restriction on applications to Oxbridge is that it is not possible to apply to both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the same admissions cycle, unless you already have a degree or will have completed a degree before you start a course at either university.[5]

Costs and personal data required[edit]For 2012 applications, the cost was £11 to apply to one course or £22 per student to apply to two or more courses. For courses starting in 2013, the cost was £12 to apply to one course or £23 per student to apply to two or more courses.[6] This is normally paid by the student.

The application also includes current qualifications, employment and criminal history, a personal statement and a reference (which generally includes predicted grades if the applicant is still in education). The application is then forwarded by UCAS to the institutions applied to, who decide whether to make an offer of a place.

Timetable for offers

Students, whose applications are submitted by the January deadline, would usually expect to receive either offers or rejections from all five choices by mid-May, although UCAS advises universities and colleges to send their decisions by the end of March. If candidates applied to five choices and find themselves without any offers or have declined all of their offers, they may apply for an additional course that still has sufficient places through the process of UCAS Extra. Extra runs from mid-February until the end of June. Otherwise, they would go through the UCAS Clearing process.

Type of offers

Offers are either conditional, i.e. dependent on future examination performance, or unconditional. Once the applicant has received responses from all the institutions applied to, they must respond by accepting up to two choices, one Firm Acceptance and one Insurance Acceptance, whereas the remainder are Declined. There are only 4 possible offer combinations:

UF (Unconditional Firm, no Insurance offer)
CF (Conditional Firm, no Insurance offer)
CF + UI (Conditional Firm + Unconditional Insurance)
CF + CI (Conditional Firm + Conditional Insurance)
In addition, many institutions still consider accepting students that narrowly missed their conditional offer provided there are sufficient places for admissions. Otherwise, if the candidates have achieved the conditions for the Insurance offer (or if this offer is unconditional), they will be admitted in the Insurance course.

Confirmation of places

Final place confirmations are generally during the month of August, when the results of the A-level and Higher examinations become available.

If candidates miss the conditions on both the Firm and Insurance offers and there were not sufficient places for admissions on either course, UCAS Clearing allows candidates to apply for any course that has places at that time.

The system is sophisticated and allows for many different routes. Its advantages for both applicants and institutions are that it eliminates duplication of effort, and provides a fair and consistent framework within which both applicants and institutions can compete.

Personal statement

The personal statement [7] is a very important part of the application. It gives candidates a chance to write freely about themselves and their interest in the subject, as opposed to the rest of the application which consists mainly of ‘objective’ information. The statement can form the basis of an interview discussion. A personal statement can be up to 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines, whichever comes first.[8]

Tariff

Main article: UCAS Tariff
UCAS has a tariff system (more commonly known as UCAS points), which allows qualifications to be converted into points (e.g. an A at A Level is worth 120 points) and then added together to give a total that can be used as a requirement to get into a course (a course may require 260 points, for example). The UCAS Tariff now attempts to cover all UK qualifications and some foreign qualifications.[9] Currently the only qualification that is offered in the UK that was not covered earlier by the UCAS tariff is the International Baccalaureate Diploma. The UCAS tariff includes standard academic qualifications as well as alternative qualifications.

There are a wide variety of qualifications that can be awarded tariff points:

  • Advanced Extension Awards
  • Advanced Placement Exams
  • Art and Design Foundation Diplomas
  • AS and A-levels (only the highest level achieved may be counted)
  • Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Trinity Guildhall and London College of Music Examinations practical and theoretical music qualifications (Grades 6-8)
  • BTEC National Awards, Certificates and Diplomas
  • CACHE Diplomas
  • Certificate in Financial Studies
  • Core Skills
  • Free-standing Mathematics Qualifications
  • International Baccalaureate (2008 entry and later)
  • Key Skills Qualification
  • Leaving Certificate (Established) – Republic of Ireland
  • OCR National Certificates, Diplomas and Extended Diplomas
  • Scottish Qualifications Certificate (Highers, Advanced Highers etc.)
  • Trinity Guildhall, London College of Music Examinations and LAMDA speech, drama & communication qualifications (Grades 6-8)
  • Vocational Certificate of Education AS and A-levels (sometimes called ASVCE and AVCE), as well as the Double Award AVCE
  • Welsh Baccalaureate Core

Since the 2006 entry season, the Leaving Certificate issued in the Republic of Ireland has been admitted to the UCAS Tariff so that it is placed on direct parity with other awards. This is in response to the high number of Leaving Certificate students who read subjects at universities in the UCAS system, especially at those in Northern Ireland. It allows students who take the Leaving Certificate to follow a simpler and more consistent access to British universities, as previously each university in the UK decided the merit of the award in accordance with its own criteria.

Qualifications are being added to the tariff system frequently, as long as they conform to the National Qualifications Framework or the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework and are being used as entry routes into higher education. Open University modules are not included in the tariff, but are instead separately counted as higher education programs.

The tariff system is not a universal measure. It is a maximum amount. Frequently courses are advertised which demand a certain number of tariff points from different subjects. The requirements will vary by course. Academic courses will generally want academic qualifications while vocational courses will want vocational qualifications. Different universities and different courses have different demands. Some teachers and students have been angered when made aware of the claimed existence of widely suspected, but undisclosed, sets of subjects which may be either discounted, or preclude altogether a candidate from admission to certain universities, such as Russell Group universities.[10] The Key Skills Qualifications and A-level General Studies have also come under fire for this reason, since they are compulsory at some schools but a large number of universities discount them from their tariff calculation.[11][12]

Clearing

UCAS Clearing is the exception to the rule of application through UCAS, which comes at the very end of the admissions season, when courses are about to begin. From July until late September, the Clearing process helps applicants without places to find institutions with courses that still have places available. However once UCAS’s clearing operation is complete, institutions with available places do advertise publicly, and some students find places by direct application at that stage.

Adjustment

Adjustment is available to applicants who meet and exceed the conditions of their conditional firm offer. They can search for a place at another institution for five consecutive calendar days while still holding their place on their original course. The five days start from the day that their original offer is confirmed, or from the third Thursday in August (A level results day). Adjustment finishes on 31 August, meaning some applicants may have fewer than five days if their original offer is confirmed late in August. Applicants will have to contact institutions themselves, in a similar manner to the Clearing process, to ask about places that may be available on a course of their choice.

Once a place has been accepted through Adjustment, the original place is lost. Registration expires after the five calendar days, and applicants who have not found another place will retain their original offer.

Extra applications

For applicants who fail to obtain any offers, or elect to decline any offers they have received, UCAS offers the candidate an “extra” chance to apply to a sixth institution, in addition to the five the applicant initially applied to. This is an automatic process, which is advertised only to eligible candidates. Extra is a chance for applicants to take another chance at applying to their chosen course, or if plans have changed, the applicant can choose to apply to a different course.