As a UK education consultant with over 10 years of experience advising students on applying to universities in the UK, one of the most common questions I receive is “How many universities can you apply to through UCAS?” This is acceptable because pupils and their parents don’t want to gamble with the future and education of the kids.
Let’s explore further how many universities you can apply through UCAS in the UK.
How many universities can you apply to UCAS?
Through the UCAS undergraduate application system, students can apply to up to 5 university courses in a single application cycle. While this 5 choice limit might seem restrictive at first, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the most out of your options.
Can you apply to more than 5 universities in the UK?
The standard UCAS application does indeed only allow for 5 university choices. However, there are a few different options if you either want to apply to more or change your choices:
UCAS Extra: This allows applicants who have used all 5 choices and are not holding any offers to add another choice, one at a time. So technically, you could apply to 6 universities through this route if needed. Read our detailed guide about UCAS Extra.
Clearing: UCAS Clearing opens in July and is used primarily by those who did not receive any offers or missed required grades. It allows you to apply to courses with vacancies outside of the standard UCAS deadlines.
So in short – you can apply to more than 5, but it involves going outside the normal application route. My advice is to carefully research your options and only pick your top choices in your initial 5 selections.
How much does it cost to apply to 5 universities?
Applying through UCAS costs £27.50 in 2024 for up to 5 choices if you apply by the January deadline.
So applying to your full 5 choices by the normal end-January deadline costs just £27.50 in total. That’s quite an affordable investment in your future when you consider the potential future value of a degree.
Learn more from our guide to Student Finance.
Can I apply to both Oxford and Cambridge?
However, I’d offer two pieces of advice. Firstly, make sure you have very strong grades and entrance exam results, and demonstrate real passion for your subject in your personal statement. The Oxbridge application competition is extreme since the best pupils from around the world apply each year.
Secondly, don’t waste other choices on unrealistic options. Make sure your other 4 choices are universities you would happily attend as an insurance option.
Which UK universities do not require UCAS?
While the vast majority of UK universities do require applying through UCAS, there are some universities that you can apply to directly:
The University of Buckingham – England’s only independent university that can sponsor student visas. They have an independent application process.
Some art and design colleges like Saint Martins or UAL allow direct applications outside UCAS.
Other universities that you can apply directly are:
- University of Greenwich
- Oxford Brookes University
- London South Bank University
- University of Portsmouth
- Birmingham City University
So most universities will need a UCAS application, but it’s worth checking any more specialist providers.
Can I accept multiple university offers in the UK?
A common question arises around the ability to accept multiple offers. Through UCAS, you can only HOLD two offers at any one time – one firm and one insurance.
If you receive three or more offers, UCAS will automatically reject the third and any subsequent offers until you select just two Firm and Insurance choices.
So while technically you could get 5 university offers, you eventually have to narrow it down to two. Then when exam results arrive – if you make the grades for your Firm choice, you MUST attend there and relinquish your Insurance.
When is the UCAS application deadline?
The normal UCAS undergraduate deadline is the end of January. Applications must be fully submitted by 18:00 GMT on this date.
Applying by the end of January ensures your application receives equal consideration from universities and colleges. Late applications after 30th June go directly into Clearing so should be avoided unless unavoidable.
Oxbridge’s deadline is October 15th.
For those taking a gap year, you can submit your application approximately 12 months before starting a course.
It is crucial to get your application submitted on time – make sure to plan backwards from this critical UCAS deadline.
Can I apply to 5 universities after a gap year?
If you plan to take a gap year before university, a UCAS deferral application works much the same as a standard one – with a few small differences:
- You still only get 5 choices. Use them wisely on your top options.
- The deadline is still January, about 12 months before you start.
- On offers, you request to defer entry rather than accept outright.
- You CANNOT apply again or make changes in the next standard cycle.
So in summary yes – you get those same crucial 5 UCAS choices whenever applying, gap year or not. Make sure you’re fully committed to deferred choices as they cannot be altered later down the line.
- How to Plan Your Gap Year: A Step-by-Step Guide
- What To Do In A Gap Year As a Student
- How To Apply To University After A Gap Year
Can I apply via UCAS Extra?
As mentioned earlier, UCAS Extra can be a valuable fallback option if you use all 5 choices but don’t have any offers in February/March.
Under Extra, you get to add one university choice at a time until either you achieve an offer or Extra closes around early July.
Usage of Extra has been declining in recent years as students narrow earlier choices more carefully. However, it can prove vital if things don’t quite go to plan first time around.
Check UCAS guidance on eligibility as you normally need to have used all 5 choices and hold no pending offers. If eligible, move fast once Extra opens to secure a place.
What do you need to apply to university?
When preparing a UCAS application, make sure you have researched your options thoroughly and have the following ready in advance:
- Personal details including your school background
- Final shortlist of up to 5 firm university/course choices
- Predicted grades/exam results to meet requirements
- Write a personal statement summarising skills and ambitions
- Academic reference from a teacher who knows you well
- Additional references or evidence if required e.g. art portfolio
It takes time to pull this information together so do start planning early – at least 6 months before the UCAS deadline is sensible.
Can international students use UCAS?
Yes, UCAS does handle international applications from most countries. The system and deadlines are the same, however the application fee rises to £22 per choice.
In most cases yes, international students receive the same 5 university choices. Ensure you use an Insurance choice as visa refusals can be more common.
What additional requirements might be expected?
English language certificates are often required such as IELTS results if English is not your first language. Academic transcripts should be provided in English too.
Any specific subject prerequisites should also be researched thoroughly beforehand. Competition can be higher for overseas places.
International students can use UCAS for straightforward access to universities across the UK. Just be aware visa challenges increase the need for an Insurance choice and early application is advisable before any scholarship deadlines pass.
FAQ: How many universities can you apply to through UCAS
The UCAS application process allows applicants to apply to up to 5 university programmes within one multiple university submission.
To apply to the Uni UCAS application fee is £27.50 for all applicants. You can apply to up to 5 university choices by the January deadline.
Applying to Oxbridge universities has one specific thing – you can submit an application only to Oxford or Cambridge. This limitation is due to a high number of student applications and low acceptance rates.
Want to learn more about applying to uni? Read these student guides: