Guide to UCAS Application Process for International Students

UCAS Application Process for International Students in 2023

Applying from overseas to a UK university? If you are an international student planning to study in the United Kingdom, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the UCAS system. UCAS, which stands for Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a centralised organisation that manages all undergraduate applications to UK universities and colleges. 

We are going to explore what UCAS is and how international students can apply for University programmes in the UK using the UCAS application process.

What is UCAS for International Students?

UCAS, which stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a centralised service that helps international students apply to UK universities. It is an independent institution that provides information, advice, and admissions services to students looking to apply to undergraduate courses.

It streamlines the UCAS application process by allowing you to apply to up to five universities. This means you only have to fill out one application form, which is then sent to all the chosen universities. 

According to official data around 680 thousand international students are studying in the UK on undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

This saves time and effort and ensures that your application is consistent across all the universities you are applying to.

UCAS is an essential tool for international students looking to study in the UK. It provides a level playing field, ensuring that all students have access to the same information and opportunities.

UCAS also helps to simplify the visa application process for international students, making it easier for them to obtain the necessary documentation to study in the UK.

UCAS Application Process for International Students

The UCAS application process for international students can be a discouraging task for applicants, but it is an essential step in securing a place at a UK university

From our experience, the process consists of eight stages, each of which requires careful consideration and attention to detail.

Searching for Courses

The first stage of the UCAS application process is researching to choose the right course for you. This involves identifying the subject areas that interest you and exploring the courses available at different UK universities. 

It is important to consider factors such as the course content, teaching methods, and admission entry requirements when researching courses.

It’s especially important for medicine, dentistry, law and other courses that have mandatory admission entry tests such as the BMAT exam or UCAT test for medicine.

International students also need to meet additional requirements, such as English language proficiency tests: IELTS and TOEFL. 

Choosing Right Universities

Once you have found the courses that interest you, the next stage is choosing the right universities. Many factors will influence your choice of university, consider some of them –  location, campus facilities, tuition, student finance help, reputation, Uni ranking, and student support services when choosing universities.

The TOP TIP for all international applicants is to research the entry requirements for the chosen university. Some universities may have higher entry requirements than others, and international students may have to meet additional requirements. This is very important for international students applying to Oxbridge.

Writing a UCAS Personal Statement

Besides choosing the right university and course, you will need to pay special attention to your UCAS personal statement. Possibly you will need to spend most of the time in this stage, as you need to write a good personal statement

If you are not familiar with what is a personal statement, please read our guides below. 

In short, a personal statement in the UK is a written type of essay that is part of the application process for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. Undergraduate applicants will have 4000 characters to showcase their skills, academic achievements, and experiences that make them suitable candidates for the chosen course

Further reading:

Registering with UCAS

The next stage is registering with UCAS. This involves creating an account and providing personal details, such as your name, address, and qualifications.

International students may have to provide additional documentation, such as a copy of their passport and approved visa, when registering with UCAS.

UCAS Application

The fourth stage is completing the UCAS application. This involves providing details about your education, work experience, and UCAS personal statement.

It is important to ensure that all the information provided is accurate and up-to-date. International students will need to add their English language proficiency test scores such as IELTS and TOEFL.

Submitting the UCAS Application

The next thing you need to do is to submit the UCAS application for international students. This involves paying the application fee and submitting the application before the UCAS deadline.

Reference Letter

A very important step is to make sure your reference will be added on time in the UCAS application. A reference letter needs to be provided by a person who will recommend you, this is in most cases your school teacher, tutor, mentor or employer. Chose wisely. 

Read the full guide: UCAS Reference Letter: Ultimate Writing Guide

Receiving Offers

After applying, you will wait to receive offers from universities. This involves considering the offers received and deciding which offer to accept as your firm choice and which offer to accept as your insurance choice.

Also consider the visa requirements when accepting offers, because all international students need to have the proper visa type to stay in the UK.

Selecting Firm and Insurance Choices

The final stage is selecting your firm and insurance choices. This involves confirming which offer you have accepted as your firm choice and which offer you have accepted as your insurance choice.

It is important to ensure that you have met all the entry requirements for your firm choice, as this is the offer that you will be expected to meet if you are accepted.

Choosing the Right Course for International Students

Choosing the right course is an essential factor for international students seeking to study in the UK. It could be a daunting task, particularly if you are not familiar with the UK higher education system.

By exploring the different courses and universities available in the UCAS search, you can narrow down your options and select the best programmes in line with your passions and career aspirations.

One of the first things to consider when choosing a course is your career aspirations. You need to think about the type of job you want to do and the skills and qualifications required for that job.

If you are unsure about your career aspirations, you can take a career test or speak to a career counsellor to help you identify your strengths and interests.

Another factor to consider when choosing a course is the university’s reputation. You want to attend a university with a good reputation and a high ranking in the subject area you are interested in. This will not only enhance your chances of getting a job after graduation but also provide you with a quality education.

It’s essential to consider the location of the university. Do you want to study in a big city or a smaller town? Do you want to be close to the countryside or the coast? These factors can impact your overall university experience and most important student finance. The cost of living for students is much higher in cities like London, Birmingham or Manchester, compared to Durham or any small university town. 

Regarding the course selection, you should also think about the teaching methods used by the university. Do they offer hands-on experience or is it more theory-based? Is the student community small like Oxford and Cambridge University, or huge like Warwick? Do they offer work placements or internships? These are all important questions to ask when researching courses.

Last, but for most students fundamental, is to check on the time the tuition fee of the course and the student’s financial support available. 

International students may be eligible for scholarships or bursaries like Chevening or Commonwealth Scholarships. So it’s worth researching these options and applying for them early. 

Applying for UCAS as an International Student

Applying for UCAS as an international student can seem different than in your home country, but with the right preparation and guidance, it can be a smooth process. 

When applying for UCAS, keep in mind that the application process for international students can be different from that for UK students. Therefore, check the requirements and guidelines for international students before beginning the application process. 

Read a few times our step by step process at the beginning of the guide. 

Visa, visa, visa – you can’t live and study in the UK without preparing Visa. Learn the requirements to obtain a student visa in the UK and start preparation on time. 

UCAS Deadline for International Students

The UCAS deadline for international students is a necessary date to keep in mind if you plan to study in the UK. 

UCAS Deadline for International Students is more flexible

While the deadline for UK students is usually in January (for Oxbridge application, Medicine, Dentistry, and Veterinary is on 16 October) the deadline for international students may vary depending on the time of your application.

The application window for international students opens on 5 September 2023 and ends on the 30th of June 2024 – for students starting the academic year in September 2024. 

The UCAS deadline for international students is more flexible, however, try to apply before 31 January 2024. This will give you better chances to get accepted. 

For international students applying to Cambridge, Oxford, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary deadline is 16 October 2023 and it’s not flexible. 

Keep in mind that some universities may have different application deadlines, so it is always advisable to check the UCAS website or the individual university websites for more information.

It is also important to note that applying early can have its advantages. For one, it gives you more time to prepare and submit your application, ensuring that you have all the necessary documents and information. 

Another advantage of applying early is that it gives you more time to research and apply for scholarships and bursaries. 

Many universities offer financial help to international students, but the application deadlines for these can vary and may be earlier than the UCAS deadline

UCAS Requirements for International Students

Before you start your UCAS application process, you need to ensure that you meet the UCAS requirements. 

These include academic qualifications, proficiency in the English language, and other requirements specific to your country of origin. 

As an international student, you need to familiarise yourself with these requirements and ensure that you meet them before applying.

Academic qualifications are a crucial part of meeting the UCAS requirements.

As an international student, you need to have qualifications that are equivalent to those required of UK students. 

This means that you will need to have your qualifications assessed by UK NARIC, the national agency responsible for providing information, advice, and expert opinion on qualifications worldwide. UK NARIC will provide you with a statement of comparability, which will show how your qualifications compare to UK qualifications.

Proficiency in the English language is another important requirement for international students. If English is not your first language, you will need to take an English language test, such as IELTS. 

Other requirements specific to your country of origin may include medical examinations and financial documentation. 

How to Calculate UCAS Points for International Students

UCAS tariff points are a standardised method of calculating academic achievement based on the grades you receive in UK-based qualifications. 

International students can also calculate their UCAS points by converting their qualifications into UK equivalents. You will probably convert your International Baccalaureate grades into UCAS tariff points.

Try the official UCAS Tariff calculator.  

This calculation is critical as it determines which universities you are qualified to apply to and which courses your qualifications are most suited for.

What Level of English Do You Need to Study in The UK?

UK universities require international students to prove their proficiency in the English language. This is understandable since you will spend 3-5 years studying and speaking English with teachers and colleagues. 

Most universities accept standardised English proficiency exams such as:

  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills ISE
  • Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic)

What is Clearing?

Clearing is a process that takes place after the main application deadline. It is designed to match students who have not been accepted to their original university choices with universities that still have open places. 

International students can apply through UCAS Clearing in the same way as UK applicants if they meet the requirements.

You can apply in the Clearing process if you meet the following requirement:

  • Applied via UCAS before the standard June 30th deadline (which could include after June 30th)
  • Denied by both, firm and insurance choice course
  • Applied for a course before June 30th but were not extended an offer of admission
  • Met the academic requirements for either their firm choice or insurance choice offer but opted not to accept the offer
  • Paid the complete £26.50 application fee for between two to five-course options

International students can take advantage of Clearing to find places in universities and programmes that they were not able to apply to initially.

Read our complete guides:

Why Study in the UK?

Studying in the UK has numerous benefits, including world-renowned universities, high-quality education, cultural diversity, and a welcoming community. 

With over 100 universities and 50,000 courses to choose from, international students can find programmes that align with their interests and career goals. 

Additionally, studying in the UK can open up numerous opportunities for employment and networking, making it a fantastic investment in your future.

Read more:


How much is the UCAS Fee for International students?

UCAS application fee for international students is £27 if you are applying to up to five choices. If you are applying only for one university, the fee is £22.50.

Can an international student apply to UK universities without UCAS?

Everyone who wants to study undergraduate courses in the UK needs to apply via UCAS. Some universities can accept applications without UCAS but this is not a common case.

Further reading: