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This article is about the British university and college admission service. For other uses, see UCAS (disambiguation).
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
UCAS logo.svg
UCAS logo as of 2009
Abbreviation UCAS
"At the heart of connecting people to higher education"
Formation 1994
Legal status
Non-governmental and non-profit organisation
Higher-education application processing
  • Prestbury, Cheltenham,
    Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ
Region served UK
Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook
Main organ UCAS Board
Budget £33 million (2011)
Website http://www.ucas.ac.uk

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is a UK-based charity whose main role is providing the application process for almost all British universities.

Some of UCAS' services include several online application portals, a number of search tools, and free information and advice aimed at a number of key audiences, such as students considering higher education, students with pending applications to higher education institutes, parents and legal guardians of applicants and pre-applicants, school and Further Education college staff involved in helping students apply, and providers of higher education (universities and HE colleges).

While UCAS is renowned for its undergraduate application service (the main UCAS scheme), it also operates a number of other admissions services:

  • CUKAS (Conservatoires UK Admissions Service) – for performing arts at a UK conservatoire
  • UTT (UCAS Teacher Training) – for postgraduate teacher training schemes
  • UKPASS (UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service) – for some postgraduate courses
  • UCAS Progress – for post-16 education and training


UCAS is based[1] near Marle Hill in Cheltenham at the junction of the B4075 (New Barn Lane) and the A435 (Evesham Road), near Cheltenham Racecourse and a park and ride. It is situated just inside the parish of Prestbury, Gloucestershire.[2]


UCAS was formed in 1993 by the merger of UCCA (Universities Central Council on Admissions), PCAS (Polytechnics Central Admissions System) and SCUE (Standing Conference on University Entrance). The Art and Design Admissions Registry became part of UCAS in 1996.

UCAS discontinued paper applications in 2004.

UCAS undergraduate admissions schemes[edit]

UCAS – main undergraduate scheme[edit]

Because the vast majority of UK universities and higher education colleges use the UCAS service, all students planning to study for an undergraduate degree in the UK must apply through UCAS – including home students (generally British and EU students) and international students (non-EU).

The application[edit]

Students submit a single application via UCAS's online Apply service. To begin, they must register a username and password, before completing their personal details, writing a personal statement, and listing up to five preferred course choices. They must then pay an application fee and obtain a reference before submitting their application online by the appropriate deadline. The application is then forwarded by UCAS to the universities and colleges students have applied to, who then decide whether to make students an offer of a place.

Personal details[edit]

Once logged into Apply, applicants complete a number of personal details – including their current qualifications, employment and criminal history, national identity, ethnic origin, and student finance arrangements. Applicants also have the option to declare if they have any individual needs – such as any disabilities; or if they’re a care leaver.

Personal statements[edit]

The personal statement is an integral part of the application. It gives candidates a chance to write about their achievements, their interest in the subject they’re applying for, as well as their suitability, interest, and commitment to higher education. Personal statements must contain a maximum of 4,000 characters (including spaces) or 47 lines – whichever comes first.

Application fees and references[edit]

The final part of the process involves paying an application fee and obtaining a written reference. The process varies depending on whether a student’s applying through a school, college or UCAS centre; or as an individual.

For the former, applications are sent to the school, college, or centre, who may ask applicants to pay their fee to them (which they then pass to UCAS) or pay UCAS directly, before they provide a reference and submit the form on the student’s behalf.

Individual applicants will need to request their reference – from a teacher, adviser, or professional who knows them – before paying the fee and submitting the form themselves.

For 2014 applications, the cost per student was £12 to apply for a single course, or £23 for two or more courses.

UCAS application deadlines[edit]

Depending on the subject, (and in some cases the university or college) they’re applying for, applicants must submit their application by the relevant submission deadline to ensure their application is given equal consideration by the higher education providers they’re applying to.

  • 15 January deadline The majority of applications must be submitted by 15 January (in the calendar year that the student wishes to begin their studies).
  • 15 October deadline Those applying for most medicine, dentistry and veterinary science courses and anyone applying to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge must submit their UCAS applications by 15 October – in the year before the student wishes to start their studies.
  • 24 March deadline Some art and design courses have a later application deadline – 24 March – to give them time to complete their portfolios.

However, it is possible for students to submit applications up until 30 June each year; but a late submission won’t necessarily be given the same consideration as those submitted before each given deadline. Applications received after 30 June are placed directly into Clearing.


Students that submit their applications before the January deadline usually hear from all of their five choices by mid-May. However, it can often be sooner. UCAS advises universities and colleges to send their decisions by the end of March.

Offers are either conditional (usually dependent on exam performance) or unconditional. Some students may be invited to an interview, or may be asked to submit an additional piece of work before receiving an offer.

Once an applicant has received responses from all the higher education providers they applied to, they must make their replies. They can accept up to two choices, if they have more than one offer: one Firm and one Insurance choice. They will need to decline any other offers after selecting these.


If an applicant uses all of their five choices, and doesn’t receive any offers, or they decide to decline the offers they receive, they can apply for additional courses using UCAS’ Extra service. This allows them to keep applying, one course at a time, until they receive an offer they’re happy with. Extra runs between mid-February and the end of June. If they don’t get an offer during this time, they have the option to enter into Clearing when it opens in July.

Confirmation and Clearing[edit]

When applicants receive their A level or Higher examination results in August, they quickly learn if they’ve successfully met the offer conditions of their Firm or Insurances choices.

Those that do have their offers confirmed and are invited to formally accept a place on the course they applied to – a process known as Confirmation. Many universities and colleges still accept students that narrowly miss their offer conditions.

Those that don’t meet their Firm and Insurance offer conditions are eligible to use UCAS’ Clearing service – which enables unplaced students to apply for courses with vacancies. They do so by searching for an available course, using the UCAS search tool, and contacting each university or college concerned directly.

Although Clearing is most commonly used following results days in August, it opens at the start of July each year and closes in late September.


If applicants exceed the conditions of their Firm offer, they have the option to search for a place at another university or college – while retaining their original offer. This is known as Adjustment; a service which is available between 14 and 31 August.

CUKAS – performing arts scheme[edit]

UCAS operates CUKAS (Conservatoires UK Admissions Service) in conjunction with Conservatoires UK, managing applications for both undergraduate and postgraduate music, dance, and drama courses at eight UK conservatoires:

  • Birmingham Conservatoire (part of Birmingham City University)
  • Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London
  • Leeds College of Music
  • Royal Academy of Music, London
  • Royal College of Music, London
  • Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
  • Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff
  • Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London

Students must apply through the online CUKAS service by:

  • 1 October – for most music courses
  • 15 January – for most undergraduate dance, drama, and screen production courses

UCAS postgraduate admissions schemes[edit]

UTT – postgraduate teacher training[edit]

UTT (UCAS Teacher Training) is an application service for postgraduates that want to become teachers. UTT replaced UCAS’ previous GTTR teacher training application service in 2013, and expanded its remit to provide centralised admissions for School Direct and school-centred initial teacher training (SCITT) programmes.

UTT programmes are either university/college-taught or school-based, and typically last for one academic year; usually leading to a PGCE qualification.

Students begin their application in the autumn for programmes starting in the following academic year. They start by using Apply 1 – which allows them to choose up to three programmes. Training providers then have 40 working days to make an offer. During this time they will invite candidates they’re considering offering a place to for an interview. At the end of the 40 day period, students will have responses from their three choices, and will have 10 working days to reply to any offers.

However, if students don’t get offered a place using Apply 1, or they choose to decline all of the offers they receive, they can use Apply 2 to apply for new places,adding one choice at a time, until they receive an offer.

  • Apply 1 opens on 21 November each year
  • Apply 2 opens on 2 January each year

UKPASS – postgraduate admissions scheme[edit]

UKPASS (UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service) is UCAS’ postgraduate admissions service. It was introduced in 2007 and (as of 2014) offers students access to over 20,000 courses at 18 participating universities and colleges in England, Scotland, and Wales – both taught and research courses leading to a variety of qualifications – including MA, MSc, MBA, and LLM.

Other schemes[edit]

UCAS Progress – post-16 education and training admissions scheme[edit]

In 2012, UCAS launched UCAS Progress, a service enabling GCSE students to search and apply for post-16 work and education-based training courses – including academic and vocational courses (such as A levels and BTECs), as well as Apprenticeship and Traineeship programmes.

The scheme is free for students to use, and from September 2014, will be a national service – listing post-16 opportunities from all across the UK.

UCAS Progress also helps schools, colleges, and local authorities address recruitment issues and statutory obligations resulting from raising the age of participation in secondary education; an initiative which legally obligates students to remain in full-time education or work-based training until the end of the academic year that they turn 17. This will change in September 2015; when students will be required to remain in education or training until their 18th birthday.

UCAS Media[edit]

UCAS Media is a commercial enterprise that specialises in helping brands reach young people – more specifically, UCAS audiences.

UCAS Media manages, co-ordinates, and creates bespoke campaigns in partnership with its clients – who typically comprise commercial brands, higher education providers, graduate recruiters, gap year companies and accommodation providers. Its marketing services encompass a variety of channels, including email, social media, online advertising, and experiential events.

Contrary to press reports, UCAS Media doesn’t sell its data to third parties; it sends targeted communications to opted-in UCAS audiences, distributing them appropriately on behalf of its clients.

All UCAS Media profits are gift-aided back into the UCAS charity to fund improvements and to subsidise main scheme fees.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "SO9524 : UCAS, New Barn Lane". Geograph.org.uk. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  2. ^ Geograph.org.uk

External links[edit]