Admission into British independent schools and higher education institutions is generally based on the student’s past academic performance and English language proficiency. However, exact admission requirements and deadlines frequently vary from institution to institution and from program to program.
Prospective students should begin reviewing the admission requirements far in advance to give themselves sufficient time to satisfy the admission requirements. This might include taking prerequisite courses they need, collecting required documents, writing applicable tests, and completing any other steps required to gain admission.
Admission Into an Independent School
As mentioned earlier, school-aged international students may study in the UK at independent school only. As such, This section only covers admission into independent schools, and not state schools.
The admission process at independent schools varies greatly from school to school. Some schools require interested students to take an entrance exam. Others may invite the student or the family for an interview. Some schools also hold assessment days, inviting students to participate in a series of activities to assess their suitability for the school.
While some schools operate on a first-come, first-served basis, many independent schools have strict admission deadlines that can fall as early as the beginning of the previous September (i.e. a full year before entry).
Admission Into a Higher Education Course
Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for higher education courses, and these vary widely depending on the subject, the specific course, and the course provider. Admission is typically based on a student’s past academic qualifications. Some courses also require supplementary information from the student, such as an admission test, personal statement, resume, references and/or an interview to further assess a student’s suitability before making their admission decision. International students from non-speaking countries also need to demonstrate their English language proficiency through an English test.
Education providers require students to have successfully attained prior levels of qualifications to ensure they will have the right skills and knowledge to complete their chosen higher education course. Students need to provide transcripts/marksheets to show they meet the academic requirements for admission.
For admission into undergraduate level university courses, prior completion of A-levels, Advanced Highers or equivalent-level qualifications is required. The marks that are considered acceptable varies by course and by institution. Higher marks are usually needed to gain admission into more competitive or in-demand courses. Most courses will also expect students to have some pre-16 qualifications, such as GCSE English and maths, or their equivalents. Students will also need to have taken subjects related to their chosen higher education course, known as prerequisite courses. For example, a student seeking admission into an Engineering program will need to have completed Grade 12-equivalent math courses.
Admission into a postgraduate Master’s program is dependent on prior completion of an undergraduate degree. Students applying for a Masters or Doctorate program must have a Bachelor. Many PhD programs also require students to have a Master’s degree first.
Many colleges and universities require students to demonstrate their suitability for a specific course through a written personal statement. A personal statement should discuss:
- Interest in the course. Why has the student chosen the particular course? Why do they think they are suitable for the course?
- Skills and achievements. Any awards won, any positions of responsibility held, achievements student is proud of, attributes that make them interesting. Universities like to know the skills a student has that will help them on the course, or generally with life at university.
- Hobbies and interests. Students can use these to demonstrate their personality, skills and abilities. Try to link them to the skills and experience required for the course(s)
- Work Experience. Include details of placements, work experience, voluntary work, or jobs, especially if it is relevant to the chosen course(s).
- Gaps in Education (if applicable). Explain what the student was doing since leaving education
- Future Plans. What does the student want to do after their graduation? How will they use the knowledge and experience they’ll gain through the course? How does the course relate to what you want to do in the future?
- Why UK? Why does the student want to study in the UK and in the university they are applying tor.
Personal statements are a great way for a student to make themselves stand out over other applicants.
References should ideally come from someone who knows the student academically and can talk about their work ethic, interaction with other students and their suitability for higher education or a future career. These include:
Past or current supervisors can also provide a reference, if a student left education years ago, or if students are applying for programs related to their work, such as if a student applying into a medical program was working or volunteering at the hospital, or if a student is applying for an MBA course.
Referees who supervised or coached a student in their volunteer positions or extracurricular activities, and can speak about a student’s work ethic, leadership, teamwork and intrapersonal skills are also often accepted. Friends and family members, on the other hand, cannot be used as references.
Many education providers will also invite shortlisted student for an interview before making their admission decision. Interviews can take place over telephone, video call, or in-person if a student is able to travel to the institution. A lot of British universities also have overseas teams, which hold interviews in major countries around the world. Interviewers will ask questions relating to the student’s background, current study plans, and future career aspirations. The interview also helps the university ensure that the student is coming to the UK for genuine study purposes and has a realistic prospect of returning home once their studies have finished.
English Language Proficiency
Since English is the primary language of instruction in the UK, students applying from a non-English speaking country need to demonstrate English proficiency through an English language test as part of the admission process. Standardized English language tests evaluate students on their reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.
The following tests are commonly accepted for entry into degree-level courses:
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - Internet-Based Test (IBT)
- Trinity College's Integrated Skills in English (ISE)
- Pearson Test of English (PTE)
- Cambridge Advanced Certificate in English (CAE)
- Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)
- English Language GCSE, A-level or IB
Language test scores required for admission vary by institution and by program. Some institutions only look at the overall scores, while others have cut-offs for scores in each of the four skills sections. Typically, students applying to an undergraduate course need:
- IELTS scores between 5.5 and 6.5 (usually 6.0), with no band less than 5.5 or 6.0, or
- TOEFL (internet-based test, iBT) scores between 60.0 and 90.0 overall, or
- PTE Academic score between 50 to 64 overall, or
- CAE or CPE score between 169 to 176 overall, with no less than 169 in each category.
Language requirements are often stricter for postgraduate and professional programs (e.g. IELTS score of 7.0). Always refer to the admission requirements for the specific course on the ApplyBoard Platform for the most accurate information.
An academic year typically begins in September in the UK, and includes three terms: Autumn/Fall (September to December), Spring (January to April) and Summer (May to August). Since the calendar year begins in Autumn, most institutions offer admission for entry in September, but selected programs also accept students for Spring and Summer intakes. Additionally, some institutions also offer courses at multiple times during the year, and therefore have varying deadlines for each start dates.
Application deadlines are based on start dates to give students sufficient time to prepare themselves, get their visa and come to their chosen university or college. Much like admission requirements, application deadlines are also set by individual education providers, and can also vary from course to course. Students should always review the application deadlines for the specific courses and institutions they’re interested in to avoid missing a deadline.
In general, admission deadlines (for September intake) for undergraduate courses are:
- mid-October: for course at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or for most courses in medicine, veterinary medicine/science, and dentistry.
- mid-January: for the majority of courses
- End of June or until the course fills up*: recommended final deadline for international students to ensure they’ll have enough time to apply for and obtain a visa after receiving their confirmation of acceptance (CAS).
Postgraduate degree courses often have a lengthier application process and stricter applications deadlines. Postgraduate diploma and certificate programs follow similar deadlines as those outlined above.
*Please note that Admission is generally offered on a rolling basis. This means, universities review and make admission decisions as they receive applications. Applications close once the course fills up. Some courses fill up quickly, so students should apply as early as they an.