United Kingdom
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Interactive map of UK Universities

Click on the picture to go to the interactive map.

Types of institutions

There are two major kinds of degree-awarding institutions offering higher education in the UK:

  • Universities—traditionally regarded as the centers of academic learning and offer a wide variety of courses.
  • Colleges and Institutions of Higher Education—generally smaller than universities and may concentrate on specific fields of study such as education, art or music.


  • Oxford and Cambridge—have a unique status and different entrance system than all other schools. A student can apply to Oxford or Cambridge but not both; this is usually referred to as an Oxbridge application. The UCAS application plus supplemental forms and submissions must be completed before October 15(September for Cambridge applicants wanting to interview in Asia).
  • Red Brick universities—sometimes called ‘civic’ universities. These were mainly built in the late 19thcentury and include schools such as Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester. Entrance is very competitive and the degree programs tend to be less flexible than the newer universities.
  • “New” universities"—built in the 1960’s such as York, Sussex, Essex, East Anglia. These vary in competitiveness. Programs at these schools tend to be more flexible and often interdisciplinary.
  • New universities, former “Polytechnics”—these schools were granted university status in 1992. They tend to have strong industrial or commercial links and often offer more applied and vocational courses using the sandwich program. They offer science, technology, design and business oriented courses. Many have strong job placement records with industry. Tend to be less competitive for admissions and have a wider variety of students enrolling in their programs.
  • “Technology” universities—also founded in the 1960’s such as Brunel and Aston. These schools offer very highly regarded degrees in pre-professional fields. Admissions may be very competitive.
  • Scottish universities—usually offer four-year programs that tend to be broader based than other UK courses. Edinburgh and St. Andrews are very competitive.

Undergraduate courses

Undergraduate degrees usually take three years to complete although some institutions offer special four-year programs for students whose high school qualifications do not meet university requirements. In these cases, some universities may require an applicant to complete a “foundation year” before enrolling in the full degree program. Professional courses such as medicine, dentistry and architecture may take up to seven years to complete.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements to colleges/universities in Great Britain are often selective. In the U.K., each institution sets its own standards for admission and individually reviews the applicants. Some are more rigid while others are more flexible. Most universities will list requirements based on tariff points, the GCE, AS or A level exam results but accept other types of assessment (IB diploma). Some schools in the UK are now expecting students to take and score well on the SAT/Subject Tests if the student is attending an American high school in the United States (or ISB). Students must consult the university to determine admissions requirements. The best way to find out about a particular school is to visit their website and to write to their admissions office directly.

UK applications

In applying to the UK, it is best to identify the course of study first, then the university. The UCAS website allows for searches which will produce universities offering the selected course of study. Career intentions should be considered as there is not much flexibility in the UK course program once enrolled in university. Each university publishes a prospectus, which can be found on line or in the Counseling Office Library. IB qualifications are also usually listed on the UCAS website.

All students applying to a university in the UK will do so through a clearing house called UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Services). A completed application form is used to apply to up to five universities. UCAS will then distribute applications to those schools for their decisions. Supportive materials can be sent by the student directly to the universities. The application will be completed online and submitted electronically. A credit card is needed to cover the cost of the application. Applications should be submitted in the fall term of the senior year, between mid-October, and mid-December.

The deadline for applying to Oxford, Cambridge or any medical, dental or veterinary courses in the UK is October 15. Please note that admission to any medical, veterinary or dental program for a non-UK citizen is extremely difficult. In addition, oral and written exams and an interview may be required at some schools.

The process and deadlines for students considering conservatoires is different. Two references are required: one practical and one academic. Each reference is sent directly to the conservatoire, not to UCAS. Some may require and interview or an audition. If a student is considering this option, it's important for them to research requirements thoroughly and in a timely fashion especially given that "on time" applications are due October 1.

UK University websites

Universities and Colleges Admissions Services – The application website for UK universities; extensive information on UK universities and programs including admissions requirements, course searches and location guides.

The Times Good University Guide – This describes UK universities and gives rankings for universities by course of study.

The Guardian University Guide – This is an interactive guide to universities and colleges. League tables used for comparisons are available. Searches can be done by subject/course.

Hotcourses – Start with a course of study and find UK universities that offer that course.

Open Days – Find out all you need to know about open days at the university or college of your choice. Browse the university and college open day calendar. Find out what goes on at an open day. Check out the advice for helpful tips and suggestions


Recently, international students who want to attend university in the UK have been required to take the IELTS (not TOEFL) to secure a student visa. This has raised many questions. There are two reasons English language proficiency may be required:

  • The university requires proof of English language proficiency to determined admissibility.This has always been the case and is not new.
  • The UK Visas and Immigration require proof of English language proficiency before issuing a visa. This is the biggest change in the last couple of years.

Do EU passport holders need to take the IELTS?
  • No, but check here just to be sure.

Could an EU passport holder or any other person with a first language other than English need to prove English language proficiency to a university?
  • Yes! A university may accept different forms of proof (IB English predicted score, IELTS, TOEFL, etc.). Always check with each university to be sure.

Application timeline


  • Grade 12 students attend session at AIS to register with UCAS using IBS buzzword
  • Cambridge applicants wishing to interview in Asia must complete COPA (Cambridge Online Preliminary Application)
October 1
  • "On-time" music applications
October 15
  • Oxford, Cambridge
  • Medicine, Veterinary Science
  • Some course may have earlier deadlines (education, conservatories requiring auditions, etc.)
  • Conservatory auditions start
January 15
  • All applications due (applications submitted after this date are not guaranteed to be reviewed)
March (end of month)
  • Deadline for some art and design courses
July (first week)
  • IB results released

UCAS Offers

Students will receive an unconditional acceptance, conditional acceptance or unsuccessful response from universities.Unconditional acceptance means that the student has already met the requirements for admissions while conditional acceptance means the university has identified specific conditions that must be meet before the student is admissible.

Final decisions in July will be based on the successful completion of grades and IB exams. Students, who are unsuccessful in all of the applications first submitted, may participate in Extra or Clearing--a process through UCAS where students can identify which colleges/universities still have openings in particular areas of study. Each time a UK university makes a decision on an application, UCAS will notify the student of the offer details. Students will be asked to code all offers (there could be as many as five) as “Firm,” “Insurance” or “Decline.” Choose one firm and one insurance offer; all others must be declined. Since most offers are conditional upon IB examination score results and students won’t have received the exam results, this can be a difficult decision.

If students are confused about any offers, they should check with their counselor before choosing firm and insurance. Once a commitment is made to particular courses, they cannot be changed. UCAS asks for prompt replies, but students do have until early May to make decisions. If a student did not receive any offers, the student can participate in a process called “Extra” in which the student can apply one at a time to additional courses until an offer is received.

UCAS Personal Statement

The personal statement on the UCAS application is the best way for admissions tutors to hear your voice. It is the one chance you will have to provide insight into your personality and goals. There is no specific required format but specific recommendations are made by the British university admissions officers. The personal statement cannot exceed 4000 characters or 47 lines. Seventy percent of the personal statement should relate to the course of study and your high school preparation. The other 30 percent can be about personal interests and out of school activities. The organization of your personal statement will reflect on your academic habits and abilities. Structure is important! Use clear paragraphs or sections that are easy to follow and read. Tutors recommend that the first paragraph explain why you have chosen the course of study. Forgo the obvious like “History is my favorite subject.” It is better to explain what it is about the subject that you enjoy. It is important to articulate your commitment to the course. Other paragraphs should be used to describe your interests and activities as well as part time work or volunteer activities. This helps the tutors to identify students who can organize their time and demonstrate commitment. Do not just list activities (makes for boring reading!) but do describe what importance the activity has for you or what you have gained from the activity. Avoid things that are a distraction to your viability as a potential student like “I enjoy socializing.” Check your essay for grammar, clarity and punctuation.

Click here for more info.

Rules of Thumb

  • Be specific
  • Start early
  • Use 5 sections
  • Avoid obvious statements or cliché terms
  • Redraft
  • Always keep the chosen course in mind
  • Construct bridges
  • Avoid passive writing
  • Stick to what you know
  • Demonstrate maturity
  • Be enthusiastic
  • State things about yourself
  • End sentences and paragraphs with nouns
  • Don’t start all sentences with "I"
  • Give evidence rather than simply state an interest/skill/etc

Five Section Structure for a Personal Statement

Why have you chosen this course?

  • First paragraph must grab the reader’s attention.
  • Demonstrate your thorough understanding of the course.
  • Demonstrate your suitability for the course.
  • Before writing identify: reasons you enjoy the subject, what particular aspect of the subject intrigues you, what do you want to learn more about, experiences that confirm your interests, what skills are linked to the subject, what career goals will it lead to.
  • Make your first sentence personal—something specific about you!
What evidence can you give that shows your interest in the subject?
  • How is your interest gone beyond the classroom?
  • How can you demonstrate curiosity about the subject?
  • Be genuine in your interest.
  • Demonstrate interest in materials related to your field that is outside of the classroom (other readings, films, books, conferences, classes outside of ISB).
  • Present relevant work experience.
  • Keep in mind your course of study!
How do your ISB courses relate to your chosen field of study?
  • Explain your course selection and how it ties into your chosen field of study.
  • How do the “secondary” subjects link to your area of interest?
What have you learned outside the classroom that is linked to your course or field of study?
  • How does your general experience prepare you for studying?
  • Demonstrate self-motivation, discipline and independence.
  • Explain how you have balance in your life.
  • Focus on recent events/activities (not from childhood).
  • Offer your willingness to face new opportunities and challenges.
  • Imbed the characteristic in a description rather than list characteristics you possess.
  • What qualities do you want the reader to associate with you?
  • Keep your course of study in mind. Be specific about how it ties in.
  • What volunteer work or activities have you done that highlight the characteristics you feel are necessary for your field of study?
What is your goal? Where do you hope that your university studies will lead you?
  • Refocus the reader to your chosen field of study.
  • Bridge together the pieces of information offered and your field of study.
  • Link personal experience or ambition to the course of study.

General Recommendations for Personal Statements and Essays

  • Start with a pre-write session. Brainstorm what you want the reader to know about you. Keep that handy. Refer back to it as you read your essay/statement over.
  • Read your essay aloud. Listen to the tone.
  • If given a prompt, answer the question—all parts of it!
  • Be specific! Avoid generalities!
  • Don’t write something that anyone could write. Demonstrate your understanding of the course of study, university or program!
  • Re-write, re-write, re-write!
  • Organize your paragraphs and worry about connecting sentences later.
  • Provide evidence of your ability, character or interests.
  • Don’t repeat material already in your application elsewhere.
  • Concentrate on substance not style!
Analyze your personal statement here

UK League Tables

League Tables are synonymous with rankings. The easiest tool for locating universities according to course, tariffs and locations is probably the 'trusted' Independent Guide. In the League Table by Subject, click on the Area of Study of interest. The League Table will tell you where the university ranks in a subject area compared to all UK universities with similar courses. To identify official IB entry requirements for each course you must visit UCAS.

Course Finder

In order to identify all the courses in your subject area and where in the UK you might find them try the CUG course chooser. You can also search by location! The Complete University Guide is indispensable.

EU residency status for UK universities

For more information about whether you are eligible for UK or EU tuition fees visit UKCISA‎.