Applying to a UK University: What Do You Need?

Is a personal statement all I need for applying to a UK university?  

Other than your qualifications and exam results, most university courses in the UK only require a personal statement along with your application. Read here for more information on personal statements.

Most courses at the majority of UK universities do not require anything more from applicants. However, some courses and universities will have additional requirements. These can include interviews, admissions tests, or academic transcripts.

The following is what you can generally expect. That said, you must also check carefully with the universities you are applying to for any additional requirements.

Will I have to go to an interview to get into a UK university?

The vast majority of UK university courses do not require an interview when you apply. However, some do. Oxford and Cambridge will almost always ask their applicants to do an interview regardless of which course. This also applies to Imperial College London and University College London (UCL).

There are some courses which other universities will often ask you to interview for as well. These include dentistry, primary education, nursing and medicine. Universities are also known to ask Music and Art & Design applicants for an interview. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) applicants will sometimes be interviewed depending on the popularity of the course that year and the individual university.

If unsure, you should check with the admissions department of the relevant universities.

For international students, often the university would like the applicant to attend the interview in person in the UK. This is especially true for Oxford and Cambridge. However, there is sometimes the option for an online interview. For instance, if there are extenuating circumstances or the applicant needing a visa to visit the UK. 

As of December 2020, current arrangements are for international students to be interviewed online. 

Are there any additional tests when applying to a UK university?

Some universities, notably Oxford and Cambridge, will wish applicants to take separate admissions tests in addition to the UCAS personal statement and school exams. These will likely take place on the same day as your interview, or at a test centre if you are applying from overseas. This would be under exam conditions. Degrees like medicine and law also have admissions tests for university such as UCAT, BMAT and LNAT.

For information on which test you have to do and what it involves, consult the university website or contact their admissions team. You can often prepare in advance for these tests and receive advice on how to prepare.

Do I need to submit any academic work when applying to a UK university? 

There are courses that will also ask you to submit a portfolio or transcript of your work. A portfolio contains examples of your creative work. As a result, you should always look very carefully into what the courses and universities you’re applying to will ask for. It can be good to talk this through with an advisor.

Some universities, for example Cambridge, might also ask you for an academic transcript, especially if you have non-UK academic qualifications from school. Usually, this transcript will be a document listing your grades and qualifications from your most recent two years of school. The university will tell you if they want an academic transcript after you have applied.

Degrees which might ask for a portfolio include: 

  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Design
  • Fashion and textiles
  • Graphic design
  • Illustration
  • Photography
  • Film and sound
  • Product design
  • Creative writing

A portfolio will show the university how your ideas and abilities have changed over time. You may be able to submit your portfolio digitally if you’re applying as an international student. Universities will ask for different things when it comes to a portfolio (if they ask you to make one). Therefore, it is important that you check the university’s requirements very carefully to make sure you do the right thing.

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