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Student Guide: Studying in the United Kingdom

We encourage you to explore higher education opportunities in the United Kingdom (U.K.).

The United Kingdom, comprised of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, has more than 160 universities, including numerous institutions of global renown attracting students from around the world. The term “university," or “uni” for short, is a general way to refer to academic study leading to an undergraduate degree in the U.K.

You can explore higher education opportunities at undergraduate programs in the U.K. by searching BigFuture™ as well as by accessing resources from UCAS, the University and College Application Service for the U.K., and from the British Council. UCAS also provides a comprehensive listing of programs of study across institutions. To search for universities in the U.K. on BigFuture, click on the “Search for Colleges” button and filter by location.

Academic calendar

Universities and colleges in the U.K. usually follow a two-semester system, with the first semester often starting in September or October and then finishing in December, and the second starting in January and finishing in May or June. At universities in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, undergraduate degrees are typically three years in length, whereas degrees administered by universities in Scotland usually last four years.

Application timeline

A minority of very selective schools (University of Oxford and University of Cambridge) and professional degree programs in the U.K., such as medicine, veterinary sciences, and dentistry, have application deadlines of October 15. Some conservatory music, dance, drama/theater programs may have an audition or application deadline of October 1. Most other programs will normally have an initial deadline of January 15, however some programs may still accept applications until August through processes called UCAS Extra and UCAS Clearing. International application deadlines, however, are often left open later than January 15, and sometimes as late as June. So students coming from outside the U.K. should contact individual institutions for guidance after January 15.

Application process

Typically, you will select and apply to a specific course of study at a university or college, rather than selecting your course of study or academic major after enrolling at the institution. As a result, it is common for admissions requirements and academic prerequisites to vary by discipline or by academic faculty. Your admission offer will generally be for the specific discipline to which you apply, and the ability to transfer between disciplines is not as automatic as in some systems. U.K. institutions are generally clear about the specific academic qualifications that they expect from applicants. You are typically assessed on the following:

  • Academics: high school exams/grades/GPA and external standardized tests (e.g. SAT, AP)
  • Personal statement & reference
  • Language requirements (if applicable): external standardized English language proficiency tests (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL)
  • Additional requirements: interviews, portfolios, auditions, supplemental testing

The application itself can be completed through the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). The vast majority of U.K. universities and colleges use the UCAS service. When you apply through UCAS, you can select up to a maximum of five courses to apply to with the same application. Depending on whether your academic credentials, such as high school diploma and/or final AP Exam scores, have already been completed, you could be granted either a conditional or an unconditional offer of admission. If your credentials are incomplete at the time of application, U.K. admissions officers can base their decision on predicted grades and scores provided by your high school teacher or counselor as part of the application. Predicted scores or grades that are considered in the admissions process will lead to a conditional offer until they are confirmed.

In addition to UCAS, more than 25 universities in the U.K. also participate in The Common Application, an undergraduate admissions application platform used by more than 800 institutions worldwide. This is an option for you if you are already applying to universities outside the U.K.

How College Board programs, including SAT, SAT Subject Tests and AP Exam scores, provide opportunities at U.K. universities:

The vast majority of institutions in the U.K. accept SAT, SAT Subject Tests™, and/or AP Exam scores in their admissions process as a way to meet international qualification requirements for undergraduate programs.

Depending on your high school curriculum, AP scores may be expected or required by some (though not all) universities in the U.K. SAT Subject Tests can be substituted for AP Exam scores at some universities, particularly when combined with SAT scores. Even when not required, most U.K. universities have formal policies of how they use AP, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests in their admissions process. These credentials can be an excellent way to strengthen your application. For details on how a specific university uses AP, SAT, and SAT Subject Tests, you should view each university’s website or inquire directly with the university.

Note that you normally do not need to have already completed SAT or AP Exams by the application deadline in order to be eligible to apply, though you may be asked for predicted AP Exam scores depending on your other credentials. UCAS requires that you list any scores of exams that are completed, pending, or that you intend to take before the end of your final year of secondary school on your application. When the scores are ready, you can send them directly to the institution. For more information on how to send official test scores, see to send SAT and SAT Subject Test scores and to send AP scores.

Good news: You may be eligible for scholarship consideration at some universities based on your performance on the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP Exam results. Merit scholarships could be based in part on your test results alongside high school grades. Additionally, if you are a U.S. student, you may be able to use U.S. federal loans to finance your education at some U.K. universities. You should inquire directly with the institution whether they are eligible for these programs.

To learn more about institutions that accept and use SAT, SAT Subject Tests, and AP scores for admission, scholarship consideration, or academic placement and credit, use this link and filter by United Kingdom in the country field.

To register for the SAT or SAT Subject Tests visit Register for the SAT.
For information on AP courses & exams, visit AP Student.

Hear from students like you

Students from Switzerland and China were accepted by the University of Oxford in England by using their AP Exam scores. Read the full story.

Check out BigFuture profiles of U.K. institutions

With our College Search tool, you can check out individual university profiles based on what is most important to you. When you find a university that is a good fit for you, simply add it to your list. You can edit the list as you continue to explore new university profiles. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create a balanced college list.