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Applying to UK universities

For international students, applying to UK universities can seem like a daunting exercise, but this is not the case.

As long as you give yourself enough time, the process is simple, and you should hopefully come out of it with a place at the UK university of your choice.

You need to be aware however, that there are different application routes depending on whether you are applying for an undergraduate degree, a postgraduate degree or other courses.

Undergraduate applications

There are two main ways that you can apply to universities for undergraduate places through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) - either via a paper application form or online using the UCAS international apply system [new window].

International students can often find the forms at their schools and colleges, but if this is causing a problem then you can order them from the UCAS website [new window] or ask at your local British Council [new window] office.

With the form you will be given a leaflet that is a guideline as to how to complete the form; read this carefully and follow its hints and it will make the process much easier. This is also available online. Again, if anything is unclear organisations such as UCAS will be happy to help you make sense of it all.

Although there are slight differences between those who apply from EU countries and those who do not, deadlines are very similar between the two.

Clearing

Clearing [new window] is a service that allows students to find suitable places on courses that are not yet full, but it is luck of the draw as to whether a place will come up that is of interest to you. With that in mind, remember that the earlier you can send in your completed application form, the better chance you have of getting your first choice.

Students from outside of the EU still need to apply via UCAS, but their applications are often passed on to the universities quite early and so you should aim to send the completed information in as soon as you can.

Deadlines

If possible, all students should aim to get their applications in by January of the year that they hope to begin their studies. The longer you leave it, the less chance you have of getting your first choice place, but you can still be consider for a place up until June. If you don't hand your form in by then, then your only option is Clearing.

Postgraduate and other applications

If applying for anything other than an undergraduate course you often have to contact the institutions directly. "There is no centralised system for postgrad courses - anyone interested in studying on a postgrad course would need to contact the university or college directly," the UCAS spokesperson told the IET.

Application deadlines for acceptance on these courses will differ according to the institution and course you are applying for. It is best to contact each university as quickly as you can to find out when their application deadlines are. In many cases, these courses fill their places quickly, so you should aim to apply around October or November of the year before you would like to start studying, and no later than April of the same year, although some courses will accept applications up until August.

Research students are able to begin their studies at any point in the year with the agreement of a supervisor, and so therefore can apply at any stage, making life much simpler, with no particular deadlines to meet!