UCAS registered centre linked applications – undergraduate references

The following guidance is for completing undergraduate references for applicants who are linked to a UCAS registered centre.

Reference guidance

UCAS registered centre linked applications 

The reference helps to add context to a student’s application. References should be factual, specific, and concise.

There is a maximum of 4,000 characters within the reference; please note the character count includes spaces, section headings, and line breaks, all of which take up at least one character. This means that your entered text will need to be under 3,800 characters.  

There is a dynamic character count in the adviser portal which will show you the number of characters left in each section. This will include a count of the characters in the section headings.

Universities and colleges will receive the reference under the following section headings:

  • Establishment details
  • Extenuating circumstances
  • Other supportive information

Once you approve the reference in the adviser portal you will view the full reference with headings as received by the universities and colleges. 

References may include the following three sections:

Section 1: Enter a general statement about your school, college/centre

Section 1 FAQs

Section 2: If applicable, enter any information about extenuating circumstances which may have impacted the applicant's education and achievement

Section 2 FAQs

Section 3: Outline any other supportive information specific to the applicant and relevant to the course(s) applied for that you think universities/colleges should be aware of

Section 3 FAQs

Additional information and guidance

  • All references must be written in English. You will need to write in English, unless the applicant is applying to Welsh universities or colleges and the rest of their application is completed in Welsh – in which case the reference may, of course, be written in Welsh. 
  • When writing a reference for any applicant, including those outside the UK, please remember that – under the Data Protection Act 2018 – the applicant can ask for a copy of the reference and any other personal information we have about them
  • We recommend you inform universities and colleges of any changes to the applicant’s profile or circumstances that occur after the application is submitted to UCAS
  • We recommend you write in a word processor first and then copy and paste into the online application (but watch out for the character and line count – the word processor might get different values because it doesn’t count tabs or paragraphs). 
  • When you add into the online application, click ‘save’ regularly because it will time out after 35 minutes of inactivity. 
  • You can use some European characters in the reference. 
  • We recommend you save a copy of each reference you write for your records. There is now a bulk download function available in the adviser portal. 
  • Avoid repeating any of the information the student has given in their application, unless you want to comment on it, and avoid mentioning any university or college. 
  • There must be a completed reference on the application before it is sent to us.  
  • Once an application has been sent to UCAS we cannot return it and we cannot make changes to the reference or predicted grades. 

General FAQs

Reference resources

2025 entry undergraduate references

Watch our short video for advisers on updates to the 2025 undergraduate reference. 

Predicted grades

As part of the reference, you will be asked to provide predicted grades for those qualifications entered as ‘pending’ – see further specific guidance.  

If you are a referee and work in the school the applicant is applying from, the application will be available in the adviser portal – see how to input the reference in the adviser portal.

Reference processes and terminology

Understand the reference processes and terminology for independent, centre-linked, and reference-only applicants.