New and reformed qualifications are being introduced in schools and colleges across the UK. Watch our videos and read our FAQs to find out more.

Qualification changes in the UK and their impact on the HE market

An introduction to qualification reform and how higher education providers are taking this into account.
  • Reformed A levels in England and Wales were first taught in September 2015. In England, the AS will be decoupled from the overall A level, so AS results will not contribute to the overall A level grade. As a result of this flexibility, we are beginning to see schools and colleges offer differing patterns of provision. Our surveys  Unpacking qualifications reform: UCAS AS and A level survey – January 2016 update (1.24 MB) and  UCAS' qualification provision survey 2017 (2.39 MB) provide an indication of the future level of AS provision in England. The AS will remain coupled in Wales.
  • Science A levels in England will have an additional grade that provides an indication of a student’s practical ability. In Wales and Northern Ireland, the assessment of practical skills will remain part of the overall grade and students will not receive an additional grade. Find out more in our  Science practical – quick guide (1.15 MB)
  • New A levels will be delivered in Northern Ireland from 2016. The AS will remain coupled in CCEA accredited A levels.
  • Fully reformed vocational qualifications will be delivered from 2016. The changes to these qualifications in England have been driven by changes to performance tables, and will see external and synoptic assessment embedded. Our  qualification provision survey 2017 (2.39 MB) explores the update of these new qualifications in English schools.
  • The Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland has allowed for greater flexibility in the provision of qualifications, leading to a more diverse pool of applicant profiles.

These changes have raised a number of queries about higher education applications, including how to enter qualifications, what to include in the reference, and how unis and colleges will consider applicants with diverse profiles of qualifications. 

Qualification reform: References

Find out about the information unis and colleges would like included in references in light of qualification reform.

You may also find our recently launched digital Qualification Information Profiles (QIPs) of use. Please see the QIPs section for more information.

We would like to know if QIPs are a helpful resource. If you have any suggestions or feedback, please email Ben Jordan, Senior Policy and Qualifications Manager:


Below are the most common questions we've received about qualification reform and how this may affect how an applicant applies to university or college.

A level

Qualification reform: The AS

The use of the AS qualification in the admissions process and how the HE sector is responding to reform to this qualification.


Qualification reform: Science practical

How the HE sector may view the science practical grade in the admissions process.

Science practical

Curriculum for Excellence

Qualification reform: GCSEs

How the HE sector is responding to GCSE reform in England.


Resits, reviews, and appeals

UCAS Tariff

We've produced a range of materials about the new Tariff including FAQs

Vocational qualifications

Feedback on qualification reform statements

An overview of responses universities and colleges have had to their qualification reform statements.

Providers' qualification reform statements

If your question is not answered above, please contact

Qualification reform: The EPQ

How the HE sector views the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).