UCAS terms explained

We use quite a few terms in the application process. We’ve explained them all here, if you need to check what any mean.

Confused by UCAS terms?

Watch our quick video guide for an explanation of the UCAS terms you'll hear.

Adviser – someone who provides you with information, advice, and support with your application. This could be a teacher, tutor, counsellor, or agent.

Agent – also known as or consultants or educational advisers, agents are representatives from around the world who represent UK universities and colleges, English language centres, or independent boarding schools. They typically have a contractual relationship with one or more course providers who pay them commission for each student placed on their courses.

Buzzword – for UCAS Undergraduate applications, your school, college, or centre will give you a buzzword so you can link your application to them. It's a word you add to your application when you register to make a UCAS Undergraduate application (unless you're applying independently).

Centre – a school, college, or organisation that can help students apply to higher education.

Changed course offer – in your application, you might get one of these if you haven’t met your conditions, or if the university or college has made changes to the courses they run. It might involve a different start date or point of entry, or a different course altogether.

Choice – a choice is a course you apply for on your application – many students make multiple choices to increase their chances of getting a place.

Clearing – in a UCAS Undergraduate application, Clearing is another service you can use to look for alternative courses. If you didn’t get a place on a course – whether you didn’t receive offers, declined your offers, or didn’t get the grades you needed – Clearing allows you to apply for courses that still have vacancies.

College – a provider of further and higher education. When we use the term 'uni' or 'university', this is often a generic reference that incorporates colleges too. For example, when we say 'applying to university', we mean 'applying to university or college', but in a more concise way.

Conditional offer – in your application, an offer of a place on a course subject to conditions. To be accepted on the course, you’ll need to meet the conditions – usually related to your exam results. This is a common type of offer for students applying directly from further education.

Confirmation – in your application, the outcome of a conditional offer you’ve accepted. If you meet the conditions, your place will be made unconditional (meaning you’ve got a place on the course) – if not, the offer will be declined.

Conservatoire – a provider of performance-based music, dance, screen, and drama courses.

Contextual admissions/offers – when a university takes your personal circumstances into account when making you an offer – this might be a reduced or adjusted offer (e.g. an offer which is a grade or two lower than the advertised entry requirements) or other support (e.g. a guaranteed interview).

Course – there are many different courses across different levels, subjects, and locations – from foundation degrees to PhDs.

Course and training providers – a university, college, conservatoire, School Direct school, or other provider offering higher education courses.

Deferral – in your application, this is what you do if you’d like to carry an offer over to start it in the following academic year. 

Entry requirements – this is what the course provider recommends you need to do/have to get on the course – from qualifications and specific subjects or grades, to interviews, admissions tests, and medical requirements. You aren't guaranteed an offer if you meet or already have these.

Extra – in a UCAS Undergraduate application, Extra is a service you can use to apply for alternative places if you do not hold an offer from your first five choices.

Fresher – slang term for students in their first year of university.

Firm choice – in your application, an offer you accept as your first choice.

Further education (FE) – the level of education you complete at school or college before you start higher education.

Gap year – a year typically taken after completion of secondary-level qualifications before starting a higher education course. During this year, students often travel, volunteer, or complete work experience.

Graduate – a student who has completed and graduated from an undergraduate course – they can now apply for postgraduate courses if they’d like to.

HEP – a higher education provider – a university, college, or conservatoire.

Higher education (HE) – the level of education we can help you apply to – from undergraduate courses when you’ve finished further education, to postgraduate courses you can move on to after graduating from an undergraduate degree.

Insurance choice – in your application, an offer you accept as your second choice – just in case you don’t meet the conditions of your firm offer.

Invitation – in your application, you may receive an invitation from a university or college asking you to attend an interview or audition, or to provide a portfolio, essay, or another piece of work.

League tables – rankings of course providers – these can be an overall ranking, or listed by reputation, courses, or departments.

Personal ID or UCAS ID – the ten-digit number you get when you begin an application – displayed in 123-456-7890 format on every email we send you. You’ll be asked for this if you get in touch with our Customer Experience Centre. Note: This number is not generated until you start an application.

Personal statement – a piece of text applicants write to show why they’re applying and why they’d be a great student for a course provider to accept.

Point of entry – in your application, which year of the course you start at – for example ‘2’ means you’d start in the second year of the course.

Postgraduate – higher education study for graduates who have already completed an undergraduate course.

Predicted grades – the grades a teacher, tutor, or other adviser qualified to remark on a student’s academic suitability believes they will achieve when they complete their secondary qualification.

Referee – in your application, someone who provides a reference for you.

Reference – in your application, a recommendation on an applicant’s application from a teacher, adviser, or professional.

Sandwich course – a course with an additional year where you work in the profession you're studying for.

Scheme code – in your application, this is used along with your Personal ID to identify your application.

Tariff – the UCAS Tariff is the system for allocating points to the different qualifications you can use to get into undergraduate higher education. Not all qualifications will be included in the Tariff. It is for use in admissions only and is not transferable to the job market.

Transcript – an offical or unofficial academic record produced by a school, college, university, or awarding body.

UCAS – the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the UK.  

UCAS Conservatoires – the name of the application service for performance-based courses.

UCAS Hub – the place to search, save, and review options – as well as apply for courses and track your application.

Unconditional offer – in your application, an offer of a place on a course with no conditions – the place is yours if you want it.

Undergraduate – the first level of study in higher education. If you graduate from an undergraduate degree, you can move on to postgraduate study.

University – (or ‘uni’ for short) – a provider of higher education.

Unsuccessful – in your application, either you haven’t been made an offer or you haven’t met the conditions of a conditional offer.

Withdrawal – in your application, before the decision has been made to make you an offer or not, either you or the university or college can withdraw a choice.


A level – The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level (GCE A level, or more commonly, the A level), is an academic qualification taken in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland by students completing further education (secondary or pre-university education).

AS level – the common term for the Advanced Subsidiary or first part of a full A level qualification.

Advanced Higher – an SCQF Level 7 academic qualification taken by students aged 16 – 18 in Scotland, usually after completing their Highers. Not all students in Scotland take Advanced Highers.

Bachelor's degree – a three or four year course you can take in undergraduate higher education after you’ve finished further education – also known as a ‘first degree’ or ‘undergraduate degree’. Most courses are either a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.

BA – a common abbreviation for a Bachelor of Arts degree.

CertHE – a Certificate of Higher Education is a higher education qualification offered in the UK, typically taking one year (full-time) or two years (part-time) study to complete.

DipHE – a Diploma in Higher Education is a higher education qualification offered in the UK, and generally awarded after two years of full-time study at a university or higher education provider.

First class honours – Most UK course providers use a degree classification system. First class honours, or a ‘first’, is the highest level degree classification awarded.

GCSE – the abbreviated term for the General Certificate of Secondary Education – an academic qualification taken by students aged 14–16 in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Higher – an SCQF Level 6 academic qualification, usually taken by students aged 16 –18, and the main qualification used by students in Scotland to progress to higher education. Students may also progress on to an Advanced Higher after they have completed their Higher.

Higher National Certificate (HNC) – a vocationally-focused higher education qualification offered in the UK, usually taking one year to complete, and roughly equivalent to one year of university study.

Higher National Diploma (HND) – a vocationally-focused higher education qualification offered in the UK. Completion of an HND is considered equivalent to the second year of a three year degree course, and can often be used to gain entry to a university course.

Honours – for example an ‘honours degree’. Most first degrees in higher education can come with ‘honours’. It’s not a grade as such – it just means it’s possible to get your degree ‘with honours’, which would be an extra indication of quality. Check what you need to do to get honours – it might be getting a certain grade or submitting a good dissertation.

MA – the abbreviation for Master of Arts, which can mean two different things. Often it stands for Master of Arts, a postgraduate-level qualification. It can also be an undergraduate degree studied at one of the UK’s ancient universities, such as the universities of St. Andrews, Oxford, and Cambridge.

National 4 and 5 – academic qualifications taken by students aged 14 –16 in Scotland.

Ordinary degree – generally a degree passed without honours. Some universities offer ordinary degree courses in their own right. Ordinary degrees can also be awarded to those students who do complete an honours degree course, but without achieving the conditions required to gain ‘honours’.

Postgraduate research (PGR) – a research-intensive higher education course for graduates who have already completed an undergraduate course.

Postgraduate taught (PGT) – a higher education course for graduates who have already completed an undergraduate course – often including a variety of coursework, lectures, and seminars, etc., as well as a supervised dissertation, project, or thesis.

Sandwich course – the year of a course where you work in the profession you’re studying for.

Second class honours – most UK universities and colleges use a degree classification system. The highest level is commonly called a ‘first’, with second class honours broken down into two further classifications – upper division (or 2:1), and lower division (2:2). A 2:1 – or upper second class honours – classification is often required for entry into many postgraduate courses in the UK.

Third class honours – most UK universities and colleges use a degree classification system. Third class honours is typically the lowest degree classification awarded by UK universities and colleges.