References for UCAS Undergraduate applications

How you get a reference for your application depends on if you’re applying individually, or through a school, college, or a centre registered with UCAS.

How to choose a referee

If possible, they should be someone who knows you academically and can talk about your work ethic, interaction with other students and your suitability for higher education or a future career.

  • In a current or recent school or college, ask your tutor, teacher, principal or head teacher.
  • If you left education years ago, ask an employer, volunteering supervisor or trainer.
  • Don’t ask family, friends, partners or ex-partners though – if you do your application may be cancelled.

Only one reference is required on the UCAS Undergraduate application. If you want your uni or college to see more than one, you'll need to contact them and ask if an additional reference can be sent directly.

Applying through UCAS Conservatoires? The reference process is different – find out how to get references for UCAS Conservatoires.

How the reference should be written

Here’s an overview, so you know what to discuss with your referee.  

  • It must be a full reference, written by your referee online in the reference section of your application, in English (or Welsh if you’re applying for courses in Wales).
  • It might include your career goals and work experience – so talk these through with them first – as well as how well you’ve done in specific modules or course components.
  • If your referee is one of your teachers, they can add your predicted grades for any pending qualifications you’re studying now.
  • With your permission, the reference could include circumstances that have affected your academic work or achievements, such as a personal problem, illness, or any individual needs you have. This may include any adverse impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on your studies or assessments due to illness, personal circumstances, or challenges with learning at home.

Have you been asked to be a referee?

Please see our advice for how to provide a reference and what to include.