Universities and colleges set their own entry requirements for higher education courses, and these vary widely depending on the subject, the specific course, and the course provider. They set the entry requirements for each course to ensure you have the right skills and knowledge to successfully complete the course. These include:
- qualifications, subjects, and exam grades – usually A levels, Advanced Highers or equivalent-level qualifications, are sometimes converted into UCAS Tariff points. Most courses will also expect you to have some pre-16 qualifications, such as GCSE English and maths, or their equivalents
- your suitability – course descriptions often mention skills, interests, or experience it’s good to have, so look out for these details because applications can be quite competitive
- an admissions test – less common, but check the course requirements to see if you’ll need to sit one. Some tests are held the year before the course start date
- an interview – if you're invited to an interview, we'll let you know via Track after you've applied, but it might be worth doing some early preparation or putting together a portfolio if required
- further requirements – it’s possible there may be health, financial, or Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks, which check if you have a criminal record. This information will be set out in the course details, and we provide tips and guides to help you with these requirements
Contextual admissions and contextual offers
Universities and colleges know that your grades can be influenced by a range of factors, so to make the processes fairer, some unis offer something called contextual admissions. This is where the university considers any barriers you may face, and will either reduce their grade requirements or give extra consideration when deciding whether to give you an offer. Check out this blog for more information.
UCAS Tariff points
Some course providers use UCAS Tariff points in their entry requirements too. This is a points total achieved by converting qualifications (such as A levels) into points, making it simpler for universities and colleges to compare applicants. We provide lots of advice and useful tools to help you work out your points total.
International and EU students
Mature students (over 21)
Flexible and part-time students
Trainee teachers in Scotland
Entry requirements in Scotland
Courses at Scottish universities and colleges, starting in 2020, have two sets of entry requirements: standard and minimum.
Both reflect the grades you normally need to achieve by the time you start at the university or college. However, the minimum entry requirements only apply if you are considered to be a ‘widening access’ student.
What is a widening access student?
Universities and colleges aim to identify each applicant’s full talent and potential, and look beyond just your grades.
All universities and colleges have their own policies around widening access, but generally they include the following criteria:
- You’ve successfully completed a pre-entry programme.
- You live in a certain postcode. For example, you live in a low participation area, as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD).
- You attended a target school or college, where school performance is typically below average.
- You are a care leaver or have experience of living in care.
- You have refugee status, or you are an asylum seeker.
Check the university or college website to confirm its policy. They might have additional criteria you need to meet.
How do I make sure a university or college know I'm a widening access student?
It’s important to fully complete your UCAS application, as this is your opportunity to let your chosen university or college(s) know your circumstances. You can also use your personal statement to highlight any further information which might warrant special consideration. This could include individual circumstances – e.g. mature student, disability, widening access activities, or information about your school which may affect performance.
What does this mean for my application?
If you are a widening access student, look at the minimum entry requirements in the UCAS search tool. Universities and colleges may also consider you for additional support (financial or otherwise), either during the application process, or once you have enrolled.
Working towards entry requirements
If you’re currently studying for the required qualifications for your course, you’ll be given conditions to meet.
Depending on the number of applicants, and the course provider's benchmarks, these conditions may occasionally change from the initial recommendations. It’s therefore a good idea to apply for courses with higher and lower requirements, so you have different options should you need them.
International and EU students
Understanding qualification, subject, and grade requirements
Many universities and colleges set a combination of entry requirements. This could be a specific qualification, subject, or grade, or a certain grade in a certain subject (or subjects) relevant to the course you’re applying for.
Some universities and colleges use UCAS Tariff points in their entry requirements. This is a points total achieved by converting qualifications such as A levels (and many others) into points, making it easier for course providers to compare applicants.
Try not to worry if you can’t meet the exact requirements, or if your qualification isn’t listed in the course description, or on the UCAS Tariff. If you have something similar, you’ll probably still be considered – just contact the course provider to check.
What if I don't have the right qualifications?
Don’t worry – if you do not have these qualifications but can show you have relevant experience, skills, and aptitudes, you may still be considered. Just ask your chosen universities and colleges whether you can meet the entry requirements in a different way.
You could get accreditation for life and work experience:
- Accreditation of prior learning (APL) is essentially credit awarded for wider learning evidenced from self-directed study, work, or training.
- Accreditation prior experiential learning (APEL) is an extension of APL that includes assessed learning gained from life and work experience.
You could take an Access to HE course
Access to HE courses are designed for adults aged 19 and over without the necessary qualifications for entry to higher education. They prepare people for university-level study, meaning you can then go on to do a degree course. Here are some key things to know about Access courses:
- They are available in many different subjects, and widely recognised as ideal preparation for higher education for students who have been outside of formal education for some time, or have few qualifications from school.
- The course results in an Access to HE Diploma, a Level 3 qualification (the same level as A levels and Scottish Highers). The course is designed to provide a good foundation in the knowledge and skills required for studying at university level, so students are confident and well prepared when they go on to higher education.
- Access to HE courses are available across England and Wales. There is an Access to HE course in Northern Ireland (and universities in Northern Ireland have their own arrangements for access courses). A different scheme for access courses operates in Scotland, through the Scottish Wider Access Programme.
- When you search for courses, you may see Access courses listed in the entry requirements, but if not, the university or college might still accept one for a mature student.
Find out more on the Access to HE website.