Can you get into university if you’re studying Btecs?
Don’t be put off applying to university if you’re taking Btecs rather than A-levels – more than 100,000 Btec students apply to UK universities each year. We spoke to a selection of Russell Group universities and the Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA) to find out what universities think of Btecs and how you can maximise your options.
Moving from Btecs to university study
There are two main pathways by which Btecs can provide progression on to university degrees:
- Btec level 3: this is the equivalent of studying A-levels and provides access to a degree programme in the first year.
- Btec level 4 HNC and level 5 HND: these often provide access to degree programmes in the second or final year of the course.
Do all universities accept Btecs?
Most universities and colleges in the UK accept Btec students, including competitive universities from the Russell Group. In 2017, over 25% of the students who started university had a Btec. That's compared with 18% back in 2010 and it's a ratio that's risen consistently since 2008.
Nearly all universities accept Btecs in relevant subject areas, similar to how they would with equivalent A-level qualifications.
Joe Woodcock, community manager at The Student Room and expert on post-16 qualifications says "Btecs are certainly a viable route for university progression, especially if you have a clear idea of what you want to study post-18.”
“In some cases, studying at least one Btec may help prepare you for university life, with a program of continuous coursework and research better mirroring university-style assessment than A-levels," Joe finishes.
And HELOA says that "Btec students can often be better prepared in terms of the independent studying that’s required at degree level, due to the portfolio-based nature of Btec courses."
"The time management and self-organisation you’ll pick up on a Btec course can also give you an added edge," HELOA adds.
How do Btec university applicants compare to A-level applicants?
Although A-levels remain the most popular route to university, there are still plenty of Btec applicants too – including students who’ve taken a combination of both qualifications.
At the University of Sheffield, undergraduate admissions manager Tony Flaherty comments that “we have certainly seen an increase in Btec students at the University of Sheffield over the past few years with our experience being that they successfully transition into higher education with us.”
Dawn Bell, senior undergraduate admissions manager at Newcastle University says that the “numbers of Btec applicants are much smaller than A-levels, although there are also significant numbers of applicants who present with a mixed qualification profile.”
Rosalyn Dobrzanski, head of admissions (Ucas/UTT) at the University of Nottingham shares that “the number of Btec applicants in comparison to A-level applicants differs greatly by subject. We get applicants who have the Btec Extended Diploma but we also get many applicants who may have a combination of Btec qualifications and A-level qualifications.”
And when it comes to how applicants with different qualifications compare, the Russell Group universities we spoke to emphasise that the most important thing is that they meet the course criteria, regardless of which qualifications they’re taking.
At Newcastle University everyone is “considered against the entry criteria of the individual course and in particular to confirm that the subject requirements are met where this is needed,” Dawn explains.
At the University of Nottingham, “all applicants are treated on their individual merits in light of the qualifications and subjects they are taking,” Rosalyn comments.
And the University of Sheffield’s policy is to treat all applicants “fairly and consistently, and therefore we wouldn’t view Btec applicants any differently than those presenting A-levels,” Tony says.
Things to consider if you’re taking Btecs
Btec students aren't at a disadvantage when it comes to applying to university: "Btec students achieving good grades are just as sought after as students with good A-level results," HELOA explains.
Find out more about taking A-levels vs Btecs in this article.
And here’s how to maximise your opportunity and widen your options even further:
Take a close look at course entry requirements
It is important to research, as early as possible, what the entry requirements are for university courses you’re interested in. This way, if you need to do anything extra to fulfil the entry requirements, you have time to do so.
For some Btec students studying at National Diploma level, it might be that you are required to study an additional A-level, or equivalent, in order to meet the minimum Ucas points or specific grades offered. This is in the same way that an A-level student may need to have taken a certain number of A-levels, or studied particular subjects in order to get on to a course.
Dawn Bell, senior undergraduate admissions manager at Newcastle University, advises that “applicants should check the full requirements of any course they are applying for and contact us to confirm that the Btec being studied/considered for study would meet these if in any doubt.”
“We would encourage potential applicants to consider choices at the earliest possible stage so that they can decide if a Btec qualification will meet what is needed or if options for any additional or different Level 3 qualifications might be advisable,” Dawn says.
And at the University of Nottingham, Rosalyn Dobrzanski, Head of Admissions (Ucas/UTT), reminds applicants that as well as making sure their Btec will be accepted, they should also check which “particular modules are required”.
Find out more about studying a Btec alongside A-levels in this article.
It’s a good idea to get in touch with the university directly if you’re not sure of their Btec entry criteria. This can vary from one course to the next at a university and it’s always best to check if you’re unclear.
Do wider research about the university too
As well as researching the course, the University of Sheffield’s undergraduate admissions officer, Tony Flaherty, suggests that applicants “fully research and engage with your preferred universities to inform your choice,” covering everything from “subject, course, entry requirements and departments”.
Doing this wider level of research “enables you to demonstrate a more rounded understanding of the subject/course in your personal statement,” Tony adds.
Mention your practical experience on your personal statement
"Btec students have the experience of real-life practical tasks and work placements. This will set you aside from students studying A-levels, who don’t usually have this element as a part of their course," HELOA explains.
"For a subject such as health and social care, the work placements in areas such as childcare or healthcare settings can make for strong and well-rounded applications to courses including nursing, social work or health and social care degrees," comments HELOA.
Your subject options are flexible
It’s also important to note that, as with A-levels, there are many transferable opportunities in terms of subjects – what you study at Btec won’t necessarily dictate the exact subject you study at university. If you have studied for a Btec in one subject area, you can apply for a different subject at university.
For example, studying an applied science Btec can lead on to programmes such as:
Which Russell Group universities accept Btecs?
There are 24 universities in the Russell Group – here's what each one's official stance is on accepting undergraduate Btec students in general. Bear in mind that the specific requirements will vary depending on the course, so it's always worth checking the university's website or speaking to their admissions department.
- University of Birmingham: accepts Btec applicants on many of its courses (University of Birmingham courses)
- University of Bristol: accepts Btec applicants. For some subjects, it may ask for Distinctions in particular units or for an additional A-level.
- University of Cambridge: the University of Cambridge would not accept a Btec in place of the required A-levels – the university advises potential applicants taking a mix of qualifications to speak to a college admissions tutor to find out more.
- Cardiff University: accepts Btec applicants on many of its courses, although you may also need A-levels.
- Durham University: accepts Btec applicants on many of its courses (Durham University courses)
- University of Edinburgh: accepts Btec applicants who have taken certain subjects.
- University of Exeter: accepts Btec applicants.
- University of Glasgow: accepts Btec applicants who have taken certain subjects (University of Glasgow courses)
- Imperial College London: does not accept Btec applicants.
- King's College London: will accept Btec applicants for the majority of its courses, but for most of them applicants will also need to have taken certain A-levels.
- University of Leeds: accepts Btec applicants on may of it courses, but may need to also have other qualifications depending on the course.
- University of Liverpool: accepts Btec applicants, but some courses may also require an A-level (University of Liverpool courses)
- London School of Economics and Political Science: accepts Btec applicants on many of its courses, but may also require A-levels
- University of Manchester: accepts Btec applicants provided they're taking a subject relevant to the chosen course.
- Newcastle University: accepts Btec applicants.
- University of Nottingham: accepts Btec applicants on most of its courses.
- University of Oxford: accepts Btec applicants if they have also taken A-levels.
- Queen Mary University of London: accepts Btec applicants on the majority of its courses.
- Queen's University Belfast: accepts Btec applicants on many of its courses.
- University of Sheffield: accepts Btec applicants.
- University of Southampton: accepts Btec applicants.
- University College London: accepts Btec applicants.
- University of Warwick: Btec applicants will be considered on an individual basis. Btecs may be acceptable on their own or together with other qualifications depending on the course.
- University of York: accepts Btec applicants, but may ask for an additional A-level.