What are university entry requirements?
So you’ve found a degree course that ticks all the boxes and you’re ready to put it down as one of your five Ucas choices. But what about its entry requirements?
These university entry requirements (sometimes referred to as Ucas entry requirements) are effectively a set of boxes that you need to be able to tick. If you meet the required level for each item on the list, you're in the running for a place on the course.
Each university will set these entry requirements for each of its courses; the general idea being that they are set at a level where the university can then feel confident you'll be able to cope with the demands of the course.
Why are entry requirements important?The entry requirements should be pretty much the first thing you look at when you're researching university courses. You need to meet these requirements in order to get a place on the course, so there's not much point focusing on courses where the requirements are out of reach.
With thousands of courses to choose from, you can use entry requirements to quickly prioritise possible Ucas choices to research in more detail. Our course search tool has a neat feature that enables you to do exactly that.
Read more: what degree, subject or course should I study at university?
What could an entry requirement be?There are various types of university entry requirements. First, the main one...
QualificationsWhat grades have you got? What grades are you expecting? Universities will look at what you've been studying since your GCSEs (or equivalent), as this is going to be the most recent evidence of your academic performance before starting university.
Grades will be the main thing here - either grades you have already achieved or those that your teachers or tutors have predicted for you. But it's not just grades that matter. Depending on the course and university, there may be qualification preferences (eg A-levels vs Btecs). You might need to have studied a specific subject (or subjects), perhaps with minimum grades in these. Some unis might be less likely to consider grades achieved through retakes.
Common qualifications students apply with include:
- T levels
- Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers
- Welsh Baccalaureate / Baccalaureate Wales
- International Baccalaureate
What do universities look for other than grades?
Ucas pointsIt's really the same thing, but some universities will measure academic performance in terms of Ucas points rather than grades. These points are a way for university staff to measure scores and grades across qualifications, Every grade for every included qualification is worth a set number of points; higher grades get higher amounts of points and you need a defined number of points to get on the course.
We've got a detailed feature about the Ucas tariff where you can find out more about this.
It's common for GCSEs in English and maths to be asked for as part of a university's entry requirements. Most universities will look for at least a 4 (sometimes a 5) at GCSE in these subjects.
Specific courses may also ask for minimum grades in certain relevant GCSE subjects, while competitive courses will look for strong GCSE results as an indicator of your academic ability.
These exams typically test your aptitude and other natural skills that would make you a suitable student for that university or course.
- Find out more about the different admissions tests: see what you need to take, plus more about what they involve.
A few universities – including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London – interview most or all of their applicants. Elsewhere, some subjects are more likely than others to interview applicants. This can vary from one university to another.
Where a course receives a high number of eligible applicants, admissions tutors may call you in for an interview. This is so they can meet you and fill in the picture they've painted of you from your personal statement, to help them make their decision.
AuditionsIf you're applying to a performing arts course like drama or music, you'll almost certainly need to audition once the university has considered your application.
The university will provide some guidance on your audition piece and key things you should demonstrate on the day. The rest is up to you!
Read more: learn all about university auditions, including tips to nail yours.
PortfoliosIf you're applying to a creative arts course, like fine art or photography, you'll probably need to compile a portfolio of your work, either from work you've completed in school or in your free time.
The university will tell you whether you need to simply submit this online, deliver it in person or even present this to a tutor. If you do go to the university, there may also be an interview element, either one-on-one or in a group.
- Read more: get tips to put your portfolio together
Can I apply to a university if I don't meet its entry requirements?
If you feel like you can achieve better results than you were predicted, you could include a course with higher entry requirements as one of your course choices – but this can be a risky tactic, especially if it's for a very competitive course such as medicine.
Find out more about the kind of circumstances where there might be more flexibilty around entry requirements in this article, and take a look at this article for steps to take if you don't have the right qualifications for the degree you want to do.
Can I apply to university without A-levels or equivalent qualifications?
There are alternative routes to university if you don't hold traditional A-levels, for example if you want to return to education after taking time away.
Two of the most common paths are Access to Higher Education Diplomas (often referred to as 'Access courses') and foundation years.
Access to Higher Education Diplomas are available for a wide variety of subjects, with flexible learning options to juggle around other commitments (eg full-time or part-time work, children etc). They're usually offered by local colleges. You can check what a university course's Access requirements are on our course profiles – simply search for a course, click on a profile and select from the entry requirements drop-down to see if they accept this qualification.
Meanwhile, foundation years are offered by universities to help students fill in any gaps in their knowledge, so they can progress on to a full degree course. They might be a good option if you're not sure you want to commit to a particular subject for three years. They're also a worthwhile option if you're stepping back into an education environment and want a taste of university-style learning (and the life that comes with it).
Which universities and courses have low entry requirements?
You can find university courses with lower entry requirements with our course search.
Type in your chosen subject or course, and select a lower range of A-level/SQA Highers/Ucas points before clicking 'Search'. You'll then be presented with courses that meet those requirements. This can narrow down your search quickly.
If your predicted grades just miss the entry grades stated here, it might still be worth getting in touch with the university to find out if they would consider you. Depending on how many applications they receive, you might be in luck (especially if your personal statement impresses them, for instance).
Note, a university can change their entry requirements for a course at any time (though they don't often change these, nor do they change these drastically when they do). If you're unsure of what a university's entry requirements are, check again here or on the university's official website.
Further help understanding entry requirements
Dig deeper into a course's entry requirements: search for a course and read the course profile to see what qualifications, grades and extra requirements it asks for. You can compare this against the A-level subjects and grades or Ucas points achieved by previous cohorts of students on that course – will a university still accept you if you fall short of what it advertises?
Got a degree subject in mind? See what A-levels you need: pick the subject you want to study at university and find out what A-level subjects you absolutely must have, plus those that can’t hurt your chances.
Get degree ideas fast, match your A-level subjects to possibilities: use our A-level Explorer to see all your degree subject possibilities, based on students who took the same A-level subjects as you, and what they went on to study.