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What if I don’t have the right qualifications for a degree I'm interested in?

Don’t feel the door is shut if you don’t quite meet the requirements for the uni course you’re interested in – there can be ways around it. Read on...

Whether you just missed out on a grade at GCSE or lack certain subjects or qualifications, you can still get to university if you’re willing to put some extra work in.

If you lack a particular GCSE…

Many university courses require you to have achieved at least a C in English, maths and science, so not getting the right grades can be problematic.

First, contact the universities you’re considering directly. Would they accept an application from you without that qualification? Is there a good reason why you underperformed in your GCSEs?

If you are a mature applicant, you might be exempt from the requirements. Contact the university directly, as there may be an alternative entry test it can arrange for you.

If you won’t be considered without the right grades, you’ll need to look into taking or re-taking that GCSE qualification. There are several ways of doing this – at a local college, at your own sixth form on top of your advanced level studies or even via a remote learning course.

If you lack a particular advanced level qualification…

Certain courses will ask for specific A-level or equivalent entry requirements – such as a pharmacy course typically requires qualifications (and the right grades) in chemistry, plus at least one from biology, maths and physics.

Choosing the right A-levels is the ideal route in. But to every rule, there are a handful of exceptions:

  • History: most courses will look for a history A-level or equivalent, but Durham and Glasgow Universities will consider you without it
  • Geography: most courses list geography A-level or equivalent in their entry requirements, but that’s not the case for either Oxford or Oxford Brookes Universities
  • Biology: most courses look for chemistry and biology, but Aston and Sussex Universities will consider you with just the latter
  • Engineering: Sussex University (mechanical engineering) and Leeds University (civil engineering) will consider you without physics A-level if you have maths.

(Correct at the time of writing see the Ucas website for the latest entry requirements.)

Universities also offer extended or foundation degrees – sometimes called Year 0 which let you convert to a different area of study completely, including engineering and medicine.

The other alternative is to bite the bullet: take (or re-take) the A-level you need to get in to the university course you really want to go for, and defer your application for a year.

If you have very few qualifications…

Local further education colleges, specialist CIFE colleges and distance learning providers (including the Open University in England) all offer a range of year-long Access to Higher Education courses (two years if taken part-time). These are designed to give people who didn’t get their qualifications at school a route into university and are normally set within a specific area of study, such as humanities, science or social sciences.

If you have been out of education for a long time you may be set some introductory tasks before you join.

Local advice for where you are:



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