Do I need to apply via UCAS as an international student?

One question we get asked regularly at Student Central is whether international students have to apply through UCAS for universities in the UK. In short, it depends on what level you want to study (foundation, undergradaute or postgaduate) and which universities you are interested in. There are also pros and cons related to applying via UCAS which we explore below.

What is UCAS?

UCAS stands for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It was set up in the 'pre-internet-age' to coordinate applications for undergraduate courses in the UK.

Here are some of the pros and cons of using UCAS as an international student:


• Some universities (including some top universities like Oxford, Cambridge and UCL) insist that undergraduate applicants apply via UCAS.

• You are able to apply to up to five universities with one application through UCAS.

• You don’t need to accept a course until you have received all your acceptance or rejection responses.

• Most private and international schools have college counsellors who are familiar with UCAS and can help their students.


• The UCAS application process is primarily designed around school leavers in the UK who wish to start their course in September.

• It is therefore focused on undergraduate courses and postgraduate courses do not usually accept applications via UCAS.

• You can only apply for courses starting in September.

• The UCAS process can take a long time (several months) and you may be waiting on the outcome of all your applications before you apply.

• The slow turn around time for UCAS applications can leave you rushing to sort out particular arrangements like visas, English language tests, travel and accommodation.

• The UCAS process can be complex and confusing so it's worth getting assistance from either your schoool or a registered UCAS centre.

If you are still not sure whether you should apply via UCAS, speak to the team at Student Central. We are a registered UCAS Centre and can advise you on the best route for your application whether that is via UCAS or direct to your chosen universities.

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Rachel Burgon
Co-Founder & CEO
Published on 22 July 2021
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