Applying through Ucas: important terms explained

Submitted by grace.mccabe on Mon, 01/23/2023 - 08:32

Once you have chosen where you want to study from the best universities in the UK, you will go through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) to send your application. As you go through the process you will see lots of terms, phrases and steps that may not all be familiar to you, so here are the important Ucas terms you may need to know.

Ucas terminology 



Advanced Higher 

A level 7 academic qualification and the Scottish equivalent to A levels. It is usually taken by students aged 16 to 18 after completing their Highers. It is not a compulsory level so not all students will sit an Advanced Higher level. 


A person who can give you information or advice and support you as you apply to university. For most applicants, this person is a teacher, tutor, counsellor or agent. 


This person can also be referred to as a consultant or education adviser. They represent UK universities, colleges, English language centres or independent boarding schools around the world. They are usually contracted by one or more course provider who pay them a commission for each student who joins their course. 

A level 

An academic qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its full name is The General Certificate of Education Advanced Level, sometimes called the GCE A level but more commonly known as A level. This is completed by students who want to study further at the tertiary or university level. 

AS level 

Common term for the Advanced Subsidiary, which is the first part of the A level qualification. 


Common abbreviation for a Bachelor of Arts degree. 

Bachelor’s degree 

A three or four-year course, also known as an undergraduate degree and the first degree you’ll complete when you start university. Most courses offered at university in the UK are either Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees. 


When you start your Ucas undergraduate applications you will need to link your application to the school, college or centre that is supporting you. To do this they will give you a word that will link your application profile to them. You do not need this if you are applying independently. 


A college, school or centre that can help you during your application to university. 


This stands for Certificate of Higher Education. Students who achieve this level have completed a one-year full-time course or a part-time course, usually taken over two years at high school. It is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree.

Changed course offer 

If you have not met the conditions of your offer or your university has made changes to the course, you may receive this response to your application. It could mean a different start date or point of entry or even a completely different course. 


If you’re applying to an undergraduate degree, you can use this service once you have received your results to look for alternative courses. You may consider this if you didn’t get an offer or the grades you needed or if you want a different course to consider you after the deadline for submission has passed. Clearing will let you apply to courses that still have places available. 


An institution that provides further and higher education. If students choose to attend college, they will usually do this before going to university.   

Conditional offer 

You have been offered a place at university, but you must meet some conditions to secure it, usually related to exam results. This a common type of offer for prospective undergraduates who don’t yet have their final exam results.


You have met the conditions of your offer and received your place. 


An institution that offers courses in performance, such as dance, music or drama. 


The level and subject you are going to study, ranging from foundation degree to PhD.   

Course and training providers 

An institution that offers higher education courses. This can be a university, college, conservatoire school, School Direct school or private provider.


The decision to start you degree the following academic year instead of straight away. 


A qualification awarded after two years of full-time study at a university or higher education provider. It stands for Diploma in Higher Education. 

Entry requirements 

The qualifications, subjects, grades and test results required to enter a specific course. Remember, even if you have all these your offer is still not guaranteed. 


A Ucas service allowing you to apply for alternative places if you do not have an offer from your first five choices. 


A slang word for university students in their first year. 

Firm choice 

The university or course offer you accept as your first choice. 

First-class honours 

Most HE providers in the UK use a class system for degree awards. A first-class honour is the highest level you can achieve. It is also known as a “first”. 

Further education 

A level of education completed at school or college as a precursor or alternative to a university degree. It can include technical and practical qualifications such as hairdressing, plumbing or social care.

Gap year 

A year that some students take between completing secondary school and starting university. Students can travel, work or volunteer during this time. 


The General Certificate of Secondary Education is an academic qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sat by students aged 14 to 16. 


A student who has completed and passed an undergraduate course. Once you are a graduate you can apply for postgraduate courses if you wish to continue in higher education. 


Higher education provider such as a university, college or conservatoire. 


A Scottish level 6 qualification taken by students aged 16 to 18 (equivalent to AS levels in England, Wales and Northern Ireland). This is the first year of the two-year Advanced Higher (the main qualification students sit to achieve a place in higher education).

Higher education (HE) 

University-level education, including undergraduate, postgraduate, master’s and PhD courses.

Higher National Certificate (HNC) 

A qualification in the UK that is vocationally focused and takes approximately one year to complete. It is equivalent to the first year of university and can be used to get a place on a second-year university course.

Higher National Diploma (HND) 

A vocationally focused qualification in the UK. It is equivalent to the second year of a three-year university degree and can be used to enter a third-year university course.


Most first degrees come with an option to achieve an honours level, usually through achieving consistently high grades throughout your degree.

Insurance choice 

Your second choice of course if you do not get an offer or meet the conditions of your first choice.


When a university asks you to attend an interview or audition, or to supply a portfolio, essay or another piece of work. 

League table 

A ranking of course providers by reputation, courses etc. You can see our Best universities in the UK here. 


A Master of Arts degree. At universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this is a postgraduate qualification but is an undergraduate qualification at Scottish universities. 

National 5 

The academic qualification in Scotland taken by students aged 14 to 16 (broadly equivalent to GCSEs elsewhere).

Ordinary degree 

A degree passed without reaching the conditions to receive an honours classification or a degree course offered without honours from the start.

Personal ID or Ucas ID 

The 10-digit number you receive when you start your Ucas application. It will be included on all Ucas emails, and you must use this number whenever you contact them. 

Personal statement 

A short essay describing yourself and your strengths that is sent to the universities on your application. 

Point of entry 

The year when you will start your course.  


A degree available to students who have completed an undergraduate degree. 

Postgraduate research (PGR) 

A research-based course for graduates who have previously completed an undergraduate degree. 

Postgraduate taught (PGT) 

A taught course for graduates who have previously completed an undergraduate course, which includes a combination of coursework, lectures, seminars, etc, as well as a supervised dissertation or project. 

Predicted grades 

Grades that a teacher, tutor or other adviser thinks a student will achieve based on their earlier academic performance.


A person who supplies a reference for you. 


A recommendation about you, your academic and personal potential, usually written by a teacher, adviser or professional. 

Sandwich course 

A course where you spend an extra year working in your chosen profession as part of your studies. 

Scheme code 

Used with your personal ID to find your application on Ucas. 

Second-class honours 

The second-highest level you can achieve at a UK university. Second-class honours is broken down into two further classifications – upper (2:1) and lower (2:2). A 2:1 – or upper second-class honours is usually the lowest grade recommended for postgraduate study.


The Ucas system of allocating points for students’ qualifications. This is assigned to your school grades but can also include outside interests such as sport, or in-school achievements such as being head boy or girl. 

Third-class honours 

Typically the lowest degree classification you can achieve at a UK university. 


An academic record provided by a school, college, university or awarding body that sums up your grades throughout your time there.


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. It is the central system used to apply to universities in the UK. 

Ucas Conservatoires 

The application service for courses in performance-based subjects or institutions. 

Ucas Hub 

The main area where you can search, save and review your application options and start applying to your choices.

Ucas Postgraduate 

The Ucas application service for postgraduate courses. 

Unconditional offer 

An offer of a HE place with no further requirements and if you accept your place will be confirmed at once. 


The first level of study in higher education.

University (or uni) 

A provider of higher education courses. 


An application that received no offers or did not meet the set requirements. 


When a university or college removes a choice before an offer has been made. 

Now that you understand all the important terms, why not start working on an original personal statement to help your application stand out. 


University applications have many steps so it’s important to know what all the relevant terms mean 

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