If you wish to study at a UK University it is helpful to know about the different entry routes that might be available to you.  

The most common entry route for UK University study is A-Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), or your Country’s equivalent High School Leaver qualification(s). A-Levels or equivalent are, however, only one of the routes, or ‘pathways’, to University study: many UK Universities have flexible entry requirements. As such they consider other qualifications, or prior higher education study, as being equivalent to A-Levels. In addition to these entry qualifications you may need to complete a Pre-Sessional English Language course or provide evidence your English Language is up to the required standard. 

Some of the most common entry ‘pathways’ are explained below.  You should check whether your chosen course or UK University accepts some or all of these ‘pathways’ for entry. It may also be the case that you can join a ‘pathway’ that is already a component of the course that you plan to study in the UK. Remember You may also require proof of a certain level of competence in English language ability; for example, an IELTS certificate.

After completion and satisfactory fulfilment of the entry requirements, the student can apply to study in the UK: 

You have achieved qualifying entry qualifications such as: A-Level, IB, or Equivalent School Leaver Certificates:

The standard entry requirement, or ‘pathway’ for many UK University courses is either: A-Levels, International Baccalaureate, or your own Country’s equivalent certificate(s). UK Universities vary in the pass grades and/or number of subjects they require; and for specific courses you may need to have passed certain subjects at a specified grade. Make sure you check this when applying for study. Depending on your level of English you may also need to pass a Pre-Sessional English Course.  

Previous Study at University or Higher Education College outside the UK:

If you have already completed some study at a University or College in your own Country, or elsewhere, you may be able to use credits from this prior study as an entry ‘pathway’. For example; you may have completed one or two years’ study and now wish to use your study credits to transfer onto a course at a UK University. You will need to check with the University, or your adviser, for the course you wish to transfer to.

Some UK University courses already have entry ‘pathways’ like this set up with overseas partners (see our TNE page for more information).

Previous study at Sixth Form or UK Further Education (FE) College, or College of Higher Education:

In the UK Further and Higher Education Colleges, and School Sixth Forms, offer a wide variety of courses in many subjects. Many of these also provide a route into UK University study. The most common of these qualifications are A-Levels and BTEC level 3 qualifications. Other A-level equivalent qualifications are often available; these include: Advanced diplomas in many subjects, Accounting Certificates, OCR Certificates, Foundation Degrees, and many more.

Some of these courses are already at Higher Education level and may already be linked to one or more UK Universities. For example, a Foundation Degree is a College-awarded qualification in its own right; and it may be linked to a degree course at a partner University. 

Pre-Sessional Study in the UK, Home Country, or Overseas:

The Pre-Sessional pathway courses are designed to both improve your English language skills and include preparation for degree study. Degree level study skills taught might include: academic writing, study skills, team tasks, presentation skills, and research skills, or even specific skills for your chosen course.

Many UK Universities offer these courses over a few months or weeks depending on your existing English language proficiency; and have one or more starting dates. You will usually apply for the pre-sessional and choice of degree course together; and provided you pass the pre-sessional course you can continue directly onto study for the degree.

The length of study required will vary according to your current English Language level and the level required for your course of study. If you have passed a pre-sessional course outside the UK you will need to check if this is acceptable for entry to your UK University and chosen course.

Pre-Sessional Study at a Partner Institution or Recognised Provider:

You may choose a Pre-Sessional course of study before deciding on a UK University course. This pathway will improve your English language skills; and usually includes preparation for degree level study. These are taught at Partner or specialist Pre-Sessional Course providers – which may be specialist departments at another UK University or College, or at a private language school. These providers may be located in the UK or overseas. If you do plan to study at a recognised provider you should confirm that the Pre-Sessional course is acceptable for entry to your chosen course.

Transfer to a UK University after your first year 

If you have already completed and passed your first year of study at a University or College in your own Country, or elsewhere, you may be able to use credit from this study as an entry ‘pathway’ to a UK University degree course.  

There are a number of UK Universities who will accept first year entry credits; but this depends on the course.  Depending on the course you may be able to join the second year; but for some courses you may have to join the first year.  To find out if a transfer is possible you will need to check with the UK University or your adviser.

Transferring to a UK University through an Articulation Agreement including ‘Top Ups’ to a full degree

If you are studying on a UK University ‘validated’ or ‘joint’ degree course at your local University or College this means that the course is structured to allow you to transfer to the validating UK University to continue and complete your studies in the UK.  

Another pathway is where you study for a non-degree qualification (such as an HND) that allows you to ‘top up’ to a degree with a partner UK University.  Your validated course may include the option to study (or ‘articulate’) into the UK course for either just the final year of the degree; or additional study years.  If you do wish to transfer to the UK it is wise to speak to your adviser early.

After or during completion, the student automatically progresses to study in the UK:

Pre-Sessional Study at a Partner Institution or Recognised Provider with automatic progression to your degree course

This Pre-Sessional pathway is completed at a partner Institution and ‘dovetails’ into your degree course; so you may need to apply for this and your degree course at the same time.  Pre-Sessional courses focus on improving your English language skills to the required standard; and usually include preparation for degree level study (i.e. research, presentation, and study skills).  These are taught at approved UK or overseas Partner or approved specialist Pre-Sessional Course providers.  Passing the course gives you automatic progression onto your chosen course of study at the UK University.  

Study at your Partner UK University for less than an academic year

If you are studying on a UK ‘validated’ or ‘joint’ degree course at your local University or College you may be given the option to travel to the UK University for a term, semester, or to complete a subject module or course, or to conduct some research.  This option gives you exposure to study and life and culture in the UK without the costs or commitment of spending a whole academic year in the UK.  

Pre-Sessional English Language Study at your UK University - Undergraduate and Postgraduate

A common route is to apply for your UK University course together with the Pre-Sessional pathway which ‘dovetails’ into your degree course.  Pre-Sessional courses focus on improving your English language skills to the required standard; and usually include preparation for degree level study (i.e. research, presentation, team working, and study skills), and experience the rich culture of the UK.  Pre-Sessional course gives you automatic progression onto your chosen course of study at the UK University.  

Pre-Sessional courses have multiple start dates and length of study could be from 6 weeks and up to 30 weeks.  The course length depends on your starting level of English and the required level for your course.  Depending on the specific courses’ requirements, and whether it is Undergraduate or Postgraduate, will determine the entry requirements.

Next Steps or If You Have Further Questions:

Hopefully you have a clear idea what some of the difference options are for entry study at a UK university.  You can see that there are many routes to degree study at a UK University.  Make sure you check with the UK University for their general entry policy; and also the specific course requirements.  If you are unsure whether your qualifications are suitable for entry to your chosen course you can check The University website, your local adviser, or even the UK University’s International or Admissions Departments.