University Tips Blog
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by Ruth Boyce

Schools and Colleges Senior Development Officer at the University of Winchester

posted on 20 Feb '23

A parent guide to the qualifications universities will accept for entry

Universities can set their own qualification criteria. Their entry requirements may be based on achieving a certain grade in a specific qualification, subject, or overall achievement.

I will outline some of the key areas to consider below – and answer some questions you may have or be thinking of as a parent or guardian.

Do GCSE grades matter?

Generally, yes. Universities use post16 qualifications, but also review GCSE achievement too. For many courses there is a minimum requirement, often a 4/5 in English, Maths and possibly Science, it does depend on the course. Specific courses may ask for minimum grades in certain subjects, while competitive courses will look at results as an indicator of academic ability.

Which qualifications are acceptable?

When it comes to qualifications after GCSEs, universities accept a wide range: BTECs, T Levels, A Levels, IB (International Baccalaureate), Welsh Baccalaureate and many more. Often entry requirements are listed as A Level grades or as UCAS Tariff points.

To calculate the potential UCAS Tariff points for each qualification there is a UCAS tariff calculator on the UCAS website. This supports students to understand what they need to achieve in their specific qualifications.

Do students need to study the subject before they apply to university?

This question is often asked by students, but there is no one size fits all answer. It will depend on the course and university. Some degrees will have very specific subject requirements, others will be open to students from a background of subject areas. There are thousands of degrees and not as many qualifications at post-16 level, so universities expect that students may not have a qualification in the subject they want to study at university. Universities will use all studied qualifications to make a judgement about a student’s suitability and interest in the course.

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How to research entry requirements

A course entry requirement will often be described as a typical offer and will stipulate if specific subjects are required. When a student applies whilst studying for their post-16 qualifications, they may be given an offer with conditions to meet, this will be different if they have already completed their studies or are a mature learner (aged 21 or over).

The Discover Uni website holds information about previous offers students have received, which can be an indicator of the types of qualifications and achievements of students who have successfully gained a place. Universities know that grades and qualifications can be influenced by a range of factors, so they consider a student’s individual circumstances and give extra consideration if appropriate.

It is not all about qualifications

Universities look at a range of factors, and qualifications are just one part of this, they are also interested in relevant experience and skills. There may be other criteria including interviews, auditions, admissions tests and portfolios which give an opportunity for universities to assess a student’s ability. If in any doubt, contact a university’s admissions team who deal with a wide range of qualifications and will be available to help.

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