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Around 700,000 people like you are considering university as a next step after school and college. That group will be made up of wonderfully diverse people from every kind of background but, in embarking on the journey into UK Higher Education, there is one unifying moment that you will all share: encountering UCAS.

A short history of UCAS…

UCAS was formed in the early 90s and was a merger of two former application services: UCCA and PCAS. 

These two systems handled applications for ‘traditional’ universities (UCCA) and those for Polytechnics (PCAS) separately and UCCA had been running since 1961!

On merging, UCAS brought applications for both organisations inline with each other, encouraging more students to consider both options and paving the way for many (now former) polytechnics to attain ‘university’ status.

In its first round of student recruitment, UCAS handled around 140,000 applications.

**Fun fact - if you were to visit UCAS HQ, on the wall in reception you can still look at the first ever university application submitted through UCAS**

UCAS: University and Colleges Admissions Service

If you apply for Higher Education in the UK, you will submit an application through UCAS rather than direct to a single university. So, why do this?

There are a few benefits to prospective students:

★ There is one (comparatively low) fee 

This fee allows you to apply for 5 choices of course or university at any one time.

The standard cost of application through UCAS is £25 (often paid by your school, international agent or similar supporting body).

Compare this to, for example, the system in the USA where you might pay anything between $50-100 (£40-80) for each application you make to a single course at a single university.

★ Equality of access

A student’s application is assessed on its merits not by their ability to pay for the place. All qualifications (whether BTEC, A-Levels or IB) are accepted and measured equivalently.

★ Fairness

All applications are subject to the same deadlines, the same requirements and the same response commitments. 

Due to this, most universities prefer to accept applications through UCAS.

The process does have some drawbacks…

If you are applying into UK HE from outside the UK, it can feel like an unusual and complicated process!

Submitting that application form can feel really daunting!

Some key UCAS facts:

UCAS now processes more than 700,000 UG applications annually and this is likely to increase to numbers of around 1 million UG applications by 2026.

UCAS ‘places’ just over 500,000 students into Higher Education courses every year.

To support diversity of choice, UCAS also hosts information on and options for apprenticeships.

To help the transition into the UK it also has an internationally-focused app called Myriad.

UCAS exists to help all HE students make the right application into the right course in order to make the most of their futures. 

There is so much information, advice and guidance to be found on the UCAS website and, if you can’t find it, you can contact them directly through The Hub, via their customer service phone lines, email, or on social media

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