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Undergraduate study - how to apply

All UK undergraduate degrees are of a broadly similar standard whether from a university or from a college of higher education. There are different types of first degree:

  • Honours degree - one subject studied in depth
  • Joint Honours - two subjects studied in less depth
  • Combined Honours degree - three or more subjects studied in less depth
  • Ordinary (or General)/Pass degree - several subjects are studied at a less advanced level

Most undergraduate degrees take three or four years to complete, though some professional courses like architecture, dentistry, medicine and veterinary science take between five and seven years. Undergraduate or 'first' degrees are usually called Bachelor's degrees. Some of the Bachelor's degrees awarded are:

  • Bachelor of Arts - BA
  • Bachelor of Science - BSc
  • Bachelor of Education - BEd
  • Bachelor of Engineering - BEng
  • Bachelor of Laws - LLB
  • Bachelor of Medicine - MB

Qualifications vary in title and there are some exceptions to the general rules. At some Scottish universities, a first degree in Arts carries the award of Master of Arts (MA) rather than Bachelor of Arts (BA); at some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, the BA is awarded for both Arts and Sciences; the Bachelor of Science (BSc) does not exist at Cambridge, and is a higher degree at Oxford.

For accurate information on the specific qualifications offered by a particular institution you should consult their current prospectus or the reference book British Qualifications, or contact them direct.

Entrance requirements

Most British institutions are willing to consider equivalent non-standard and overseas qualifications. The final decision rests with the individual institution. The general requirements are:

  • Five subject passes
    (two A-levels and three GCSE at grade C minimum)


  • Four subject passes
    (three A-levels and one GCSE at grade C minimum)


  • Equivalent overseas qualifications
    (CXC at Grades 1 and 2 is generally considered comparable to GCSE standard)

Details of the course requirements should be obtained from the institution's current prospectus or direct from the faculty concerned. The level of these requirements will vary, and are likely to be higher than the general requirements.

If your qualifications don't meet these entrance requirements you can take a 'foundation' or 'bridging' course which, if completed successfully, would provide an alternative route to the chosen course. Many such foundation courses exist and offer entrance onto a wide range of undergraduate degree courses.

Application procedures

For most first degree courses at universities and colleges, applications should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). All these courses are listed in the 'UCAS handbook' - see 'Resources', below. There are however exceptions, particularly for courses leading to a professional qualification.

Completed forms should reach UCAS by 15 January of the year you wish to study (or by 15 October of the previous year if your application includes the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge). Forms and handbooks are available free of charge at British Council offices, usually by the end of July each year.

Applications for the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should reach UCAS by 15 October of the year before you wish to study. Separate documentation must also be sent to Oxford and Cambridge (see their prospectuses for further details). Before applying, contact your chosen college direct for information on their entrance examinations. You cannot usually apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year.


Useful resources are available at British Council offices. To make an appointment to use our reference materials, call us at 929 6915 (Jamaica) or 628 0565 (Trinidad).

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