FURTHER EDUCATION

“Can You Go to Uni Without A Levels?” Answering Your FAQs

Contents

  1. How do I apply to university? 
  2. Can you go to university without A Levels? 
  3. What are the common alternatives to A Level? 
  4. How to get into uni without A Levels (or alternative academic qualifications) 
  5. Is university the right option?

 

There is a difference between the questions: ‘Can you go to uni without A Levels? and ‘Can you get into uni without any academic qualifications?’. Ultimately, the answer to both questions is: yes; however, the latter is much less common and much harder. Let us talk you through the process and discuss your options…boy studying for university

How do I apply to university? 

 

Before talking about what different qualifications are and whether you need them, it is important that we establish what the process of applying to university is: A Levels or no A Levels. 🎓

Traditionally, people apply to university through UCAS the University and College Admissions Service. UCAS is an online portal where you will enter all of your details, references and personal statements which are then sent to the universities you have chosen to apply to. The university will then look through your academic qualifications and personal statement and decide whether to proceed to the next steps.

Some universities will go straight to offering places whereas others might have an interview or exam stage to assess whether a candidate is a good fit for their institution. 

It is important to read UCAS’s criteria for applying to university as, ultimately, if you don’t meet the UCAS criteria, odds are you won’t make it into the university. If you want more information you can read the GoStudent Guide to Using UCAS

 

Can you go to university without A Levels? 

 

Most universities will ask that a candidate has academic qualifications that prove that that person will be able to study and learn at their university. 

A Levels are not the only academic qualifications out there and most universities including Cambridge and Oxford will consider a broad range of academic qualifications. So, both in theory and in practice, hundreds of people get into British universities without any A Levels!

A Levels are one of the many ways in which you can secure a place at university. It is worth considering other options before deciding what qualifications you want to do. 

 

What are the common alternatives to A Levels? 

 

Do all UK universities require A Levels? Not at all! 😁

The good news is that you can go to university without A Levels. There are many alternative higher education qualifications out there that you can get into university with. UCAS has dedicated an entire page about how to get into uni without A Levels – but let us talk you through the main ones below. 

  • The International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate the IB is a rigorous and difficult A Level alternative. It is taught in over 150 different countries, and it is accepted by universities across the globe including almost all UK universities. 🌏

Unlike A Levels where a candidate usually does three subjects, IB candidates have to do six subjects as well as study Theory of Knowledge and complete an Extended Essay. Of the six subjects, three are usually done at higher level and the other three at standard level. 

Many people and universities consider the IB to be harder than A Levels and if you have a top IB result it can be seen as more prestigious than top A Level results. 

  • BTEC

The BTEC’s (Business and Technology Education Council) are specialist work-related qualifications. 

BTECs can be taken alongside or instead of GCSEs and A Levels and can often be an extra add-on to boost a university application. 🧑‍🎓

It is important to note that many universities do not recognise BTECs and, as such, you might not be able to study there with BTECs alone. It is important that you research the university that you're applying for and what their entry criteria are. 

  • Access to Higher Education Diploma 

The Access to HE Diploma is designed to help people with non-traditional qualifications to apply to university. There are over 450 options for study and the Access to HE Diploma is taught in schools and colleges across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can find out what courses are available on the course search function on the Access to HE website. 

Higher education courses, once completed, are considered by universities to be equivalent to A Levels. If you don't manage to leave school with the necessary qualifications to get into university, Access to HE Diplomas are a good way to get a second chance. 

  • Cambridge Pre-U Diploma 

Although it is relatively new, the Cambridge Pre-U post-16 qualifications are already recognised worldwide – this might be partly because the awarding body is Cambridge Assessment International Education which is a branch of the University of Cambridge itself! 🤓

The Cambridge Pre-U qualifications are designed to give students all the skills and knowledge they need to successfully study at university. The Cambridge brand offers a strong alternative to the traditional A Levels and can give you the academic boost you need to apply to some of the UK’s top universities. 

Whilst the range of subjects available is limited, the qualification is highly recognised due to its academic rigour and the University of Cambridge brand. 

  • Take a programme with a foundation year 

Many universities acknowledge that good candidates might not have the necessary academic qualifications required to study their courses but they still have the potential to do well if given the chance. 

A foundation year is an intensive one-year programme offered by a university to get a candidate undergraduate ready. This is a good option for people who have not done as well in their A Levels as they might have hoped. Let’s face it, sixth form college isn't the perfect learning environment for everyone! 

A foundation year is also a good option for people who do not have the right A Levels. Perhaps you studied humanities and arts for A Level but now want to do a degree in business. A foundation year at university can give you the skills and knowledge to fast-track you to a future as a business student (or anything else). 

It is important to note that not all universities offer foundation years and ‘foundation year’ might mean different things in different universities. It is important that you research the university you want to go to in advance. 

 

How to get into uni without A Levels (or alternative academic qualifications) 

 

Can someone go to university without any A Levels or alternative academic qualifications? Again, the answer to this question is: yes – you can get into university with absolutely no academic qualifications; however, it is uncommon and tough. 

Ultimately, a university doesn’t just want A Levels or academic qualifications – they want proof that a candidate will be a good student and get good results and thrive in their university environment.

Admittedly, the easiest and most common way of proving to a university that you will succeed is with A Levels and alternative academic qualifications such as the IB. However, universities will consider applications from a range of backgrounds with a range of experiences and even candidates with no academic qualifications. 

As an example, if you have plenty of work or life experience which makes you an expert in a certain field without any academic qualifications, then a university would be foolish not to let you study there.

Imagine that someone who dropped out of school at 16 without a single GCSE went on to found a successful business and write a best-selling book about it. Of course, a university would want someone this dedicated, hardworking and successful applying to study their courses. 

Whilst it is possible to apply to some universities with absolutely no qualifications, you will probably have to sit an entrance exam which will be just as hard as the qualifications that you don’t have.  

If you can convince their university of choice that they have what it takes to be successful, then odds are they might listen. 

 

Is university the right option? 

 

Covid19 has had a huge impact on the ways in which universities operate and the freedoms that students have. As the pandemic has pushed universities towards creating an effective online learning environment, there is a real possibility that more universities will keep aspects of online teaching on a semi-permanent or permanent basis for the future. 

If you can teach a course online to people all over the world, why get them to travel to a specific place in the world? The nature of the world, work and university is changing, so you should really ask yourself what you want out of your further education.

Many people believe that university is the only option for them; however, you should ask yourself: is university the right choice for me?

  • Apprenticeships 

It is not always the case that you can go to uni without A Levels – if you have no A Levels you might want to consider an apprenticeship

All children in the UK have to be in education until the age of 18 which means that after you finish your GCSEs at 16, you still have to do two more years of education. 

Many students choose to move away from the traditional A Levels or equivalent academic qualifications and get vocational qualifications through an apprenticeship. One of the main benefits of an apprenticeship over A Levels is – as the catchy phrase goes – you can earn as you learn. 

There are also some apprenticeships that can be done instead of university. It’s therefore important to weigh up the benefits of an apprenticeship vs university to find out what’s right for you.

 

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