For many students, A-Levels are the only way to get into university. While they are certainly the most widely accepted (in fact, they’re the only qualifications that every university and college in the country will accept), they are not the only qualifications you can use to get to university.
Not every student thrives with A-Levels, nor do they especially like studying them. A-Levels are a major step up from GCSEs, and not all students respond to this specific type of learning, so seeking out alternatives is helpful.
Can you get into university without A-Levels?
Yes, you can. A-Levels are just one of the many different qualification types universities will accept.
This means that some universities will think differently. Some universities or colleges require you to have studied A-Levels before you apply, while others may be okay with other qualification types.
It is still possible to attend university with no UCAS points at all.
Can you get into university with no qualifications at all?
It is still possible to apply to university with no qualifications at all. This does, understandably, limit the number of universities you can apply to.
Some universities may require you to sit a foundation year. Others may forgo any qualification requirements if you have relevant work experience. It will depend on the university you are applying to and their university entry requirements.
How to apply for university without A-Levels
This will depend on the university you are applying to and their entry requirements. It is possible to apply for university without A-Levels by studying an Access to Higher Education Diploma, a BTEC, or the aforementioned foundation year.
As stated above, not all universities will allow this. You may need to speak to the university beforehand and find out what qualifications they will accept. A-Levels are not the be-all and end-all of education.
A-Levels are just one of the many different qualification types universities will accept.
Can you apply to Russell Group universities without A-Levels?
Yes, you can. Unsurprisingly, universities such as the University of Cambridge or the University of Oxford are unlikely to accept applicants without A-Levels. Despite this, other Russell Group universities do accept applicants who do not have A-Levels.
The list of which Russell Group universities will accept applicants without A-Levels is difficult to know. Ultimately, the universities change their entry requirements each year. You will need to check the university’s entry requirements beforehand.
While A-Levels may not be a requirement, there will be other requirements that are considered to be non-negotiables. Some universities will forgive your lack of A-Levels if you have high grades in A-Level equivalent qualifications, such as a BTEC or for T-Levels. You may also be required to have some level of work experience under your belt too.
Qualifications that universities accept
Not all universities accept the same qualifications. Some will require you to have A-Levels, while others will accept alternatives. Below are some of the most common A-Level alternative qualifications and how universities accept them.
Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification that prepares students for university. The diploma combines the typical learning of an A-Level course but is more streamlined and focused towards specific modules.
An HE Diploma is studied over two years. This is the same length as A-Levels and is considered equivalent to them, alongside a Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced.
It is possible to apply for university without A-Levels by studying an Access to Higher Education Diploma, a BTEC, or the aforementioned foundation year.
A BTEC is a vocational qualification. It generally combines practical learning with theory-based learning.
The subjects you can study for a BTEC are:
- Applied sciences
- Art and Design
- Health and Social Care
- Performing Arts
- Public services
- Travel and Tourism
These are especially useful for students who benefit more from hands-on learning. Universities value these a lot higher than people think as they will have imparted valuable, practical skills and will teach you aspects of the subject that may be skimmed over at A-Level.
International Baccalaureate (IB)
The International Baccalaureate (IB) is a qualification purely for international students. This is a universally recognised qualification that allows international students the chance to apply for UK university courses. It also means that international students do not need to attend UK schools or colleges to complete their A-Levels or BTECs and can rely on more universal qualifications to help them out.
T-Levels are a new qualification that was introduced in 2020. These are two-year courses, equal to three A-Levels. Specifically, these qualifications are geared more towards education and trade-based subjects.
The subjects you can study for T-Levels are:
- Agriculture, land management and production
- Animal care and management
- Building services engineering
- Craft and design
- Cultural heritage and visitor attractions
- Design, development and control
- Design, surveying and planning
- Digital business services
- Digital production, design and development
- Digital support and services
- Hair, beauty and aesthetics
- Healthcare science
- Human resources
- Maintenance, installation and repair
- Management and administration
- Manufacturing and process
- Media, broadcast and production
- Onsite construction
You may also be able to complete a work placement too. Universities have started to accept these qualifications more and more as they become more widely known, but not all do. You must speak to the university beforehand to see if they accept T Levels as a qualification.
How to apply to university without A-Levels
This is done in the same way as any other university application. You will need to submit the grades you have in any other qualifications on to UCAS. Assuming you have the right amount of UCAS points and meet the overal entry requirements, you should be fine.
The application process does not change if you have no A-Levels. The application process remains exactly the same. Make sure you have a good personal statement and all of your other non-A-Level, qualification results uploaded to your UCAS Hub.
How many UCAS points can you get without A-Levels?
This depends on what qualifications you have studied. Most A-Level alternatives are designed to equal or at least rival A-Levels to make sure you make up the required UCAS tariff points.
It is worth mentioning that points are not the be-all and end-all of applications. Of course, there is a reason that universities ask for them; however, if the points you have are made up by qualifications that the university doesn’t accept, then it will be difficult to apply.
T-Levels are a new qualification that was introduced in 2020. These are two-year courses, equal to three A-Levels.
Can you go to university with just GCSEs?
It really depends on where you are applying. As a general rule, universities will not accept just GCSEs on their own. Some may do so, but this is exceptionally rare.
The jump from GCSEs to A-Levels is pretty steep. The jump from A-Levels to degrees is even bigger, so that is a very big chasm of knowledge you need to traverse and not many universities will have faith that you can do that. Distance-learning universities, such as the Open University, are probably the best places to try, especially for mature students.
Can you go to university with 0 UCAS points?
It is still possible to attend university with no UCAS points at all. This will be tough, given that most universities and colleges require you to have some UCAS points, but they may equally have other requirements that you meet instead.
It can also affect potential jobs. Some graduate jobs have been known to ask for UCAS points when applying and having no points could prove to be a big setback.