Guide to UK Applications • Undergraduate

UCAS Streamlined: What to Anticipate in the 2025 Admissions Cycle

POSTED ON 05/17/2024 BY The Red Pen

Discover the changes to the UCAS undergraduate application process for 2025!

For the 2025 admissions cycle, UCAS has significantly revamped the undergraduate application process, incorporating feedback from stakeholders across the sector. These enhancements elevate students’ application journeys while furnishing universities and colleges with more precise and pertinent information. The application portal will be accessible to students starting May 16, 2024. This blog showcases some of the essential modifications for your convenience.

Changes in the Education Section 

1) UCAS will prepopulate ‘Place of Education’ information

When students use the buzzword to connect with a school, college, or centre, the platform suggests adding it as a place of education. Students can also include other educational institutions. If they add a centre that is not in the dataset, they’ll need to provide additional address details for accuracy.

2) UCAS has enhanced the process of searching for and adding qualifications:

The improvement aims to facilitate students in accurately recording their educational background. In the ‘Education’ section, students must now enter all qualifications from secondary education onwards, including all GCSEs and level 2 equivalents, regardless of whether they have the results. It is crucial to accurately state your qualifications and ensure your name matches the documents from your awarding organisation to avoid delays in receiving your results. Additionally, including any previously known names will help match your exam entries and results. For students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, entering the Unique Learning Number (ULN) can assist in automatically matching qualification results to the Applicant Status Report (ASR) in the Adviser Portal.

3) UCAS has added school location input for applicants

The platform now allows applicants to add the city and country of their educational institutions manually. This change eliminates the need for providers to use search engines and guess school locations.

4) UCAS has introduced attendance options:

This change eases how applicants articulate their engagement at a specific school or centre as Full-Time, Part-Time, or Exam-Only. It also enables students to accurately represent all qualifications, including those from non-traditional schools or colleges.

5) UCAS has implemented “study mode” options:

This new inclusion allows applicants to indicate whether they attended a school remotely (online) or in person. It aims to provide valuable context to the educational journey and enables individuals participating in online courses to reflect their mode of study on the form accurately. Furthermore, UCAS will include additional help text to assist those who took classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic so they can correctly present this information on the form.

6) UCAS now includes the language proficiency question in the education section:

The education section will now have the TOEFL and IELTS certificate numbers. Consequently, the English language test section, along with the question “Is English your first language?” –which previously led to confusion—has been eliminated.

7) UCAS has removed the “highest level of qualification on entry” question

Based on feedback from applicants and education providers, UCAS has decided to eliminate the “highest level of qualification on entry” question. This change aims to simplify the application process and reduce confusion, ensuring a smoother experience for those applying to higher education institutions in the UK.

New features in the Nationality Section

UCAS has introduced additional questions within this section to assist universities and colleges in establishing the ‘Fee status’ for non-UK nationals. It also aims to aid individuals needing a visa by thoroughly verifying any overlooked or inaccurately answered details. Here are some of the questions: 

1) “When does your pre-settled status expire? DD MM YYYY”

This inquiry is optional and will only be presented to applicants with specified settled or pre-settled status. Students of British or Irish nationality will not encounter this question unless they have included it in their application.

2) Addition of the “don’t know” option to the question, “Do you require a student visa?”

The existing ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ options to this question compel applicants to pick one, even if they are unsure. Including an extra option emphasises that universities and colleges must inquire further to ascertain if the applicant needs a visa.

3) “Why don’t you need a UK visa to study?”

Only applicants who declare that they do not require a visa to study in the UK will see this question and can choose from a list of reasons. This question draws attention to any oversights in previous responses and aids in analysing fee status.

4) “What level was your [previous visa] study?”

This question is a continuation of the existing inquiry, “Have you previously studied on a student or Tier 4 visa in the UK?” If the applicant responds affirmatively, they will encounter additional questions related to study visas. These additional queries aim to illustrate academic progression and the duration between levels of study, encompassing start and end dates of study.

5) “What is your UK visa or immigration status?”

Applicants can choose from a range of common visa or immigration statuses alongside an ‘other option’, allowing them to add custom text. They can also provide any pertinent dates for their visa or immigration status.

Unveiling “Where You Live” as an all-new section

The new section, “Where You Live”, is in addition to the contact information section. Here, UCAS asks applicants to provide details about their residential addresses for the preceding three years and the start dates and purposes associated with each address. This information will be collected until a comprehensive three-year residential history is compiled.

This section’s formatting will align with the home and postal addresses sections, enabling applicants to indicate if any provided addresses were temporary. Additionally, an ‘Other’ option will be included for further flexibility. Furthermore, questions about permanent residence and residential categories will be relocated to this section without modifying their content.

Changes in References for 2025

In the 2024 admissions cycle, references in UCAS underwent alterations to allow applicants to focus on what universities and colleges want to know. This adjustment also enabled universities and colleges to identify important applicant details. After receiving feedback and assessing the new format’s efficacy from universities, colleges, and advisers, no technical modifications have been implemented for the 2025 entry. However, UCAS has updated their information and guidance for this section.

1) Character limit

The reference must be 4,000 characters, including spaces, headings, and line breaks. Each of these elements counts as at least one character. Applicants should keep their text length below 3,800 characters to accommodate formatting elements.

2) General information (Section 1):

This section of UCAS is to outline your school’s performance, qualification offerings, disruptions, and grading policies. It aims to provide transparency on how an applicant’s education aligns with higher education pathways, catering to diverse needs. The statement can also be tailored to individual circumstances beyond the standard template provided. This is an opportunity to articulate any policy about not predicting grades for qualifications where the school or college feels the assessment method or qualification structure is not suited to predictions. 

3) Extenuating circumstances (Section 2): 

The guidance has been updated to clarify what should be included and how this information might be used. It allows applicants to highlight complex or sensitive circumstances, particularly those related to safety, and provides detailed information directly to universities and colleges.

4) Other supportive information (Section 3): 

UCAS has updated guidance to emphasise using concise and factual sentences to demonstrate suitability for the applied course(s) and provide relevant context to the application. Applicants must also indicate “no other information to provide” if they cannot share more context. 

Changes in application fee

For the 2024 cycle, there is a simplified application fee to support student choice. This fee enables all applicants to take advantage of the additional services available, including UCAS Extra, Clearing, and Clearing Plus.

This one-off application fee will mean all UCAS undergraduate applicants can add five choices to their application and utilise these additional services should they need to, opening up choices in a competitive admissions landscape.

The single application fee will no longer be available, so the fee for all 2024 undergraduate applications is £27.50. The 2025 application fee will be £28.50.

Changes in access to Entry Grade Data

Navigating the path to university feels like reaching for the stars, especially for young individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. The entry requirements can make university admissions seem distant, if not entirely out of reach.

Traditionally, access to historical Entry Grade Data was restricted to the advisor portal, which withholds valuable insights into student grades upon entering higher education. However, after gathering feedback from students, it became evident that providing access to this data would empower them to make more informed decisions about their academic futures. Extensive testing over 18 months validated that this data is both a motivator and an informative tool.

Beginning May 2024, as undergraduate applications for 2025 entry open, the UCAS platform will revolutionise how students engage with entry requirements. By integrating Entry-Grade Data directly onto course pages within their search tool, UCAS aims to illuminate the pathway to higher education. This transparency will showcase the often overlooked flexibility between advertised entry grades and the actual grades of previously accepted students, enabling applicants to make more educated choices. 

Moreover, UCAS recognises the importance of personal context in interpreting this data. Therefore, applicants will have the opportunity to input their own predicted grades. The service initially covers A-level and BTEC grades from 18-year-olds in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, with expansion plans.

While the 2025 UCAS undergraduate application cycle introduces several changes to improve the application process, the personal statement format remains unchanged. Applicants must stay informed about these changes and other updates by regularly checking newsletters, adviser news articles, and monthly webinars. At The Red Pen, we guide students through the UK university application process. If you need assistance with your undergraduate applications, please get in touch. Our UK specialists look forward to being a part of your application journey. Meanwhile, you may read our blogs, The UK UCAS: How to Shortlist Undergraduate Universities and The UK UCAS Undergraduate Admissions: An Ultimate Guide.