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United Kingdom Universities and Colleges Admissions System (UCAS)

In order to apply to university, students must submit a single application via UCAS' online application service. Candidate students can apply for up to five university courses by a single online application.

@Photo from Pixabay.


The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS /ˈjuːkɑːs/) is a UK-based organisation whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities. It operates as an independent charity, funded by fees charged to applicants and to universities, plus advertising income, and was formed in 1992 through the merger of the former university admissions system UCCA and the former polytechnics admissions system PCAS.
Services provided by UCAS include several online application portals, a number of search tools and free information and advice directed at various audiences, including students considering higher education, students with pending applications to higher education institutes, parents and legal guardians of applicants, school and Further Education college staff involved in helping students apply and providers of higher education (universities and HE colleges).
While UCAS is best known for its undergraduate application service (the main UCAS scheme), it also operates a number of other admissions services:
- Conservatoires UK Admissions Service (CUKAS) – for performing arts at a UK conservatoire
- UCAS Teacher Training (UTT) – for postgraduate teacher training schemes
- UK Postgraduate Application and Statistical Service (UKPASS) – for some postgraduate courses
- UCAS Progress – for post-16 education and training



Start date1 Jan 1961
CountryUnited Kingdom
Nature and status of project Rolled Out
Is the OOP case/enabler mandatory? Mandatory

Enabling assets or components

Political commitment
Data Protection Act,

UCAS is a charity that provides the undergraduate admissions service for the UK. To provide this service, we collect personal data from over 700,000 applicants each year. We take our responsibilities around data seriously and fully comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act

Legal interoperability

UCAS is a charity, not a government body. The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to UCAS in the way it does to almost all public authorities. It is subject to Freedom of Information from 1 November 2011, but only in relation to some of its functions. These are set out in The Freedom of Information (Designation as Public Authorities) Order 2011. These functions are the provision and maintenance of a central applications and admissions service in relation to:

• an institution listed in paragraphs 53(1)(a) to (e) and 55(1)(a) and (b) of Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

• an institution listed in Part 5 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

• the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise.
Socio-cultural influence factors
UCAS uses personal information and share it with its partners such as universities in secure manner. This includes maintaining Information Security standards in line with the international standard ISO 27001:2013.
Also they make sure that third parties who use this personal information, are committed to keep them safe and secure. Thought some of services and suppliers of UCAS are based outside of EU(EEA), they always make sure that all personal information which are handle either inside or outside of EU in a safe manner consistent with the requirements of the PDA. Under the PDA students have right to ask UCAS for a copy of their information or request to edit, delete or stop using of their personal information.
UCAS provide outstanding data and analysis which are free to use by universities and government.

Data handling / data exchange

Type of data sharing

Actual data

Data handler 

Stakeholder type
Private UniversitiesBusiness
Public UniversitiesGovernment
UCAS OrganisationNGO


citizens should apply online in UCAS website.
web-link is a web-based service used to manage data and institution requirements and contacts. It can be used stand-alone or with any of the other online data transfer services. It must be used for updating applications data by providers who do not have any other online methods.

Lessons learned

To support candidate students UCAS publish a growing portfolio of information and advice about qualification and subject choices on their website, alongside information about learning and career opportunities, and specific content for mature learners, care leavers and disabled students. UCAS aim to make sure admissions processes minimise any barriers to candidate students from less represented groups, and support the efforts of universities and colleges to broaden their intake. For example:
• the UCAS Tariff now includes Access to HE qualifications
• we offer a contextual data service
• we publish analysis and insight about progress in closing gaps in applications, offers and acceptances between different groups
• we offer an analytical service (STROBE) which enables organisations to evaluate effectiveness of activities intended to widen participation


Disclaimer: Please note that this article is a result of the SCOOP4C Pilot Project, not an application of a CEF Building Block.

Last updated on  Aug 02, 2019 15:51

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