How do I apply for a place in a UK university?

UCAS: EU students will continue to have access to loans and grants even if their course ends after Brexit

Each year, about 4,000 Irish students apply to a course via the UCAS system and 2,000 go on to take up places. Photograph: iStock

Each year, about 4,000 Irish students apply to a course via the UCAS system and 2,000 go on to take up places. Photograph: iStock


* This article was first published in August 2018. From 5 July to 23 October 2019,  you can apply for a course using Clearing if you’re not already holding an offer from a university or college, and the course still has places.

All during this school year, sixth year students have been asked to consider what, where and whether they want to study at third-level. There are a lot of choices available but as the results come out, decisions are brought into sharper focus.

Are you sure the course you’ve chosen is the one you want to dedicate three or four years study to? If you don’t get the points you need for your first choice in the CAO, is your second or third choice a good option for you? There are other routes to a qualification that you could consider.

One option is to look at studying in the UK. Each year, about 4,000 Irish students apply to a course via the UCAS system and 2,000 go on to take up places.

If you had not considered a course in a UK university until now, it’s not too late. The UCAS system, called ‘clearing’, will list available courses from those that have not been filled at UK institutions and you can apply to them anytime up until September 20th.

UCAS lists 37,500 courses at 375 universities and colleges in the UK. The courses that are not filled after the offers process are made available through clearing. As there are more institutions in the UK, there is a greater availability left in this pool of vacant places, so there will often be good choices to consider in popular subjects that are quickly filled up in Irish universities and institutes.

“Clearing opened on July 5th,” explains Kim Owen, a UCAS customer experience partner. “Irish students can look to apply as soon as they get their results on August 15th There will absolutely be choices available at that stage.”

To search for a course, go to The search tool on the clearing area of the site allows you to look for available courses by subject, city or university. If you search by subject, law for example, the options of where there are still vacancies for law courses will appear. When you select one and click on it you will find out details such as the course content, course duration, what qualification you will receive and also the grades you need in your Leaving Cert to apply.

“To apply for a course through clearing you need to register and a fee of £24 [€26.90]is charged for making an application through UCAS,” says Owen. “Part of the application process requires you to write a personal statement [about why you want to study for that course] and you will need to have a reference from a teacher or tutor. If you struggle with that, speak to the university directly.”

Fees and Brexit

When study in the UK is mentioned, warning lights flash. Aren’t there fees to pay for university in the UK? What about Brexit? What will that mean for EU students?

Let’s look at fees first. Yes, there are fees for studying in the UK. For students who choose to study in Northern Ireland, the maximum yearly fee for those beginning study in 2018 is £4,160 (€4,666). This is the maximum and the amount varies depending on course. There are no fees for EU students who wish to study in Scotland, although there is a levy of £1,820 (€2,041) for Scottish and EU students. EU students who wish to study in England or Wales will pay a maximum yearly fee of £9,250 (€10,377). Again, fees vary depending on course and institution and this is the maximum that will be charged. EU students are entitled to a tuition fee loan to support them through their studies. There are also a number of grants and bursaries available. You can find out more on

As for Brexit, at present the message for EU students from the funding bodies in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is that those who begin study in 2018 will enjoy the same conditions for the duration of their study in the UK. The governmental bodies in the UK want to continue to welcome EU students to UK universities and colleges.

According to UCAS, EU students applying for university places will continue to have access to student loans and certain grants even if the course ends after the UK leaves the EU.

Courses available through UK clearing offer choices to those who may feel their options for study in Ireland are limited. Yes, there are fees to consider but often the costs for accommodation and living expenses are much less than for studying in Ireland. This is an option that is open to you to consider at this time.

Useful contacts for details on courses available in the UK through clearing, how to apply and details of fees and grants or bursaries available. for information on fees, how Brexit will affect EU students and other information for EU students who wish to study in the UK. a guide to clearing, fees for UK institutions and information on studying in the UCAS clearing helpdesk – tel: + 44 330 333 0230