Can You Go to University Without A–Levels?

Can You Go to University Without A–Levels?

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Applying to university can be a stressful process. Have you left it too late? Do you have the right qualifications? What if they do not accept you? In school, many people follow the transitions from GCSEs to A-Levels, and then to university to do a degree.

However, what if you do not have A-Levels? After all, they are regarded as the key to getting into university. What you need to know is that there are many alternatives to getting into university without A-Levels.

In this article, we will examine what methods you can take to get into university without A-Levels.

How to apply without A-Levels

To start, let’s bust the myth that it is not impossible to get into a university without qualifications. You can still put in the work or effort, though, as they can still clarify this during the application process. An easier way to get into university is to do a Foundation Year, which is like an induction before you begin your degree. A foundation year prepares you for university life, writing papers, and much more.

Many universities also offer an integrated degree course, which is a year longer than the traditional three-year courses, and you can still get a bachelor’s degree by the time you finish.

Qualifications that Universities Accept

Instead of having A-Levels, there are many alternative qualifications you can have or take to progress into university. These include:

  • Access to Higher Education Diplomas
  • Vocational Qualifications
  • International Baccalaureate Diplomas
  • BTECs (Business and Technology Education Council)
  • Vocational Qualifications
  • Have the necessary work and life experience in your chosen career and degree path.

(Ensure you check with your university first which of these qualifications they may accept)

man doing further reading for his course without a-levels

Higher Education Diplomas

Access to Higher Education (HE) Diplomas or courses are made to prepare students for a specific course to study at university.

These are usually for people who may have been out of education for some time, although you can take one if you are still in education if you prefer.

Passing the course means you will receive a diploma, equivalent to a Level 3 qualification like an A-Level. Sixty credits must be earned to pass the course.


  • Distance learning: Higher Education Diplomas are very accessible, especially with the advancement of working from home or studying whilst looking after children. You can fit the course around the rest of your schedule.
  • Specifically focused: With 1000s of courses to choose from, you can choose a course that stands out to you.


  • Payment: This is a variable factor depending on what course you are studying, although the average price can cost at least £3,000.
  • GCSEs: Having GCSEs are fundamental for any further qualification or job. If you do not have at least 5 GCSEs required for further education, you may need to take a Functional Skills course.

Find out how to get work experience, essential in kickstarting your career.

Vocational Qualifications

Another way you can get into university without A-Levels is through vocational qualifications, a mix between classroom and home learning. Vocational qualifications include:

  • BTECs
  • CACHE qualifications
  • Cambridge Technicals
  • City and Guilds Technical Levels

Need to know more about what are vocational qualifications? Find out here.


  • Mixture methods of learning: This method allows you to have hands-on experience with your career path through in-class and practical learning. This will stand out more in your university application as well as to future employers.
  • Coursework > exams: If you prefer coursework over exams, this method might be better for you.


  • Organised coursework: With a key focus on coursework, this means you need to be very organised with it since this determines what your marks will be weighted on. There may be more assignments than A-Levels, too, so be prepared to keep on top of them.
  • Does your university accept Vocational Qualifications: Before you partake in vocational qualifications, you should check with your chosen university guidelines as to whether they will accept this. It depends on how a grade is marked alongside other qualifications like BTECs.
man studying on his laptop without a-levels

International Baccalaureate

International Baccalaureate (IB) involves students covering six topics. Topics include language and literature, mathematics, arts, and more.

This diploma aims to improve your general skills in a balance between knowledge, creativity, activity, service, and an essay.


  • Preparation: An international baccalaureate prepares you for the workload that comes with university study, such as the extended essay.
  • Heavy workload and good study habits: The habits you learn during this diploma will prepare you for university, and the skills learnt will aid you when applying for future jobs. Furthermore, the habits you learn will help your everyday tasks, including time management and organisational skills.


  • Heavy workload: This works both ways, and procrastinating is a bad habit to easily fall into, so it depends on whether you can find the balance that suits you.
  • Like A-Levels: You will need consistent knowledge and long-term memory to pass this diploma with the exams at the end of it.

Foundation Year

Doing a foundation year is a straightforward method to get into university without A-Levels. This usually involves doing an extra course at the beginning of your course to prepare you for studying a degree. This can be transitioned to other universities or courses. If you do a foundation year but do not think the course or university is right for you, you can change your application and usually will not have to do the foundation year again. Like other qualifications listed, you can balance a foundation year alongside the other commitments in your life.


  • Getting your skills right: The extra year a foundation year brings to your academic life means you have more time to get your skills and knowledge ready for your degree the following year. This also helps if you have been out of education for some time.
  • A guaranteed spot: Providing you reach the appropriate grades at the end of your foundation year will allow you to move forward with the full degree at the end of the year.


  • More tuition fees: The downside of not having A-Levels for this course is your tuition fees and living costs will be more costly if you are living on-site or in rented accommodation.

Applying to University

Applying to university without A-Levels is the same process as you would if you had the grades.

UCAS is the standard way forward for applying. Once you have registered on their site, begin providing the necessary information, such as a personal statement and when you want to begin your academic course.

A good personal statement will be key during the application process, and you will need to sell yourself to make yourself stand out. Do you have the relevant work and life experience for your course? Even volunteering will help you stand out more, as it shows a good work ethic and how you are willing to do something productive in your free time.

lady ready to study at university

Good Study Habits

If you have been out of education for some time and gotten into your own habits, here are a few tips on how to break those habits and prepare yourself for university life:

  • Learn something new: This is a very good habit to get into, even if it is just five minutes of your day, learning a new language or a new topic that has interested you.
  • Apps: The relevant online apps will help you advance your knowledge and away from the nonsense that spirals on social media. Even apps that time how long you are on your phone and reward you for the limited time used will help you be more productive.
  • Not procrastinating: Leaving coursework or revision until the last minute is never the right option to do. Instead, learn to revise consistently, for a few hours a day (and not just before you go to bed). After all, you want to keep the stuff you are learning fresh in your head and not crammed in.

Applying to University without A-Levels has never been easier

Hopefully, this article has levelled out your uncertainty about applying to university without A-Levels, and other tips along the way. The important factor to undertake during the application process is the assurance and awareness side of it. After all, an undergraduate degree is usually three years long, and you must be willing to dedicate the time and effort into doing it after the time you spent aside finishing the other types of application processes.

Always make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd, and applying to university might be easier than you originally anticipated!


Can I go to university without A-levels?

Yes, it is possible to go to university without A-levels. There are alternative qualifications and pathways available that universities accept for admission.

What are some alternative qualifications to A-levels for university entry?

Some alternative qualifications that universities may accept include Access to Higher Education Diplomas, BTEC qualifications, International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge Pre-U, and Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers, among others.

What is an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

An Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification specifically designed for adults who want to go to university but lack traditional qualifications. It provides a pathway to higher education and is recognized by universities across the UK.

Can I study a foundation course to gain entry to university?

Yes, foundation courses are available at many universities and colleges. These courses are designed to provide academic preparation and bridge the gap for students who may not have the necessary qualifications for direct entry into a degree program.


  1. UCAS. (n.d.). Applying to university. UCAS. Available at: (Accessed: 26 May 2023).
  2. Access to Higher Education. (n.d.). Access to HE. Available at: (Accessed: 26 May 2023).
  3. bksb Ltd. (n.d.). What are Functional Skills? bksb. Available at: (Accessed: 26 May 2023).
Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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