Admission requirements for a Master’s degree as an international student can vary from programme to programme. In this article brought to you by Kampus Group and Smart Move Education has put together some advice on how to apply to UK universities for master’s.
The purpose of an application fee receipt, photos, and ID copies is so that the university can recognise you and process your application. Other common requirements may determine whether you will get a place in the study programme you have applied to.
Have you considered applying to an international university within the UK ?
One of the most popular academic study destinations in the world?
If the answer is yes, we have created an easy-to-use and extensive guide with key information that will help you successfully get through the application process on how to apply for foreign universities for masters in the UK.
There are a lot of factors that can influence the decision of the universities you’ve applied to, which don’t appear in the list of admission requirements.
To help you get into a Master’s admission commission’s mindset, we are going to give you some insight into what universities expect when they require it.
How to apply to UK Universities for Master’s
Not yet sure where you want to study abroad? Here are a few universities we recommend:
- University of Michigan – Dearborn, the US
- University of Portsmouth, the UK
- Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- WU (Vienna University of Economics and Business), Austria
- University of Cologne, Germany
- Aarhus University, Denmark
- Charles Sturt University, Australia
Below are the main documents international universities expect from you during the application process:
In your Master’s application to your desired university, you will be asked to add certified copies of your previous graduation diplomas to be translated into English. While most Master’s applications only require a Bachelor’s diploma, some programmes will also ask for proof of your high school graduation diploma.
Universities need these documents to have proof that you did actually attend and graduate from previous institutions in order to qualify for a graduate programme.
These diplomas usually include data about the educational institution you attended in your record, your Grade Point Average (also known as GPA), final grades, or Bachelor’s thesis.
The university admission board will take into account the reputation of the university where you did graduate from. They will also look into what your GPA and final exam marks say about you.
If you have a good record of your final exam and thesis grades, they will know you have taken your studies seriously and you are capable of achieving good grades. However, don’t worry if you do not have high grades, you will not be disqualified from your application. There are many other ways in which you can win over the board such as; volunteering activities, strong motivation, and good references also add weight to your application.
Academic Transcripts from your Bachelor’s studies
Academic transcripts give the university full details about the courses and modules you studied at an undergraduate level and the grades you got. Universities expect these transcripts to be official and legitimate copies and not screenshots or printed pages.
Academic transcripts are also important because seeing what courses you took can help universities decide if you have the necessary requirements and skills for the Master’s you’re applying to.
At the same time, they can overlook all your subjects and conclude where you performed better and which subjects are “weak spots” that need improving. That is why it is important that you have good grades at the undergraduate courses that are most relevant for the Master’s programme you chose.
For instance, say you graduated with a Political Science Bachelor’s and you want to study a Master’s in International Relations. The board will be more interested if you followed any International Relations courses such as International Law or European Studies rather than courses like Domestic Politics, lower grades will not impact your application as such.
Proof of Language Proficiency
When applying to a degree as an international student, chances are that you will study in English or another popular foreign language such as German, French, etc. For this purpose, universities need to know that language will not stop you from your studies. You will need to demonstrate that you are able to understand and use that language at an academic level.
For English-taught Master’s, universities will require official language certificates such as TOEFL, IELTS, C1 Advanced, etc. When they require a specific score, it means they really expect you to have that score to proceed. The higher the score, the more they will be convinced that you have mastered English language skills.
There is also the case when universities will not demand a language certificate as long as your Bachelor’s was taught in English. They will pay attention to any English-language courses in the admission process, for instance, anything in your record such as “Academic English”.
Motivation Letter or Statement of Purpose
Many international students are confused about the requirement in the majority of instances that include a statement of purpose, or motivation letter within their application. This is why it is important to know how to apply to foreign universities for master’s.
Both documents should be focused on your background and reasons for applying for a particular major. Typically, they should be clearly structured and well-written, but not very long… we advise you to try to limit this to 1-2 pages.
Here is what most universities expect you to include in a motivation letter/statement of purpose:
- Why do you want to undertake that specific programme at their university, and how you have learned about the major
- What interests you about the course content, and what makes it the best study option for you
- What factors convinced you to pick that programme (reputation, professors, employment options, etc.)
- How do your previous studies match the Master’s you want to pursue. If they don’t quite match you should argue why you want to change subject areas
- What career you are aiming for after graduation and how this degree fits your future career plans
While a statement of purpose and a motivation letter is similar there’s a subtle difference between them which we will highlight below…
With a motivation letter, universities expect you to focus more on how their course relates to your background and your career prospects. They might also want you to state which is the course or area of specialisation you want to focus on during your Master’s.
With a statement of purpose, universities expect you to talk about who you are as a person, what has influenced your academic and professional journey so far, your interests, and your professional goals. In other words, it is much more of a personal document and your chance to show yourself in the best light possible in your application.
Reference letters let others speak on your behalf. Typically, they are considered additional evidence of your ability that you’ll successfully complete the chosen masters.
If you are only required to submit letters from your previous professors, then these letters will focus on your academic skills and achievements. If you are required to submit a reference letter from an employer, universities expect that letter to reflect the skills related to the master’s you’re applying to.
Make sure you ask for the reference letters well in advance so that they reach the university on time and avoid delays in your application.
Project Description or Portfolio
A portfolio is only required for very specialised programmes, like a Master of Research or a Master of Science degree.
Portfolios are typically required in applications for Masters in the Arts, Design and Architecture subject areas. Universities expect this portfolio to reflect your experience, and your skills and talent in your field of study. They will also look at your clients and the type of projects you carried through for them.
A project description is also another requirement for some degrees. This is required when you are applying to a programme that will end with a research thesis. This project description should include:
- What are you going to research and why
- What is the current state of research on that topic
- How you are going to conduct your research
- What findings you expect and how your research adds to the existent body of knowledge
- Curriculum Vitae
The CV is your business and employment history. Universities are not interested in a detailed description of all your jobs and extracurricular activities, but you should definitely include them. They want to see how your experience matches or shows your interest in the programme you wish to study.
If you’re applying to a Psychology degree, you will impress the board if you have taken internships at hospitals, or if you have published any studies in a peer-reviewed magazine.
How to apply to a university in the UK
All applications for Bachelor’s degrees in the UK are submitted using the UCAS application website (also known as Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).
The majority of universities in the UK will only accept your application through the UCAS system.
Follow these easy steps to apply through UCAS:
- Register and create your application on the UCAS website
- Apply for up to five programmes, at the same or different universities in the UK
- Complete personal information
- Include previous educational qualifications
- Add financial information
- Write a personal statement
Some universities may require additional tests as part of your application such as the UCAT or BMAT for Medicine, or the LNAT for Law degrees.
You can save your application and return to it on the portal as many times as you like before submitting the finalised version.
- Future Master’s and PhD students can apply directly to their desired university. Most universities allow you to send your application throughout the academic year, but some degree courses have specific deadlines, therefore, it is good to get in touch with your respective university.
- Apply via the UKPASS system. You can fill in all your details online and scan and upload any required documents needed as part of your application.
- For PhD programmes, applicants are usually expected to also choose a suitable supervisor from the university.
Language requirements for the UK university application
At UK universities, you have a wide range of degrees taught in English that you can choose from. For this reason, unless you come from an English-speaking country, you will have to deliver proof of your English language proficiency.
The national accepted language tests are:
- IELTS Academic
- TOEFL iBT
- C1 Advanced
- PTE Academic
- Study abroad in the UK
Required university application documents
Along with your personal information, you will need to submit photocopied evidence confirming your identity and academic history that you have stated.
These may include:
- Birth certificate
- Passport, national identification card
- Reference letters, if required
- Evidence of English competency
- Copies of degree/diploma certificates
- Academic transcripts
Graduate applicants may also be required to submit a research proposal as part of their application.
Most or all of the document copies will have to be certified by a professional authority, which will prove their authenticity. If a document or statement provided is not in English, an official notarised translation will have to be required.
University application deadlines in the UK
Here are some of the most important deadlines to consider when applying for a university in the UK:
- Mid-October; deadline for all Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine courses
- Mid-January; UCAS deadline for EU/EEA students. High ranking universities will not accept Bachelor’s applications after the UCAS application deadlines
- End of June; deadline for international students from a non-EU/EEA country
- Many universities have different deadlines for international students (especially for graduate applicants). Check specific university deadlines on the university websites
- August; The UCAS Clearing process. Universities open up all their remaining places for late university applicants who still want to start their degree studies in the current academic year
Final steps after receiving your university acceptance letter
Studying in the United Kingdom means a few extra steps after the application process:
- Settle your health insurance. If you come from an EU/EEA country, you can use the European Health Insurance Card. If the health insurance is not valid, you will have to pay 80–160 Euros per month to cover this
- Apply for the UK student visa if you are coming from outside the EU/EEA
- You might need to register at a police station within seven days after your arrival in the UK. This is only required if your visa sticker in your passport states ‘Police registration’
- Some UK universities require you to pre-enrol online on the university portal/website before arriving in the UK