Ucas tariff points and employers

Ucas is well known for its applications service which supports thousands of students through their journey into higher education each year. But Ucas also works closely with qualification providers to deliver a points scheme, known as the tariff, to help universities and colleges in the UK objectively compare applicants with different qualifications.

The Ucas tariff allocates points to qualifications used for entry into higher education. It allows students to use a range of different qualifications, from vocational courses to A levels, to help them secure a place on an undergraduate course. However, the tariff only applies to qualifications that are directly equivalent to A levels (defined as Level 3) and does not include qualifications at higher levels.

Recently, Ucas has noticed a growing trend where job applicants are contacting the admissions service to say that they cannot apply for jobs because they don’t have the specified number of tariff points. This is an interesting development as this is not what the points scheme was intended for.

The tariff is not appropriate for this purpose; it is designed to help applicants gain entry into higher education, and for that purpose alone.

The problems arise when applicants have qualifications that aren’t currently covered by the tariff or they have qualifications that date from years before the tariff was introduced. This will unfairly exclude anyone who completed a Level 3 qualification before 2002 – that typically means anyone over the age of 26 might find they couldn’t apply for a vacancy, even though they may be suitable for the post they are applying for. By using this method, employers could be losing extremely capable candidates.

Other problems are with graduate recruitment schemes and internships where candidates will have a higher level of educational achievement than are currently on the tariff. The complaints received by Ucas have been more pronounced with online applications where individuals are unable to proceed with an application if they don’t meet the tariff criteria. Candidates have had to abandon applications with no way of speaking to the organisation involved to explain.

One complainant to Ucas said: “I have had one application declined on the fact that I did not take A levels, even though I have an ONC, HNC, degree, certificates, NVQs and a Diploma… at the time I attended school, very few people went on to take A levels, therefore I feel that I have been penalised unfairly.”

We are always keen to work closely with businesses and if graduate recruiters feel that the tariff is useful as a measure of the suitability of a candidate for a position, then we would love to hear from them.

The link between higher education and business is clear. Ucas supports that partnership and that is why we would urge any employers to get in touch with us to discuss the use of the tariff.

Email: tariffqueries@ucas.ac.uk or Tel: 0871 468 0472

The Ucas tariff



  • The tariff compares A level equivalent qualifications only. Achievement in higher or lower level qualifications is not included

  • The tariff came into existence in 2002. Any qualifications achieved before 2002 will not have points

  • On the whole, non-UK qualifications do not attract tariff points.

Richard Spencer is a policy executive at Ucas

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