This guide has been produced to provide parents and students of the secondary department with comprehensive information related to the variety of options available related to access to universities at home and abroad.
Students studying at Canterbury School can access universities in the United Kingdom, Spain, the USA and other countries in the world.
Given the diversity of the offer, it is impossible to establish one uniform criterion to access all these institutions. Therefore, the information provided is intended as a general guide. Both Mr. David O'Kane (Head of VI Form) and Mr. Pedro Tomás (Director of Studies) are always happy to discuss your son/daughter's case in more detail.
The curriculum at Canterbury School has been specifically designed to meet the needs of each student according to the path they wish to follow into higher education. Consequently, the curriculum is flexible and adapted the students' particular needs; the type and amount of subjects a student may decide to undertake is intrinsically linked to what they would like to study and where.
Access to British Universities
As a general rule, British universities ask for 3 A levels, and in nearly all cases GCSE Mathematics and English. The grades required from these qualifications (A*, A, B, C, D, E) depend on what each individual institution's entry requirements are; in this sense British universities are autonomous. The length of the undergraduate courses is usually 3 or 4 years, unless it is a course such as Medicine. Some courses include a sandwich year or a year in industry where students are given an opportunity to practice their skills in a professional working environment. It should be noted that the students are responsible for finding their work placement. Unlike work experience, they are paid a salary and treated the same as any other member of the workforce. In addition the academic requirements, many faculties may expect students to pass admissions tests, attend interviews or prepare a portfolio of work. It is essential that students think very carefully about what they would like to study, as they will also be required to write a personal statement explaining why.
As an alternative to direct access to undergraduate courses, most institutions offer foundation courses. These courses are designed for students who may not yet have reached the academic level (entry requirements tend to be lower) expected to be able to cope with studies at degree level. The courses are usually a year long and provide students with a solid base in essential skills for them to be able to succeed on an undergraduate course. Many foundation courses are offered together with a degree course as a four year package. However, once a foundation year has been completed, students may study their undergraduate course at any other university. In some cases, such as Art, a foundation year is essential, regardless of the grades achieved at A level.
The entire process of finding a course, applying and accepting and refusing offers is managed through a central system known as UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). The webpage, www.ucas.com includes all the information students and parents may need related to studying in the UK. At Canterbury School, all students are guided through the application process step by step. Rather than applying as individuals, they apply through the school which allows us to check their applications are being managed in the best possible way. Students will be required to choose 5 courses (these courses should be the same or similar), which will then be reduced to 2 later in the application process. Of these final two courses, one will become a firm choice, and the other an insurance choice. In the case that a candidate meets the requirements of their offer, they must take their first choice. If not, they will make use of the insurance choice. It is important, therefore, that the firm choice is a higher offer than the insurance choice. It is also important to understand that getting onto a course at a British university is not only about passing exams. Students must write a competitive, analytical personal statement, demonstrate that they have a genuine interest in their course and that they are well rounded young men and women. For this reason, extracurricular activities (such as The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award) and voluntary work and work experience are highly valued. Additionally, a letter of recommendation is also written by an experienced member of staff. Rather than one element of the application, it is the quality of the application as a whole (academic/non-academic record, work experience, personal statement, recommendation letter, admissions tests, interviews, portfolios) that makes a difference.
Although the whole process may appear extremely daunting, our students are given guidance and advice throughout the whole of the VI form. At the beginning of S5, all students have the opportunity to attend a VI Form Induction Programme with their Head of Year, tutors and many other members of staff. Additionally, an extended tutorial (40 minutes) every Monday morning is dedicated to guiding the students through the aforementioned process step by step. The Head of VI Form is responsible for the management of the applications via UCAS.
In the case that any student is required to attend an interview, their tutors, subject specialists and Head of Year will help them prepare. All universities expect students to be effective communicators and team players (among many other things) which is why we give great importance to learning beyond the classroom through initiatives such as The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award. Indeed, the Award is recognized around the world and is also listed as a qualification in the UCAS application system.
At the end of S5, a full week of Careers' Orientation is offered (both on and offsite) which is followed by a visit to several UK Universities (depending on the amount of students interested). Students are given the opportunity to speak to staff and students and visit campuses. But that is not all. They are also expected to plan, cook, clean and budget and therefore provided with firsthand experience of what living as a student in the UK (or any other country for that matter) entails.
The curriculum from S3 – S6 has been specifically designed so that students are able to apply to any university in the United Kingdom, including Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College or The London School of Economics. The flexibility built into the curriculum allows candidates to focus on 3 A levels, as long as they are absolutely sure they are going to study at a UK university. The subjects usually offered at A level are: Mathematics, Further Mathematics, English Language & Literature, History, Geography, German, French, Art, Psychology, Business Studies, Travel & Tourism, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These subjects are two year courses.
Throughout S4, all students are given advice on which subjects they should chose in the VI form. Each student is personally interviewed on two occasions by the Director of Studies to ascertain the best path forward. As previously mentioned, most courses require students to have 3 A levels, however, there may be certain exceptions where students are expected to have less or on the other hand, more. Of the 3 A levels required, perhaps one or two of these will be subject specific.
Studying in the UK is not cheap (although it is no more expensive than studying in cities like Madrid or Barcelona). However, there are a wide variety of sources of funding available. For more information, visit the UCAS website (www.ucas.com) and search for more detailed information in the 'Finance and Support' section.
Access to Spanish and other Universities
Students studying A levels are guaranteed equal opportunities with regards to access to Spanish universities (public or private). Such access is an integral part of the European Union's commitment to a more uniform system (Royal Decree 412/2014 6th June, published in the Official State Bulletin on the 7th June). Now that the PAU no longer exists, access to Spanish universities is becoming much more like other European countries, and in particular, the United Kingdom; Spanish universities now take into consideration interviews, admissions tests, personal statements and letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities. The major difference is that each university works on an autonomous level as far as entry requirements are concerned.
The grades achieved at A level (A*, A, B, C, D, E) have a numerical equivalent established by the Spanish Ministry of Education (MEC). This credential, awarded by the UNED, allows students to enroll and then later confirm their places on courses at Spanish universities. A list of the entry requirements at Spanish universities, as well as the courses on offer can be found at: http://www.ua.es/es/internet/listado. Another interesting website where academic requirements can be found is: http://www.notasdecorte.info.
How is the overall grade for access to Spanish universities calculated? The UNED issues the aforementioned credential using the following criteria:
A level conversion table
A* 140 points A 120 points B 100 points C 80 points D 60 points E 40 points
AS subjects completed in S5 may be added to the total only when the subject has not be taken at A level. Students who wish to access Spanish universities must have 5 IGCSE exams passed (completed in S5) in order to be able to apply the table below. IGCSE examinations do not have a numerical equivalent, only AS and A levels can be used to accumulate points.
Points Grade Points Grade
140 5,0 400 7,6
160 5,2 420 7,8
180 5,4 440 8,0
200 5,6 460 8,2
220 5,8 480 8,4
240 6,0 500 8,6
260 6,2 520 8,8
280 6,4 540 9,0
300 6,6 560 9,2
320 6,8 580 9,4
340 7,0 600 9,6
360 7,2 620 9,8
380 7,4 Más de 620 10,0
This chart is subject to changes in the next few months due to the changes taking place in the Spanish education system
Case study 1: access to university with a 5.0
The minimum for entrance to a Spanish university is 2 A levels (it is not possible with only 1). In this case, a C and a D would be sufficient, or indeed a B and an E, for example.
Case study 2: access to university with a 7.4
With 3 A levels: A A A*
With 4 A levels: B B A D
With 5 A levels: B B C D E
With 6 A levels: B C D D E E
Case study 3: access to university with a 10.0
With 5 A levels: A*A*A A A
With 6 A levels: A A A A A E
In the same way as with British Universities, students are guided through a thorough orientation process on how to access Spanish universities. These sessions are an integral part of the VI Form Induction Programme, Career's Orientation Week and all the Monday morning tutorials in S5 and S6. The Director of Studies is responsible for the management of the credentials issued by the UNED.
The curriculum from S3 to S6 has been designed so that all our students will be in a position to apply to any Spanish university. Students may take up to 6 A levels in order to achieve the highest possible grade in the Spanish system (the amount of A levels a student decides to take depends on the entry requirements for each undergraduate course).
If a student is required to attend an interview, the VI Form team will gladly assist in preparing them for the appointment. Additionally, The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award helps students to develop exactly the type of non-academic skills that universities in Spain are increasingly more interested in.
Over the last ten years Canterbury School has been successfully preparing students for access to Spanish universities via A levels. Therefore, despite that fact that legislation has recently changed, we are well accustomed to the academic and administrative processes involved.
As far as universities in the USA are concerned, students deal with the universities directly. A levels are accepted by American universities, although applicants may be required to sit the SATs.
We hope that the information in this guide is useful and we would appreciate your support with helping your children achieve their goals.
Of course, we are always willing to discuss any doubts you may have related to how the system works, or indeed your son/daughter's individual case.
Thank you for your continued support and collaboration.
Pedro Tomás David O'Kane
Director of Studies Head of VI Form