Second Reference Ucas Personal Statement

How to provide a reference for an applicant to higher education.

If you have been asked to provide a reference for an applicant to higher education, we have information in this area to help you.


You can use up to 4,000 characters or 47 lines of text (including spaces and blank lines) – whichever comes first. You will need to write in English, unless the applicant is applying to Welsh universities or colleges and the rest of their application is completed in Welsh – in which case the reference may, of course, be written in Welsh.

When writing a reference, you should remember that – under the terms of the Data Protection Act – applicants can ask for copies of their references and any other personal information that we have about them.

We ask applicants to make sure they have the agreement of their chosen referees before they enter their details. We also ask them not to choose family members, friends, partners or ex-partners as referees. If this describes your relationship with the applicant, please don't agree to be a referee. The applicant is not permitted to write their own reference. If subsequently we find any of the above to be the case, the application may be cancelled.

The process for providing a reference differs depending on the type of study, so click the relevant area below for specific, tailored advice.


Qualification reform

  • In the changing qualification landscape, an applicant’s reference will play an increasingly important role in providing unis and colleges with information on the applicant's qualifications. To help you when writing references, SPA’s National Expert Think Tank (NETT) on curriculum and qualification reforms has created Guidance for school and college references - what HEPs would like to know
  • As the reference has a limited set of characters, we recommend you create a web page giving details of your school or college’s qualification offer and the rationale behind it. The URL to this page can then be entered in the reference. 

Find out more about qualification reform


Undergraduate references

Are you a referee for an undergraduate applicant applying through UCAS?

UCAS Undergraduate references


Conservatoires references

Are you a referee for a performing arts applicant applying through UCAS Conservatoires?

UCAS Conservatoires references


Teacher training references

Are you a referee for a postgraduate teacher training applicant applying through UCAS Teacher Training?

UCAS Teacher Training references


Postgraduate references

Are you a referee for a postgraduate applicant applying through UKPASS?

UCAS Postgraduate (UKPASS) references


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I'm a Mature student - who can I ask to write a reference for me?

Don't worry if you've been out of education for a few years or more - you can still easily obtain a reference for your UCAS application.

The following people are suitable to act as your referee:

  • Current or previous employer
  • Current or previous work colleague
  • A tutor from your old school or college
  • An adviser or training provider in a current or previous role.

As long as the person knows you well enough to comment on your academic abilities, and other skills/experience relating to your chosen university course, then UCAS will accept their reference.

However, you must not ask a member of your family, friend or ex-partner to act as your referee. If UCAS find out you have done so, they have the right to cancel your application.

What should they include in my UCAS reference?

Normally, the following points should be covered in the reference:

  • Academic achievements and your potential, including any predicted examination results or performance
  • Your suitability for the degree you are applying for
  • Any factors that influence performance, e.g. disabilities, learning difficulties or personal circumstances
  • Personal qualities, such as motivation, analytical skills, ability to work as part of a team, solving problems, etc.
  • Any career plans you have
  • Non-academic interests and/or hobbies.

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