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UCAS Reference

We require a reference with every application. This should be from the applicant's most recent educational provider (i.e. if they've started to study at one university, we'd expect their academic reference to be provided by the university in question).

If the applicant has been outside of education for a long time, then we will accept a reference from another relevant professional, such as an employer. If you need further advice then UCAS provide additional information about references for mature students.

Following the reform of the UCAS reference, there are three sections to complete at UCAS:

  • General Statement about your school/college/centre.
  • If applicable, information about extenuating circumstances which may have impacted the applicant's education and achievement.
  • Outline of any other supportive information specific to the applicant and relevant to the course(s) applied for that you think universities/colleges should be aware of.

At Durham, our approach to reading references is to use these as a tool for understanding the applicant's academic journey through their personal and school context. As such, the most important elements of the reference for us are the first two sections.

We'd like to know if the applicant has additional commitments which take up a significant portion of their time alongside their studies, such as caring or parental responsibilities or they perhaps participate at a high level in sporting, theatre or music. Or if there are circumstances within their personal life which may demonstrate achievement beyond the grades they present, for example if they're care-experienced or estranged from their parents. We'd usually expect this to be included in section two of the reference.

In some instances the information you have to share may be more sensitive than would be appropriate to provide on the reference itself. In these instances, we'd recommend contacting us separately at

Additionally, we advise applicants to consider asking their referee to provide factual information about extracurricular or other activities which they're involved in, but won't enhance their personal statement within the space they have available. We know applicants often have a lot to tell us in their personal statement and this can help them to focus on demonstrating their academic ability rather than including everything they've done in little depth. We'd expect this to be in section three of the reference.

We appreciate that the reference you'll be providing will need to accommodate the needs of many universities or colleges. Providing additional information in the reference other than the areas we're specifically interested in won't disadvantage your students at all.

References for Primary Education with QTS

For students applying to study Primary Education, we'll be looking for additional information in section three of the reference regarding their suitability to teach.