Blog post

Tips on writing a UCAS reference

Whether you are new to writing UCAS references or write hundreds every year, this guide will help you perfect the art of writing a university reference for your students.

By Amy Fairbrother - 7 December 2018

What is a UCAS reference?

UCAS references are an important part of the UCAS journey and provide an academic assessment of an applicant’s suitability for a course. They allow an unbiased but positive account of a student and their abilities, in addition to their own personal statement. Like a personal statement, UCAS references also have to be less than either 4000 characters or 47 lines.

Who should write the reference?

It is important to remember that it is an academic reference, so it should not be written by family, friends or partners as this could result in the application being cancelled. References should be written by somebody who knows the applicant academically, such as a current teacher, tutor, principal or head teacher.

If the applicant left education years ago, an employer, volunteering supervisor or trainer can write the reference.

As a referee, you will need to provide your contact details such as email address, phone number, school/college name and full address, as well as your relationship to the student.

What are we looking for?

We spoke to Antonia Fox, Senior Admissions Administrator, who gave us an insight into what exactly you should include in the reference.


Skills, achievements and experience

Alongside academic qualifications, you can include information on the student’s skills, achievements and experience. This will help evidence the student’s potential to succeed in Higher Education and how they might contribute to university life.

Top tips:

About the author

Amy Fairbrother
Senior Schools and Colleges Liaison Assistant

Amy is a Senior Schools and Colleges Liaison Assistant at the University of Derby, facilitating outreach events and activities.