While UK universities are most au fait with the national qualifications of Britain and Northern Ireland, they are also comfortable with and knowledgeable about many international qualifications.
Most universities publish standard entrance requirements, with any specific deviations or additional requirements for courses outlined on the course’s page, and these general entrance requirements will refer to A-levels and Scottish Highers, for instance, but in almost all cases will also refer to the International Baccalaureate (now familiar to admissions offices across UK universities), and, less frequently but still common, the European Baccalaureate and requirements from American educational programmes (offers can be made relating to any combination of GPA/AP/ACT/SAT attainment). This means that specific attainment while completing these qualifications are sufficient for direct entry.
Universities then set their own policies on international qualifications from around the world, designating the required grades for direct entry, or notifying students of these qualifications that additional study would be required in order to become eligible to apply for study at the university. Most universities have an ‘international qualifications’ page, which sorts qualifications by country and where you can find the standard university requirements for your qualification- do remember that your specific course may have slightly different requirements, however! It can, unfortunately, be the case that the requirements for qualifications the universities are less familiar with can be markedly higher than students believe is fair; if you are in a position to select your course of study and are looking to move to the UK for university, we would strongly recommend checking the entrance requirements at a variety of universities for your national curriculum against the same universities’ requirements for the IB Diploma, for instance. This should serve to compare the ‘fairness’ of the requirements for your national curriculum, and you may opt to undertake the IBDP for any number of reasons, not least the understanding UK universities have of the challenges of the programme.
Some national school-leaving curricula are unfortunately not considered sufficient to meet a university’s entrance requirements, and therefore students undertaking these courses of study will have to complete additional study to be able to apply competitively to the university. This additional study can take many forms, from undertaking A-levels or the IB, as suggested by the University of Oxford, to attending a ‘foundation course’, as offered by many UK universities, from KCL to Manchester. Do be sure to call your preferred universities before deciding to embark on a foundation year, however, to ensure that this is necessary- if you feel sufficiently prepared to start your undergraduate studies and your qualification is in fact accepted, you could save yourself the additional expense of the foundation year! Do also bear in mind that you may have to provide evidence of your proficiency in English as part of your application- see our guidance on this for further details.