The vast majority of universities in the UK are government-financed, and therefore students apply through UCAS to their five top choices. However, there are a small number of private universities, able to award degrees but who do not receive funding from the government and are therefore run as profit-making or charitable endeavours, which can be applied to directly, rather than through UCAS.
This provides some applicants the opportunity to apply to more than five courses, provided they can find their course offered at one of the private universities. Currently, private universities in the UK are broadly split in two, with some, such as Regent’s University London and the University of Buckingham, offering academically-focused study, while others, such as BPP University and the University of Law offering vocational, career-focused studies. Arden University offers distance-based and blended learning, setting this slightly aside from those mentioned previously.
The most high-profile independent university in the UK is the New College of the Humanities, founded in 2011 by the philosopher A. C. Grayling, whose students have, unusually, been able to apply for government student loans to cover some of their tuition fees and maintenance costs since 2015. While there have been relatively few graduates as yet to draw comparisons to other top universities, recent student satisfaction data has indication students of the New College of the Humanities are happier with their overall university experience than at some Russell Group and London universities. However, the college continues to draw criticism of elitism and of benefitting from ongoing troubles in the university sector, which are rebutted by Grayling, who suggests there is “nothing wrong with being elite as long as you are not exclusive”.
Private universities offer a completely different spectrum of experiences to the traditional British University. Make sure you do your research before you make your application to ensure that the private experience is the one for you!