Coronavirus (Covid-19 virus), exams and university applications

virus image
Are you wondering what the future holds?
Stay calm and follow our updates and advice.

Exams have been cancelled due to Coronavirus. Exam boards across the country are working on processes to provide exam grades for every student. Universities have moved to online and remote teaching, and are deciding how to approach applications and teaching for students planning to start university in the autumn.

We know that this has created a lot of uncertainty for existing students and those planning to start university in the autumn. Together with everyone working in universities and higher education, we want to help you understand the situation and how it affects you. Along with the information below, we've included links to official announcements from exam bodies, Government and organisations such as UCAS and Universities UK.

A possible cap on the number of university places in England has been reported in the media (29 March). As yet, there is no official confirmation but, whether or not this is implemented for 2020, you should not worry about your application, or even your decision about university this year. Wait until all the facts are known.

How the Complete University Guide can help

We're here to support and advise you. Follow us on social, DM or post your questions or ask our experts at ask@thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk.

In the meantime, our advice about choosing a course and choosing a university is unchanged: find the right course and the right institution for you.

Remember that universities make their offers on more than just your exam results. All universities and colleges want to support you through your application. 


Information for students in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

In England

  • Ofqual (the exams regulator) is developing a process to provide you with calculated grades for A level based on your previous attainment, course work and the grades your teachers believe you would have been awarded if the exams had gone ahead. 
  • The aim is to provide these grades by the end of July.
  • There will be an option to sit an exam later if you do not feel your grades reflect your performance.

In Northern Ireland

  • The priority will be to ensure that students receive fair and equitable results that reflect their hard work and enable judgements to be made about progression to study or employment or other avenues.
  • The Department of Education will work with the Further and Higher Education sectors to ensure the arrangements that are put in place will allow them to operate admissions processes as efficiently as possible.
  • Updates on the process of issuing grades to students will be published as soon as possible.

In Scotland

  • The SQA is developing an alternative process to provide you with grades for Highers and Advanced Highers, based on completed coursework, previous attainment and estimated grades provided by teachers.
  • The SQA aims to provide all students with their grades by 4 August.
  • All students are strongly encouraged to sign up to MySQA.

In Wales

  • Grades for A levels will be calculated using a range of evidence, including work already completed, and standardised teacher-assessed grades – what your teachers think you would have achieved if the exams had gone ahead.
  • Qualifications Wales is still to agree the dates on which results will be issued and are working hard to provide information as soon as possible.

Unconditional offers

Universities have been told by the Office for Students (OfS) to stop making unconditional offers and amending existing offers for two weeks (from 23 March 2020). The OfS is concerned that unconditional offers during this period of uncertainty may put pressure on students to accept a course that is not the best for them. There is no rush to make decisions about courses and universities at the moment, whilst the exam boards develop a fair way of issuing exam grades. Find out about unconditional offers and how to reply.

Student loans and finance

You should still apply for a student loan if you are considering going to university this year (academic year 2020–21). 

The Student Loans Company (SLC) has published updates for prospective and existing students, for those who have already graduated. This information is for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The SAAS has published FAQs for students in Scotland, covering accommodation, applying for finance, and for those who are currently receiving student loans.

Read about university tuition fees and the financial support available.  

Links to official announcements

Student Finance England

Student Finance Northern Ireland

Student Awards Agency Scotland

Student Finance Wales

SAAS Coronavirus FAQs (30 March 2020)

Student Loans Company (SLC) guidance for prospective students, current students and repayment customers (27 March 2020)

Office for Students statement about unconditional offers (23 March 2020)

Open letter to all students from UCAS and Universities UK (20 March 2020)

Statement from the Department of Education, Northern Ireland (20 March 2020)

Statement to Scottish students from the SQA (19 March 2020)

Statement to Welsh students from Qualifications Wales (20 March 2020)

Joint statement about university admissions from the heads of university groups (Russell Group, GuildHE, Million Plus and University Alliance). (20 March 2020)

UK Government statement about exams and grades (20 March 2020)

Scottish universities statement about the cancellation of exams (19 March 2020)