Representative Sport and Student-run Sports

If you want to take part in higher-level competitive sport, virtually all universities have representative teams across a range of sports. Alternatively, if your goal is simply to keep fit while making friends, there are plenty of student-run sports available. If you'd like to train as a sports coach or referee, you may even get help from your university.

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Representing your university in sport • Student-run sport at university • Student coaches

University Rowing Team

Representative university sport

  • In representative sport, student teams take part in matches against other universities and often also participate in local leagues and other competitions.
  • If you're a member of a representative team you can expect to play a couple of matches a week, one against another university (usually on a Wednesday afternoon) and the other against a local sports club. You'll probably also have at least one training and/or coaching session.

Inter-varsity competitions in the UK are run by British Universities & Colleges Sports (BUCS) and Scottish Student Sport (SSS); from BUCS competitions, teams can even go on to compete at European or world-level. See more about BUCS and SSS below.

University Sport Running

BUCS: British Universities & Colleges Sports

BUCS British Universities & Colleges Sports

Nearly 170 institutions, including universities, are members of British Universities & Colleges Sports.

BUCS is the national governing body for higher education sport in the UK. It delivers over 50 sports and offers a comprehensive inter-university competition structure. This includes the BUCS Nationals, the UK's largest annual multi-sport event.

BUCS also aims to help students get into sport. It manages the development of services and facilities, from social and recreational sport to those required by elite athletes. Its vision is to create the best university sport experience in the world.

The BUCS sporting programme is available to the UK's students. Over 100,000 students regularly compete in BUCS competitions, leagues and events. 

  • BUCS delivers a number of sports to these students and universities and organises over 100 individual final or championship events each year.

  • BUCS collates all the results and produces 'ranking points' for all participating universities each year, so the higher a university's BUCS ranking the higher the overall standard of sports performance.

International university sport competitions

  • In certain sports the top university teams in the BUCS competition are eligible to compete in European Universities Sports Association (EUSA) competitions. These are 'Champions League' competitions, providing the opportunity for university teams to compete against the best in Europe.
  • BUCS also selects the British Universities' teams for events such as the World University Games (WUGs), the second biggest multi-sport event in the world after the Olympics. 

Scottish Student Sport

  • Similar to BUCS, Scottish Student Sport (SSS)  is a membership organisation representing Scottish universities and colleges. They work to develop sport in the sector and get more students physically active, working with BUCS, sportscotland and the Scottish Funding Council. 
  • SSS offer over 100 competitions a year; their largest annual event is the multi-sport Scottish Student Games.

University Sport Rugby Try

Student-run sport at university

Another route for getting involved in university sport is through student sports clubs, or intramural leagues where you compete against other teams within your university. Team sports are great for finding the motivation to keep fit – and give you the chance to widen your circle of friends. What's on offer may come at different levels:

  • Intramural sport (playing teams within your university).
  • Social and recreational sport (informal participation).
  • Health and well-being or lifestyle (e.g. gym, fitness, yoga and Pilates classes, swimming pool).

Competitive student sports

If you want to play team sports regularly but without committing to serious training or competing for university teams, intramural competitions are tailor-made for you.

  • There are opportunities for regular, but relatively casual, competition.
  • Most intramural competitions are available for men or women – although there may be mixed teams in sports such as korfball or hockey.
  • Some sports may involve university staff or the occasional graduate, as well as students, and there's usually around one match a week during term.

Student sports clubs

  • These clubs and leagues are generally operated by students for students, but are increasingly supported by permanent professional staff within the institutions.
  • Many universities have over 40 student sports clubs. By joining one (or more) you may discover a real aptitude for a particular sport and move from beginner to full international competitor in the few years it will take you to get a degree.

To see the kind of facilities and clubs you can expect from the universities you are interested in, see our page on University Sports Facilities.

Student coaches

An increasing number of universities now employ professional coaches (either full- or part-time) for most of their student clubs/teams. The professionals are often supported by student members with a coaching qualification.

  • If you're interested in becoming a coach, the cost of getting the necessary qualification – which will obviously look good on your CV – may well be subsidised by the club or sports union. 
  • The same goes for those interested in umpiring or refereeing.

To find out if your university offers volunteer programmes, see our section on University Sports Facilities.