Thinking of taking a year out before you start your studies? Here's how.

What is deferred entry?

Deferring means applying for a course then taking a year out before going to university – for example, you could apply in September 2020 to start university in September 2022. Usually, you can only defer your entry by one year.

  • Some universities and colleges do not allow deferred entry for some subjects, such as medicine, but will consider applications for deferred entry for other subjects and courses. Make sure you check with the university or college that they're happy to consider an application for deferred entry – they may not be offering the course the following year, they could be changing it, or may prefer students not to have a gap in studying before they start their degree.
  • Applicants to conservatoire courses need to contact the conservatoire(s) directly to request deferred entry – you cannot apply for deferred entry in your application.  However, when considering applications, conservatoires can offer deferred places in response to an applicant’s request, or after obtaining the applicant’s agreement. 
  • You will still need to meet the conditions of any offers in the year that you apply – for example, if you receive a conditional offer in 2020/21 to start a course in 2022, you must have the exam results/grades to meet the conditions of your offer by 7 September 2021 (unless the university or college tells you otherwise).

Why defer entry?

For students finishing school or college, taking a year out before starting university – often called a gap year – gives them a chance to go travelling, earn some money to support their studies, and gain valuable experience. For others, it may be that they need to work, or have other commitments to fulfil before starting their course.

Applying for deferred entry means you can get your results confirmed and your university place set up and waiting for you to start the following year.

  • If you’re applying for deferred entry to uni, you need to think about how your gap year plans will be productive, and enhance your higher education studies. How do they relate to the subject area you plan to study, and how can your plans enhance your application?
  • Make sure you’re certain about the course, because if you secure a place, you’ll be committed to taking it up. You won’t be able to apply elsewhere in the 2021 or 2022 cycle while you hold that place, and you can only be released from the course if the course provider agrees. You can only reapply if the university agrees to withdraw your deferred application.

It’s very important that you check the subjects, courses, and universities/colleges you’re applying to are open to applications for deferred entry, otherwise you could end up wasting one of your choices. Check the university or college website, read the course information carefully, and/or contact their admissions team to find out if your chosen subject/course won’t accept deferrals.

How to defer your application

  1. In your UCAS application – if you decide you want to delay starting your course, you can apply at the same time as students planning to start in 2021, and defer your start date by a year:
    • You need to select the deferred entry start date when adding a choice on your UCAS application.
    • In your personal statement, you need to give reasons for deferring, and your plans for your year out. These will be taken into account when assessing your application.
    Your application will then go through the same process, at the same time, as applications to start in 2021. You will be able to track your application, and may receive the same types of offers from the universities and colleges by the same deadlines. You may also be invited to interviews, and will need to reply to your offers.
  2. Deferring after submitting your application – in some cases, this is possible, but it will depend on the university or college and course you have applied to. You should contact the university or college directly for advice. You may be asked to give reasons for deciding to defer.
  3. Deferring after you get your exam results/after your place is confirmed – if you're due to start your course in September and decide you want to defer your place for a year, you must contact the university or college directly. Some course providers may not allow deferral for some courses at this point in the application cycle. You will be asked to give reasons for your late decision to defer. Your request will be considered, but there is no guarantee that it will be accepted, and you may be asked to reapply.
    Be sure! Once you have deferred your place at this point, you will not be able to revert back to your original year of entry, so you need to be sure of your decision before contacting the university or college.
  4. What if you defer your place then change your mind? If you apply for and receive an offer of a deferred place for the following year’s entry, but then decide you want to start your course this year, you need to contact the university or college directly. This process is not straightforward, and will depend on whether there are places available on the course.   
  5. What if you want to apply through Clearing? As a deferred applicant, you cannot apply through Clearing using your deferred application. However, if you’ve changed your mind and want to apply for a different course, you need to let the university or college you hold a deferred place with know that you don’t want to attend anymore. You can do this by using the 'Decline my place' button in Track. You then need to complete a new application and follow the Clearing process. Find out more about Clearing.