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Unlocking Your Path to Academic Excellence: Navigating the UCAS Reference Revolution

Evelyn Pike
September 28th 2023

A guide for our discerning parents and aspiring university applicants. 

In the dynamic world of higher education, academic distinction has never been more important, with institutions relying on both personal statements and references to gauge whether students will be the right fit.  

UK universities now seek a more standardised and insightful way to evaluate applicants, with UCAS now introducing a groundbreaking change to the reference system.  

At William Clarence, we recognise that these transformations may seem daunting. Our expertise and guidance are here to empower you through this academic journey

So, how exactly will the UCAS reference structure change, and how will it affect your application? We explore the answers in this blog.  

Embracing a Structured Approach 

Academic references have traditionally been a cornerstone of university applications. However, the content of these references often varied significantly, leaving admission committees with the challenging, time-consuming task of deciphering nuanced differences.   

To address this challenge, UCAS is bringing in structured references, commencing with the 2024 entry cycle. Universities will therefore be able to easily access information to provide support and make selection decisions, and advisers can be confident that their reference is useful and insightful.  

This transformative approach replaces the free-text format with three distinct sections: 


This section allows your school, college, or centre to provide a general statement. 

More About You 

If applicable, this is where your referee can include information about extenuating circumstances that may have impacted your education and achievement.  

It is an opportunity for your referee to share essential information about any disabilities, long-term illnesses, learning differences, mental health conditions, and other individual circumstances. This part of the reference can include details about how these circumstances have affected your educational journey, providing crucial context to your chosen university. 


This section is a space for your referee to outline any other relevant information specific to you and your chosen course, which they believe universities and colleges should be aware of. 

It has been refocused to allow referees to offer more supportive statements on your performance and potential related to your chosen course. This shift emphasises the importance of concise, targeted statements rather than the replication of previous approaches. 

Under the Data Protection Act 2018, you have the right to request a copy of the reference and any personal information held about you by UCAS. Therefore, the discretion and professionalism of your referees are paramount. 

Expert Guidance with William Clarence 

The introduction of huge changes into UCAS references doesn’t need to be cause for concern. At William Clarence, we proudly advise and guide referees on writing fantastic, memorable references. Vigilance about repetitive content, personal comments, line and character count, degree specifics and accurate predictions are all utmost importance.  

As structured references become the norm, it's evident that expertise will be indispensable. The landscape of university admissions is evolving, and expert guidance is your key to success. 

With its distinguished history of academic consultancy, the team at William Clarence is ready to guide you through these changes. Whether you are considering a medical degree or aspire to Oxford and Cambridge, our seasoned education consultants have the knowledge and insight to ensure that your references stand out in the eyes of university admission committees.  

We are well-versed in the intricacies of UCAS references and can help your referee craft a statement that shines in a competitive field. 

The future of your academic journey deserves nothing less than excellence. Trust William Clarence to help you achieve it. 

Book an appointment with one of our expert consultants today.