Universities and Colleges Admissions Service - a public body which handles the applications for all higher educational institutions in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

They allow you to apply for up to six courses at different institutions, using a single, fairly simple application form. Exam results from the various examining bodies are passed to UCAS, to enable letters of acceptance or rejection to be sent to applicants automatically.

Those who don't make the grade after their final exams get to enter a process known as Clearing. UCAS publish the courses with places remaining, and applicants phone the institutions direct to get places.

On the whole, the system works; funded by the government, and the £17 or so each applicant pays along with their application form.

Web site: www.ucas.ac.uk