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Referee FAQs

What is UWC?

The United World Colleges form a network of 18 international schools which are united by a mission to use education as a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. The experience of going to a UWC is a transformative one.

Students from around 70 different countries live and learn together in an environment that fosters co-operation, collaboration and critical thinking. Students study the International Baccalaureate Diploma and spend a lot of time completing a co-curriculum which particularly values community service. A commitment to service is something that marks UWC students long after they graduate. UWC seeks to have an impact through its graduates, many of whom go on to have careers in NGOs, governments and in education.

What is the UWC National Committee of Great Britain?

The National Committee is made up of volunteers, most of whom are alumni and parents of the UWC movement. The primary task of the National Committee is to select students to attend UWCs and it is a job we take very seriously. The National Committee also seeks to raise the profile of the UWC movement in Britain, run outreach programmes and support students before and during their time at UWC.

Why should I write a reference?

The references (community and academic) are essential to us making an informed decision about who to ask to interview. They help us to know more about the applicant, seeing them through your eyes. Hopefully you will see the benefit to the applicant of attending a UWC and will be able to speak honestly and enthusiastically about them. If this is not the case, we ask that you suggest someone else to the applicant who will be able to do so. Seniority is not important in this case – what is more important is that you can speak in detail about the applicant and why they would be appropriate to attend a UWC.

What kind of person are we looking for?

There is no ‘ideal’ UWC student, but broadly the National Committee will be looking for a good level of academic achievement across a broad range of subjects, open-mindedness, an awareness of international issues and if possible evidence of commitment to the local community. As well as this we are looking for applicants who have the potential to grow and thrive in a UWC. We are particularly keen to increase the demographic and geographic diversity of our applicants, and to increase the number of male applicants. The United World Colleges are committed to selecting students solely on merit and potential regardless of religious, social or ethnic background.

What if I don’t know enough about UWCs?

We understand that many referees will not know a great deal about UWCs. However, we ask that you read this guidance carefully, as well as the guidance that is contained on the reference form sent to you. You may also find it useful to explore this website and visit for more information.

What kind of reference would be most helpful to the interview panel?

References should ideally be written by someone who knows the candidate really well. This may be a form tutor, a subject teacher, a volunteer manager or colleague. The content of the reference will not be quoted verbatim to the candidate at interview. Referees should also feel free to give information about learning difficulties, family background or other sensitive information, which will be treated in confidence by the interview panel. We realise that references can take a lot of time, but we hope that you realise that in many cases this means a great deal to the applicant. We very much appreciate and would like to thank you for your support.

Do you know any more eligible young people who might be interested in UWC?

IIt may be that one student or young person has approached you to ask about providing them with a reference. However, it may be that you know more young people who either this year or in a future year may also be appropriate for a UWC. Please note that the eligibility criteria are that an applicant should have lived in Britain for three years before applying or that they have a British passport and live overseas. They should also normally be 16 on 1st September in the year they enter a UWC.

If it would be useful for a member of the National Committee to visit you and your students or members to discuss and introduce UWC, then please email

More questions? Email with any questions.