University acceptance rates in the UK range from reasonably high to shockingly low. And while most top tier universities have rather low acceptance rates, some of them, such as Durham, Warwick, and Exeter extend a fair amount of offers.
Offer rates also vary considerably, sometimes due to a university’s physical capacities or specific niche orientation. And since there are quite a few factors at play here, it can all get a bit confusing.
Don’t worry, though:
At Mark in Style, we decided to dig deep into the latest offer and acceptance rates and see what the stats have to say.
Fascinating Statistics about University Acceptance Rates UK (Editor’s Choice)
- University acceptance rates in the UK range from 44% to 8%.
- The University of St Andrews has the lowest acceptance rate of just 8%.
- On average, only 11-12 out of every 100 students are accepted to Cambridge.
- Unconditional offers are made to 1 in 12 applicants on average.
- Only around 12% of all students at Oxbridge come from working-class families.
- The most competitive degrees in the UK are Business and Science.
- Six universities that extend offers to over 90% of students who apply.
University Admission Statistics in the UK
1. There were 570,475 students accepted to undergraduate studies in 2020.
There were 728,780 applicants for starting an undergraduate course in 2020 in the UK.
It was a record year in admissions as well, since 570,475 people were accepted through UCAS to start higher education.
2. University acceptance rates in the UK went up by almost 3% in 2020.
The acceptance rate rose to 37.0% in 2020, which represents a record year in entry rates and an increase of 2.9% from 34.1% in 2019. Last year also had a record application rate for 18-year-olds, 41.5%.
Regional gaps remain, as 49.1% of London-based 18-year-olds entered HE, while that percentage in the South West was 32.4%.
3. The number of 18-year-olds is increasing, and there will be 90,000 new applicants by 2025.
2021 will see the first increase in the 18-year-old population since 2015, and this growth will continue over the next six years.
The thing is:
The projected increase in the number of 18-year-olds in the UK will be 114,060 by 2025, which means there will be 811,13031 people in this age group in five years.
This brings an increase of 90,000 applicants to the higher education system, and it will mean the competition will be fiercer unless the system successfully follows that growth. Universities might need to provide 358,000 additional student places in England alone by 2035.
4. In 2020, mature students’ acceptances recorded the largest single-year growth since 2009.
Acquiring new skills, changing professional orientation, challenges people faced with lockdowns and the Covid recession caused the number of mature applicants and their admission rates to grow.
Mature students, those entering HE aged 21 and over, increased to 114,440.
5. The university acceptance rates in the UK for disadvantaged students increased by 9.3% in 2020.
All MEM groups recorded increases in entry rates during 2020, but the rates for MEM group one, which represents disadvantaged students, went up by 9.3% proportionally to 14.4% overall.
6. A record 29,020 students from low participating areas were accepted in 2020.
POLAR4 Q1, the areas with the lowest participation, recorded the highest number so far in accepted rates, with 29,020 accepted, along with 1,645 Scottish students from SIMD Q1.
There are over 14,000 acceptances from the group of English students that are receiving free school meals.
7. The number of nursing applicants rose by 63% in 2020.
The number of nursing applicants in 2019 was 7,880. In 2020, it went up to 12,840, with the ‘Covid Cohort’ choosing nursing almost twice as much as the year before, during the first lockdown, up 98%.
Almost half of the applicants report the pandemic influencing their choice, and 8% say it was the primary reason they made the decision.The Covid Cohort unsurprisingly kept medicine up there as one of the most competitive fields, where only 34.9% of applicants got the offer in the end.
8. The Covid Cohort records a 10.4% increase in declaring mental health conditions.
Even with the constant rise of declaring mental health conditions in the last decade, 2020 recorded a jump of 10.4%, with 17,455 accepted students. Over 26.9% of all declarations were for mental health conditions, and the number is being observed due to the impacts Covid pandemic will leave on students long term.
9. University acceptance rates in the UK in 2019 range from 44% to 8%.
(Student Crowd, UCAS, Save the Student)
Looking at all universities across the United Kingdom, the average offer rate is 71.44%.
If you’ve ever wondered which university has the highest acceptance rate in the UK, the statistics for university acceptance rates show it’s Bishop Grosseteste University, with an acceptance rate of 44.78%. The lowest rate is recorded at St Andrews at only 8%.
10. Four universities extend offers to over 90% of students who apply.
(Save the Student)
The easiest universities to get into in the UK, at least looking at the number of offers they extend to applicants, are:
- Aberystwyth University – 96.1%
- University College Birmingham – 94.3%
- University of Roehampton – 93.9%
- Bishop Grosseteste University – 92.2%
11. 16 universities extend offers to over 80% of students who applied in 2020, university acceptance rates confirm.
(Save the Student)
UK university admission offers are extended to over 80% of applicants by as many as 16 universities. Those are:
- University of Portsmouth – 89.9%
- York St John University – 89.4%
- Leeds Trinity University – 89%
- Nottingham Trent University – 88.9%
- Newman University, Birmingham – 88.7%
- University of Exeter – 88.7%
- St Mary’s University, Twickenham – 88.3%
- University for the Creative Arts – 88.2%
- University of Sussex – 88%
- University of Lincoln – 87.2%
- University of Winchester – 87.1%
- Royal Holloway, University of London – 86.5%
- University of Kent – 86.5%
- Lancaster University – 86.1%
- Northumbria University – 85.5%
- Solent University – 85.5%
For everyone looking into how to get into uni, UCAS offers extensive insight into the requirements needed for admissions for all universities. You can also find universities with low entry requirements there.
Here’s the deal:
The easiest five are Birkbeck, University of London with 94 UCAS points, Bedfordshire with 95 points, Leeds Trinity with 100, Wrexham Glyndwr with 101, and London Metropolitan with 101 points.
12. Colleges at Oxbridge extend offers to under 30% of applicants.
(Save the Student)
Comparing the number of offers to the actually accepted students in the top 20 hardest universities to get into in the UK, the results are as follows:
- University of Oxford – 21.8%
- University of Cambridge – 28.5%
- London School of Economics and Political Science – 35.2%
- St George’s, University of London – 39%
And here are the unis that send off offers to over 40% of applicants in 2020:
- University of the Arts London – 41.9%
- University of St Andrews – 42.3%
- Imperial College London – 43.0%
- The University of Edinburgh – 43.8%
- Leeds Arts University – 46.7%
- University of Dundee – 48.8%
- University of Strathclyde – 48.9%
Offers extended to over 50% of applicants come from:
- Arts University Bournemouth – 52.1%
- University College London (UCL) – 52.3%
- City, University of London – 54.5%
- Glasgow Caledonian University – 54.5%
- Edinburgh Napier University – 55.8%
- King’s College London – 56.1%
- University of Glasgow – 57.0%
- The University of the West of Scotland – 57.0%
- Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (57.5%)
Which brings us to the following key question:
13. Which university has the lowest acceptance rate in the UK?
The university with the lowest acceptance rate of just 8% is the University of St Andrews.
Founded in 1413, it’s the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the UK, following Oxford and Cambridge.
With students from 145 countries, it’s one of the most diverse college communities. This is largely due to its admissions policies that ensure 45% of students come from outside the UK.
Only 8 out of 100 candidates get accepted, making this university one of the most competitive. A score of at least 240 is needed to be able to have a shot at being accepted, which is why St Andrews has the lowest acceptance rate.
14. With an average acceptance rate of around 15% in 2020, Cambridge is one of the hardest universities to get in.
(The Independent, Global Scholarships, Quora, Collegedunia)
According to the latest Cambridge admission statistics, the University of Cambridge is among those with the lowest rates and first on UK university ranking.
Established in 1209, it’s the second oldest university in England, and it’s one of the best education institutions in the world.
That being said:
With its 6 schools and 100 departments, not all schools in Cambridge are the same when we look at admission rates.
On average, out of every 100 students, only 11 or 12 are accepted. To be successful, you need 40-42 points and 776 for subjects in Higher Level.
15. The lowest success rate at Cambridge can be found at Medicine Graduate Course at 9.1%.
(The Independent, Global Scholarships)
The hardest courses to get into at Cambridge are the Medicine Graduate Course with a 9.1% success rate, Economics with 13%, Politics, Psychology, and Sociology with 15.1%, Medicine with 15.3%, and Veterinary Medicine with 16.5%.
On the other end of the spectrum:
The easiest Cambridge college to get into are Classics with a 50.3% success rate, Music with 48.3%, Archaeology and Anthropology with 45.1%, Theology and Religious Studies with 44.4%, and Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic studies with 41.4%.
One of the most intriguing questions is:
Does Cambridge give unconditional offers?
And here’s the deal:
According to Philip Howie, former Researcher at the University of Cambridge, there are no unconditional offers at Cambridge apart from matriculation offers. This means having Es at A level, then being extended one – but that is also a rare occasion.
16. Oxford university admissions statistics show an acceptance rate of 18%.
(Oxford Royale, Global Scholarships)
It should come as no surprise that some of the lowest acceptance rates can be found at Oxford, the oldest university in England, founded 1096, and the second oldest in the world after the University of Bologna (Editor’s Note: Some sources claim the Magnaura School in Constantinople, whose origins date back to the early 5th century AD, was the oldest university in the world, but this claim is disputed).
Due to its close relationship with Cambridge, the students are not allowed to try for both schools at the same time, with the exception of graduates and organic scholarship pupils.
The number of students who applied in 2018 was over 21,000 for undergraduate and 26,000 for graduate studies. They were competing to fill 8,800 open slots.
17. The lowest acceptance rates at Oxford are Economics and Management at 8.2%.
(Oxford Royale, Global Scholarships)
When it comes to the question of the easiest Oxford college to get into, there are no easy answers. The situation changes every year, and prospective students should keep a close eye on the latest developments.
Traditionally, the hardest to get into are Economics and Management and Law and Law Studies in Europe with a 8.2% success rate, Engineering with 8.4%, Medicine with 10.2%, and Fine Art with 11.9%.
The easiest to get into are Classics with 40.1%, Chemistry with 33.6%. They’re followed by Theology & Oriental Studies at 33.3%, Modern Languages at 31.8%, and Classics & Modern Languages at 31.6%.
18. The University of Exeter acceptance rate is 17%, with its offer rate considered to be very high at 89%.
(Student Crowd, Times Higher Education)
Among the top 50 universities in the UK, this Russel Group university is located in Devon’s historic county town of Exeter, which dates back to Roman times. Students expecting to enter Exeter need 471 UCAS points on average. While it has an unusually high offer rate, students are held to a high standard, and only 17% get accepted in the end.
19. The University College London acceptance rate is 11%.
(UCL, Global Scholarships)
This top tier university in the UK has a low acceptance rate going from 11% to 7% for some departments. University College London has a rather low acceptance rate compared to its offer rate, which stands at 63%. This makes it one of the most selective universities in the UK.
Out of 42,540, only 5,490 ultimately ended up enrolled at UCL for the 2018/19 academic year. Their UCL SAT requirement for admission is 1490 and a 6.5 in IELTS/100 in TOEFL, and students are expected to have a score of A*A*A-ABB in A levels.
Established in 1826 as the first university to ignore students’ religious background, UCL has over 35,000 students.
It’s ranked 8th in 2020 QS World University Rankings and fourth in Europe.
20. The University of Edinburgh acceptance rate is 12.28%.
(UCAS, Student Crowd, Global Scholarships, The University of Edinburgh)
Founded by the Town Council of Edinburgh, Scotland’s second-oldest university was established in 1582.
Over 36,000 students, 23,000 of whom are undergraduates, are distributed in 5 campuses across the city.
Edinburgh Uni is currently ranked 20th in the world, and up to 30% of its students come from abroad.
The acceptance rate for this university is known to be very low, hovering a bit over 12%.
Students who score above 224 points show a better success rate at getting accepted. The University of Edinburgh accepted 7,344 students in 2020.
21. The University of Glasgow acceptance rate is 18.18%.
(UCAS, Student Crowd, Global Scholarships)
Even with an offer rate as high as 74.3%, you’ll have to have around 485 UCAS points to get into Glasgow. The institution is more than 560 years old and prides itself on its academic standard and leading research.
And that’s not all:
It was rated a 5-star university in the QS World University Rankings in 2019 as well as Scottish University of the Year in 2018.
Its top courses are Medicine and Veterinary Science, followed by Anatomy and Physiology.
22. The Royal Holloway acceptance rate is 16.98%.
(UCAS, Student Crowd, Petersons)
This university, opened by Queen Victoria, is in the top 25 universities in the UK and has 9000 students.
Its offer rate is very high, 87%, making it one of the top choices for people coming into higher education. The most popular courses at Royal Holloway are Arts, Science, Law, And Management/Economics, and the acceptance rate is 16.82%.
23. Plymouth Uni enrolment stats show a 22.76 % acceptance rate.
(UCAS, Student Crowd, Petersons)
Plymouth University is well known for its research in environmental studies and marine pollution. It has a high offer rate of 85% and an acceptance rate of 22.76%.
Plymouth is known for the excellence of its teaching and research and particularly for the way in which it supports its students to be the very best they can. This, and the fabulous location in Britain’s Ocean City in west Devon, presents a compelling and attractive choice for many students.
The university is also well known for its strong sustainability credentials, including its world-leading position in marine litter research. It’s a destination of choice for those who care about the environment and who want to make a difference.
24. In 2018, the acceptance rate at Durham University stood at 17,68%.
How hard is it to get into Durham University is an interesting question, as the University of Durham has a pretty high offer rate of 72%, while the actual acceptance rate is just 17%.
This university, founded by an Act of Parliament in 1832, was the first university to open in England after Oxford and Cambridge. Its high requirements and standards make it one of the most popular educational institutions.
In 2018, the university received 19,500 applications, out of which 3,400 students were successful, meaning the acceptance rate stood at 17,68%.
UCAS stats show candidates need to have a score higher than 224 points to get into Durham.
25. Unconditional offers are made to 1 in 12 applicants on average.
(UCAS, The Independent)
Getting an unconditional offer used to be quite rare before 2013. And for some universities like Cambridge, it’s still all but impossible.
It’s not all bad news, though:
Many universities have started extending more of these offers, which means a candidate has already achieved the required conditions and secured their place if they want it. At the time of writing, there are 2.5% unconditional offers, meaning one in twelve applicants will get one.
This percentage stood at under 1% before 2013 when only 4 universities made those types of offers, a drop from the 16 universities that did so in 2008 and 2009.
The number rose to 19 in 2014, and 35 universities sent out unconditional offers to their applicants in 2015.
26. The most competitive degrees in the UK are Business and Science.
(Studying in the UK, Studying International)
Next on the list are Engineering and Technology, Medicine, Law, Social Sciences, Sports Science, Media and Communication, Arts and Hospitality, and Tourism.
You’ll have to put in the least number of hours in Mass Communications & Documentation, only 22 hours, making it the easiest degree to get in the UK.
And before you go – we’ve got one final tip:
The university offer calculator provided by UCAS can help you determine how likely you are to get an offer from a university. This offer rate calculator gives the percentage of probability of receiving an offer by comparing one’s grades to those of applicants in the past with the same A levels.
27. Only around 12% of all students at Oxbridge come from working-class parents.
Anyone even remotely acquainted with UK education statistics knows Oxbridge is a tough nut to crack.
Looking at the occupation of parents, the percentage of students coming from working-class parents across Britain was 32.3% throughout all the universities. But for those considered to be posh universities, the gap of around 20% is evident.
So, it should come as no surprise that Oxford is the university with the fewest students with parents who have routine or manual jobs, with only 11.5% of its students coming from working-class families.
Following closely is Cambridge with 12.6% and Bristol with 14.2%.
The Bottom Line
The ratio between offers and admissions can sometimes be quite surprising. With that in mind, it’s vital not to mix the two in search of information when looking to apply for uni.
University acceptance rates in the UK don’t depend solely on grades and fulfilled requirements. The numbers are influenced by the available slots at universities, the popularity of the courses they offer, accessibility, and much much more.