In this post, I’ll be covering the hardest universities to get into in the UK.
Many excellent universities are located in the United Kingdom, and many local and international students apply for these universities.
Based on the available stats currently available to the public, I’ll cover the top 5 hardest universities to get into in the UK.
So without any further delay, let’s get into it.
How do you rank the ‘hardest’ University to Get into?
We can quantify the selectiveness based on two rates: offer rate and acceptance rate.
Every year, many prospective students apply to several different universities.
The admission process goes, in general, something like this: the student applies and the admission team looks through the application and conducts if deemed necessary, interviews.
Then based on these reviews, the admission team makes the prospective student an offer.
The offer rate here is the ratio between the number of prospective students who get an offer to the number of prospective students who applied.
The student then either gets a conditional offer or an unconditional offer.
These terms are what you expect.
That is, the former type of offer depends on conditions such as receiving the necessary grade when graduating from high school or secondary school.
If the student receives the offer, fulfils the conditions, and accepts the offer, then the student is officially admitted to the university.
Therefore, the acceptance rate is the ratio between the number of prospective students who accepted the university offer to the total number of students who applied.
To holistically judge how hard it is to enter a specific university therefore will require both looking at the offer rate and the acceptance rate.
But wait, there’s more.
It will depend also on the entrance requirements and the specific subjects that people apply to. For example, entering a university for medicine will be more competitive due to the limited spots and the high demand for the course.
So, I’ll rank the top 10 hardest UK universities to enter based on countless research looking at each factor qualitatively and quantitatively and making a holistic decision.
If you want to get the quick list, then here it is below.
- #1: University of St. Andrews
- #2: University of Oxford
- #3: University of Cambridge
- #4: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
- #5: Imperial College London
- #6: University of Edinburgh
- #7: University College London (UCL)
- #8: King's College London (KCL)
- #9: Durham University
- #10: University of Manchester
Offer rate: 24.7%
Acceptance rate: 9.04%
Located in the coastal town of St. Andrews in Scotland, the University of St. Andrews was founded in 1413.
It’s one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world.
The university provides world-class education in many different fields, such as arts and humanities, social sciences, and geosciences.
People like the Prince and Princess of Wales studied there.
In 2022, the university has received a total of 21,608 undergraduate applications.
Out of these, only 24.7% of applicants received an offer to study at the university and the acceptance rate was a meagre 9.04%.
This is one of the lowest in the UK and even more than the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford.
So why selective?
One factor is because of the size of the university.
It is one of the smaller universities in the UK compared to others on the list where it had 9,345 undergraduate students in 2021 – 2022.
Offer rate: 19.20%
Acceptance rate: 13.70%
This may not come as a surprise to many.
The University of Oxford was founded in 1096 and is considered to be the oldest university in the English-speaking world.
Today, it is one of the most prestigious universities in the world aligning its shoulders with the likes of Harvard University and Stanford University.
The university has received a total of 24,080 undergraduate applications in 2022.
Out of this total, only 19.2% received an offer and 13.7% were admitted to the university.
Here, the former is the lowest for any UK university in the UK.
This poses the question: why is it less selective than the University of St. Andrews?
That’s because of a special rule between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.
You are only allowed to apply to one of them every year, but not both.
Note that this caveat only applies to undergraduate and not master’s or doctorate degrees.
Offer rate: 21.8%
Acceptance rate: 15.46%
The University of Cambridge, like its arch-rival Oxford, is one of the oldest universities in the English-speaking world and the cream of the crop when it comes to universities around the world.
The university is located in Cambridge, which is about a little more than an hour by train northwest of London.
Additionally, the university has educated some of the most prominent individuals in history and the present age. For example, the university is affiliated with 121 Nobel Prize winners, one of the most in the world.
The selectiveness of the university is very similar to the University of Oxford.
In 2022, the university had a total of 22,995 undergraduate applicants.
Here, only 21.8% of applicants received an offer and 15.46% were officially accepted into the university.
Like stated previously, you are only able to apply to either Oxford or Cambridge as an undergraduate student every year, but not both.
Offer rate: 26.1%
Acceptance rate: 8.08%
This is the first of the universities coming from the capital—London.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was founded in 1895 and was long part of the University of London group.
The university specialises in social sciences and is considered to be one of the tops in the world when it comes to this domain.
Because of its reputation within and outside the UK, it has one of the largest international bodies of students of any UK university.
For 2022, the university has received a total of 26,625 applications for entry into the 2022-2023 academic year.
As expected of its reputation, it has a low offer rate of 26.1% and the university had an acceptance rate of 8.08%.
The latter was the lowest of all UK universities for that year.
Offer rate: 30.1%
Acceptance rate: 10.80%
Imperial College London is another university on our list located in London.
The university has its roots in the 19th century but first became one in 1907. Unlike our previous London university, it specialises in sciences and technology and is in fact one of the best in this domain: it ranks in the top 20 universities in the world.
Like LSE, it has a very large international student body.
The university had a total of 28,620 applications for undergraduate studies.
Out of all the applications, 30.1% were made an offer to study at the university and 10.80% were accepted into the university in 2022.
Offer rate: 29.7%
Acceptance rate: 8.59%
The University of Edinburgh is one of the ancient universities of Scotland, where it was founded in 1583.
Since then, it has gone on to become one of the most prestigious universities in the world and consistently ranks in the top 30.
The university has many strengths in several domains.
This includes but is not limited to biomedical sciences, neuroscience, social sciences, and engineering.
Now, onto stats.
In 2022, the university received 77,730 applications to undertake undergraduate studies.
Out of all the applications, 29.7% received an offer and 8.59% were admitted to the university.
Offer rate: 29.5%
Acceptance rate: 10.07%
Alongside Imperial College London and LSE, University College London (UCL) is another London-based university.
The university consistently ranks within the top 15 universities around the world.
Furthermore, the university excels in many different fields such as social sciences and natural sciences.
The university received a total of 74,775 undergraduate applications in 2022, of which 29.5% of applicants received an offer and 10.07% were admitted to the university.
Offer rate: 39.3%
Acceptance rate: 10.44%
King’s College London is a London-based university that was first founded in 1829.
The university has over 40,000 students and a very large presence of international students.
The university excels in many different domains.
But most notably, it has a world-class reputation in the area of social sciences and literature.
According to the 2022 stats, the university has received 70,090 applications for undergraduate study, but out of the total applications, 39.3% received an offer to study at the university and 10.44% were admitted to the university.
Offer rate: 48.0%
Acceptance rate: 13.68%
Durham University was established in 1832 and is one of the oldest universities in England.
The university is located in the historic town of Durham, which is located in the North of England.
The university consistently ranks in the top 100 universities in the world and excels in many different subjects.
For example, the university excels in subjects such as languages, history, Archaeology, and Chemistry.
Now, let’s take a look at the statistics.
The university received 34,205 applications for undergraduate study.
Out of these numbers, 48% received an offer to study at the university and only 13.68% were admitted to the university.
Offer rate: 51.5%
Acceptance rate: 10.40%
The University of Manchester is a university founded in 1824 and unsurprisingly, is a university located in the city of Manchester in England.
The university is a public research university that has a strong reputation in many different subjects.
For example, it excels in humanities and in STEM subjects such as engineering, physics, and biomedical sciences.
The university has a very large student population of over 45,000 students.
In fact, it is the most popular university in the UK by the number of applications, where it received a total of 92,310 applications for undergraduate studies in 2022.
Out of the total, 51.5% received an offer to study at the university and 10.40% were admitted into the university.
So these were the hardest universities to get into in the UK for 2023.
Particularly, I have taken a more holistic approach, where I have looked at not only the offer and acceptance rate of the universities, but also in terms of subjects, application pool, and other important factors.
Trying to apply and worried that you’re not getting into these universities?
Then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for university application help! We’ve got consultants who are alumni from all the universities above and will help you get there.