Evaluating the Top UK University Acceptance Rates

When the time comes to start planning your higher education journey, you may be wondering what targets and goals you need to achieve to have the best chance of acceptance into your preferred university.

However, some universities are much harder to get into than others, especially considering the long, rich educational history of the United Kingdom and the multitude of revered institutions to choose from. Between the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities, the well-funded Russell Group and the highly-respectable red brick institutions, there are plenty of options.

Choosing a University

Choosing a university depends on more than just rankings or acceptance rates. While it may be nice to say you attend one of the top five universities in the UK, you should put careful thought into where you would like to be located, the sorts of travel connections and local facilities you would like and if the available accommodation is suitable for your requirements. Click here for more information on choosing a university for your subject area.

Applying to a UK University

Students, homegrown or international, applying to UK universities will be required to do so through UCAS, the University and College Admissions Service. Applications are filled in online and must be completed before the deadline, which varies depending on the institution – for example, Oxford and Cambridge deadlines fall a year earlier than all other UK universities, in addition to applications for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine courses.

A single UCAS application can be used to apply to up to five different universities, except for Oxford and Cambridge which can only be applied for one at a time, once a year.

What is the Russell Group?

The Russell Group is a group of twenty-four UK universities that collaborate on research efforts to produce over two-thirds of all world-class research. In addition to Oxford and Cambridge universities, the Russell Group includes:

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • Cardiff University
  • Durham University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Glasgow
  • Imperial College London
  • King’s College London
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Liverpool
  • London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Manchester
  • Newcastle University
  • University of Nottingham
  • Queen Mary University of London
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Southampton
  • University College London
  • University of Warwick
  • University of York

The Russell Group was first formed in 1994, although it was only set up as a fully-fledged incorporated organisation in 2007 and was originally made up of only 18 research universities. The idea behind the Russell Group was to provide an unbeatable student experience which was supported by excellent levels of teaching and high-quality facilities, attracting some of the brightest and most intelligent minds from around the world for both study and teaching.

Applying to a Russell Group University

Applying to a Russell Group university is done via the UCAS application form online and there are no restrictions on who can apply. However, you will be expected to have obtained a minimum level of grades – more so than non-Russell Group universities. This is particularly important if you are choosing to study a professional degree such as Medicine or Dentistry, where students should have grades in specific facilitating subjects, for example, achieving A or A* grades in A-Level Biology and Chemistry for Biological Sciences.

Russell Group Acceptance Rates

Acceptance rates vary depending on your chosen Russell Group university and will also depend on the subject area you are hoping to study. For example, at the University of Nottingham, 80% of students applying to the Electronic Engineering degree were accepted in 2018, whereas, in the same year, only 49% of students applying to study Law at the University of Bristol were accepted.

Oxford University Acceptance Rates – When talking about acceptance rates at a prestigious university like the University of Oxford, you need to take into consideration the higher numbers of students that apply from around the world. Overall, Oxford University acceptance rates fall below the average of other Russell Group Universities, however, this incorporates the greater number of applications and the higher entry requirements.

Cambridge University Acceptance Rates – Similar to Oxford University, Cambridge University is another prestigious, highly regarded university and the second-oldest known English-speaking institution. Again, acceptance rates fall below the average of other Russell Group universities but reflect the increased academic expectations and the larger number of student applications.

What are Redbrick Universities?

Red brick or redbrick universities was originally a term given to a group of nine universities that were founded during the 19th century and endeavoured to teach students practical skills over academic knowledge, particularly focusing on Medicine and Engineering. Although the term was inspired by the iconic red bricks of The Victoria Building at the University of Liverpool, it was soon used to describe a number of universities that were founded in major cities during the late 19th and early 20th century.

The phrase was first used in a book of the same name by Edgar Allison Peers, a professor at the University of Liverpool, although he did go on to say he regretted using the term to describe the institutions. He described nine universities in the book, which were:

  • Victoria University
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Reading
  • University of Nottingham
  • Newcastle University

Eight of these are now part of the Russell Group, excluding Victoria University which became defunct in 1903 when Manchester and Liverpool became independent institutions.

Applying to a Redbrick University

As part of the Russell Group, redbrick universities follow the same application process and students wishing to make an application must do so online via the UCAS portal. As part of the Russell Group, red brick universities have greater academic expectations from their students and will look for high A or A* grades in certain facilitating subjects for specific areas of study.

Redbrick University Acceptance Rates

Acceptance rates for redbrick universities are slightly more generous than the prestigious leaders Oxford and Cambridge (the two universities that make up Oxbridge) and are similar to other Russell Group universities.

If you are looking to attend one of the prestigious Oxbridge universities or alternatively one of the highly respected Russell Group universities, it’s best to start preparing as early as possible, ensuring you can make an informed decision that reflects your interests and personal needs. This gives prospective students time to seek extra tutoring, application advice or extracurricular activities that will increase their chance of acceptance.

Rather than basing your decision on rankings and acceptance rates alone, why not take the opportunity to visit some campuses and get an idea of the types of facilities and local amenities available at your potential choices