Are you planning to further your studies at one of the UK’s prestigious universities? Before you embark on your application process, it is important to have all the necessary information with you. As a future student here, you need to choose a university here. There are British institutions that are easy to get into and there are some that are very selective. By knowing the acceptance rates of these institutions, you’ll be able to prepare more.

In this article, we listed the ten most selective universities in the United Kingdom and what you will require to be one of the few successful applicants in the coming academic year. We also put the scholarship links per university to help you with your studies, financially.

Note that these universities are also among the best globally; therefore, their selection processes are very competitive. Hopefully, this will help you make an informed decision as you look for an ideal institution to build your career. Make sure to read more!

Universities in the UK with Low Rates of Acceptance

1. University of St. Andrews

Located in St Andrews, Scotland, the University of St. Andrews was founded in 1413. This public university is the third oldest in the United Kingdom after Oxford and Cambridge. St. Andrews, as it is famously known, is made up of several colleges and schools designed to offer a variety of programs.

Over the past six centuries, it has continuously developed into a world-class institution currently accepting students from all over the world. It has one of the most diverse student bodies in the United Kingdom with over 145 nationalities represented in the school.

Its admission policy has ensured that international students (those from countries outside the UK) take up about 45% of the total population. The Guardian ranks St. Andrews second in the latest national league table.

Joining the University of St. Andrews is, however, very competitive for both local and international students. Based on the latest statistics, the institution accepts only 8.5% of all applicants in a given academic year.

This acceptance rate means that out of every 100 applications, eight students are offered a chance to study at the university. Therefore, the University of St. Andrews is the university in the UK with the lowest acceptance rate. The university factors in the UCAS points in its admission requirements and one has to score at least 240 to have a higher chance of being selected.

2. University of Cambridge

Next on our list of universities in the United Kingdom with the lowest acceptance rate is the University of Cambridge. Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the United Kingdom and the fourth-oldest in the world.

After leaving the University of Oxford, some scholars came together and decided to start a university, and it has since grown to one of the best in the world. This collegiate public research institution was granted the Royal Charter in 1231 by King Henry III. The University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge share a lot in common and are often referred to as Oxbridge.

Cambridge is made up of many institutions, including six schools, about 100 departments, and more than thirty colleges.

Due to the many applications received every window, the evaluation committee at Cambridge factors in a lot of things before coming up with the final list. All applicants are compared in every aspect, and those who come out the top are accepted to the institution. As such, its acceptance rate is currently the second-lowest in the U.K. at 11.5%.

In other words, only 11 or 12 students are admitted from every group of 100 applicants. Most successful applicants score between 40 and 42 points and 776 for subjects in Higher Level. For graduate-level courses, one will have to prove that they have completed their first degree, understand the financial requirements, and are competent in English.

3. University College London

University College London was established in 1826 as London University after inspiration from Jeremy Bentham’s radical ideas. University College London became the first university to exist in London.

It was also the first in England to admit students regardless of their religious backgrounds. The institution then adopted its present name in  1977 but also started using UCL as its official name in 2005.

The school is committed to ensuring that every student develops academically, socially, and talent-wise. As such, there are more than 135 organizations and clubs for everyone to express themselves.

UCL has since grown both in terms of quality and size. At the moment, there are more than 35,000 students enrolled in various programs at the university. Nonetheless, the school is very selective with its admissions, and only those who meet the thresholds are accepted.

The current acceptance rate at UCL based on recent statistics is 11%, which is one of the lowest acceptance rates for a university in the United Kingdom. If you are a UK student, some of the requirements include a score in the range of A*A*A-ABB in A levels or equivalent GCSE results. As for an international student, your high school results should also be equivalent to the aforementioned scores.

4. London School of Economics and Political Science

Often known as LSE, the London School of Economics was founded in 1985 and started offering degree programs in 1901 under the University of London. In 2008 it started offering its own degrees.

This Westminster-based university has over 11,000 students enrolled in various programs with the majority of them hailing from outside the United Kingdom. It has admitted students from over 155 countries, making it one of the most ethnically diverse universities in the region. The percentage of international students at LSE is about 70%, the second-highest of any university in the world.

London School of Economics specializes in social sciences and legal studies and is divided into twenty-five departments designed to enhance research in these fields.

In 2018, LSE received 6,725 applications, but only 790 students were accepted to the university, which translates to a 12.25% acceptance rate. Therefore, it is one of the most selective and will require you to have very high academic scores.

Based on the previous intake, one of the requirements for joining LSE is UCAS points ranging between 224 and 239. You will also need to pay 70 Euros during the submission of your documents on the university’s application platform.

5. University of Edinburgh

Located in the Scottish capital, the University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 by the Edinburgh Town Council. It is the sixth oldest university in the United Kingdom and one of the ancient institutions in Scotland.

It has five campuses within the city and has some of the most historic buildings in the region. This public university currently hosts more than 36,000 students admitted to various programs. Twenty-three thousand of these students are undergrads while the rest are enrolled in graduate courses.

The 20th-ranked university in the world is one of the universities in the UK with the lowest acceptance rates. Based on the statistics of the last admission cycle, the school’s acceptance rate stands at 12.28%.

Edinburgh considers UCAS points in its evaluation, and one must score above 224 points to have w better chance of being selected. Are you a non-UK student? The institution accepts international students, and they currently account for 30% of the university population.

6. University of Warwick

The University of Warwick is one of the best institutions around. It is ranked 62nd in the world and 10th among UK universities. Located in Coventry, Warwick was founded in 1965 making it one of the youngest universities in the United Kingdom.

Business school within the university was established two years after its establishment followed by the Law School. Warwick came about as part of the government’s project of expanding higher education in the country, which explains why it developed faster than any other university on this list. In 2017, it was named as a university with the second-highest graduate employment rate in the region.

Due to its reputation, Warwick is very competitive, making it one of the hardest universities to get into. Currently, it admits only 13.14% of its applicants despite the offer rate being as high as 70%.

In the last application cycle, 23,000 students showed their interest in the school, but only 3,000 of them were enrolled in their various programs. Therefore, to have any chance of joining the Warwick community, you will need to meet the high academic standards set by the school. UCA points between 208 and 223 is one of the requirements that every applicant must meet.

7. Imperial College London

Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine (or simply Imperial College London) was established in 1907 by the royal charter. The School of Medicine and Business School were opened in 1988 and 2004 respectively. The university currently hosts more than 18,000 students with 9,500 of them enrolled in undergraduate programs.

Apart from its Main Campus in South Kensington, it also has a satellite college in Silwood Park and various teaching hospitals within London. Like most of the universities in this list, ICL has a very diverse student body with about 60% international students. It admits students from over 140 countries in the world.

Imperial College London is ranked 69th worldwide, which is one of the reasons why it has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the UK. In 2018, it received more than 8,500 applications, but only 1,260 students were enrolled, which translates to 14.3%. In terms of UCAS points, one will need at least 224 points.

8. University of Oxford

One of the universities in the UK with the lowest acceptance rates is the University of Oxford. Estimated to have started its operations in as early as the 2nd century in 1096, the University of Oxford is the oldest university in the United Kingdom and the 2nd-oldest in the world after the University of Bologna. It is probably the most prestigious in the region too.

As stated earlier, Oxford and Cambridge are often referred to as one (Oxbridge), which also has an impact on the application process. Students are not allowed to apply for degree programs in both schools in the same year except for graduates or those sponsored through organic scholarships.

In 2018, more than 21,000 students applied for undergraduate programs while at least 26,000 applied for graduate programs. Every year, there are about 8,800 slots for new students (3,300 undergrads and 5,500 graduates). Therefore, with only 47,000 students competing for only 8,800 places, it is obvious that you must have an outstanding academic history.

If you are a US student, Oxford has a system that equates your American results to their usual evaluation criterion. As such, a combined SAT score of at least 2100 out of 2400 points (700 in writing and 1400 in mathematics and critical reading) and ACT results of about 32 points will be required.

9. Durham University

Durham University or the University of Durham is a public research university founded in 1832 by an Act of Parliament. Five years later, it was incorporated by the Royal Charter. For more than 600 years after Oxbridge, no other recognized university had been established, and Durham became the first one.

It is a collegiate university, which means the main functions of the institution are distributed to various departments and colleges. Colleges are responsible for local arrangements and welfare, while departments focus on teaching and research programs.

Durham is one of the hardest universities to get into due to very high academic standards. At the moment, it only takes in 17.68% of all the applicants. Based on the 2018 statistics, about 19,500 applications were submitted, but there were only 3,400 successful applicants. The university requires that every applicant has a UCAS score of above 224 points.

10. University of Strathclyde

The final institution on our list of universities in the UK with the lowest acceptance rates is the University of Strathclyde, which is ranked 32nd in the world. It is a public research university that was founded in 1796 and is located in Glasgow.

It was granted the Royal Charter in 1964 and became the first technological institution in the UK. The school admits students from over 100 countries and has the third-largest student body in Scotland.

Joining the University of Strathclyde is not easy, based on the last few years. Your academic and social reputation must be in the top 20.3% of all applicants to be considered as one of the successful candidates. In terms of UCAS, one is expected to have a score of more than 224 points.

FAQs about Studying in the UK

Which is the Hardest UK University to Get Into?

Based on their acceptance rates, the hardest university in the UK to get into is the University of St. Andrews, which only has an acceptance rate of 8%. This percentage shows that the university is very selective with their applicant, and you really need to present your application nicely, and it should stand out from the rest to be considered here.

More than the University of St. Andrews, there are a lot of selective universities in the UK that are highly recognized globally. As you continue your research about these universities, make sure to complete your information about the admission process to get a high chance of being selected.


Whether you are a local or an international student, getting a chance to study in any of these prestigious universities is a dream. The high rate of competition in the UK is due to the fact that they receive a lot of applications due to their history and academic reputation.

Requirements for joining these institutions will depend on the program you want to pursue and the grading system of your country. Nonetheless, your overall academic results should meet the thresholds set by the university.


We hope that this article on the universities in the UK with the lowest acceptance rate was helpful. Make sure to also check out the United Kingdom Programs for International Students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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