How to Get Into Durham University

‘How do I get into Durham’ is a question that I run into again and again! Luckily, I know exactly how to answer it. That’s why, here at The Profs, 95% of our students applying to their first and second-choice universities get in! 

Your university application is not a one-size-fits-all. Durham looks out for unique and specific characteristics. I’ll run through some tips on how to stand out to Durham in this article.

Many of our team members have worked in admissions for top-tier universities. So, if anyone has the know-how to make your application as perfect as possible, it’s us. In our experience, we’ve seen that very few students know how to write an undergraduate university application that targets Durham’s unique admissions criteria. Thankfully, we offer the right support and preparation to aid you in submitting an application that stands out and maximises your chances of an offer. 

Read on for insider information.

Contents

Is Durham a Russell Group university?

The University of Durham is one of the 24 Russell Group universities. It is also a leading research university in the UK, especially in the arts and humanities. The Complete University Guide also ranks Durham as the 8th best Russell Group university behind only Oxbridge, LSE and Imperial.

What are Durham’s entry requirements?

Durham University’s entry requirements vary depending on the course you’re applying to study and the country you’re applying from. The table below shows the UK qualifications and some of the most common international qualifications accepted by Durham, and the entry requirements for each.

QualificationEntry requirements
A LevelsA*A*A-BBB, depending on the course.
International Baccalaureate (IB)Range from 38 total points, including 776 in Higher Level subjects, to 32 total points including 555 in Higher Level subjects, depending on the course.
European Baccalaureate85%-70% overall, depending on the course.
Specific subject grades may also be required.
Abitur (Germany)1.2-2.1 overall, depending on the course.
A 13 or 12 may also be required in specific subjects.
Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)5* 5* 5-5 4 4 in three subjects from any combination of Group A Electives, Core Mathematics, and Core English Language.
Extended Maths (M1 or M2) also required for Mathematics courses.
Other international qualificationsCheck the full list of international qualifications accepted by Durham.

The University of Durham accepts a wide range of international qualifications. It displays international qualifications on its individual course pages, so always check there before applying. For more information on how to apply to Durham as an international student, check on the university’s own support page, read our guide for international applicants, or get in touch with The Profs for one-to-one support from one of our international admissions experts.

Does Durham give contextual offers?

Durham does take into account information from applicants’ individual backgrounds, considering the impact these might have on their qualifications, when making offers. A contextual offer from Durham will be lower than its standard entry requirements. The majority of students won’t meet this criteria and will be made standard entry offers ranging from A*A*A to BBB depending on the course, but it’s still worth checking if you are eligible for Durham’s contextual admissions.

Is Durham a collegiate university?

Like Oxford and Cambridge and just a handful of other UK universities, Durham is a collegiate university. This means that the university is made up of several, smaller colleges of which students belong to. Each college offers a smaller community for students to socialise and attend events in, such as ‘formals’ (dinner evenings).

Durham has 17 colleges in total. It’s worth paying particular attention to the different locations and accommodation options (including the number of rooms available to first-year students) of each college. Familiarise yourself with the different colleges and their distinctive features.

You could mention (or hint) how you’re in step with a specific college and how it aligns with you as well as your academic interests. This is a good way to demonstrate that Durham is your first or second choice and that you’re genuinely enthusiastic about the university as you’ve conducted your own research. On this note, you could mention attending open days or virtual events to prove further commitment. More importantly, these occasions are a good method of deciding whether Durham is the right university for you. Note that you don’t apply to a college like you do with Oxbridge, you can only submit college preferences once you have received an offer.

Find out more about Durham’s colleges here.

6 tips for getting into Durham

Durham takes a holistic approach to its application process. However, it claims to mainly consider the following factors:

  • Merit and potential
  • Predicted achievement
  • Achieved results
  • Personal statement

Check out this page Durham has for unsuccessful applicants – it could serve as a good checklist!

1. Is your academic record as polished as possible?

The entry requirements for Durham differ greatly between courses – not just in terms of grades, but also the specific subjects required. For example, the A level entry requirements for Computer Science are A*AA, or 38 with 766 in higher level subjects in the IB, and both of these qualifications must include Mathematics.

There are also instances where an admissions test is required or recommended. For example, Durham requires Law applicants to sit the LNAT, while it recommends that Mathematics applicants take the TMUA, MAT or STEP (see tip 5 for more on admissions tests) in order to showcase your mathematical ability and be eligible for reduced entry requirements (from A*A*A without an admissions test to A*AA with an admissions test).

If you’re applying to study Mathematics, Durham also specifies that Further Mathematics A level is required, and you will need to achieve an A* in at least one of Mathematics and Further Mathematics to be considered. If your school does not offer Further Mathematics A level, get in touch with the university to ask how you can satisfy the entry requirements without it. This might include taking a particular Maths admissions test or scoring particularly highly in your Mathematics A level.

If you need support improving your grades to meet Durham’s competitive entry requirements, then reach out to The Profs’ admissions consultants today. We’ll offer a free discovery call to determine your likelihood of achieving a place at Durham and set up any additional support you may need.

Insider tip 1: Durham is a particularly grade-focussed university. They are looking for strong academic track records so you should aim high, improve on any weak grades and highlight your academic achievements, such as exceptional grades, awards, or relevant coursework.

Insider tip 2: Though specific GCSE requirements are not listed on course pages, Durham is known for paying more attention to your GCSE grades than many other universities in order to differentiate applicants. Therefore, if your GCSE grades are particularly strong, especially in relevant subjects for your course (e.g. you got an A* in GCSE Mathematics and are applying for any Maths-based degree course), you should consider highlighting these in your application. You can either do this in your personal statement or by asking your referee to note it in their reference for your application. Note that Durham has been known to reject applications based on poor English and/or Maths GCSEs.

2. How to actually go beyond your school syllabus

Durham is one of the best universities in the world and values grades highly, however, it also values well-read students who go beyond the confines of their textbooks. Durham even specifies that they are looking for students who can think independently and have conducted independent work. Therefore, if you want to get into top universities like Durham, it’s best to start expanding your reading list early on.

One of the best ways to do this is to look at the modules you might cover on your chosen course at Durham and start reading around topics that particularly interest you. Durham also publishes every reading list for every course on its website, so you can use this as a helpful starting point.

You should reference a couple of specific readings related to your course in your personal statement. You could do this by name-dropping them or going a step further and showcasing your analytical abilities by critically evaluating the reading or a specific piece of text in your statement. Read our guide to writing your UCAS personal statement for more tips on how to stand out. Prove that you have a genuine passion for your subject and are already considering your discipline at university level.

Insider tip: Don’t mention obvious materials that most other students will reference. You should certainly be branching out of your school’s syllabus. Stand out. The more niche and specific your wider reading is, the better!

Our team of tutors are also on hand to help you plan your reading list, develop your personal statement, and prepare your application for Durham in advance – get in touch to get started.

3. You’ve mentioned a solid 5-year plan, right?

Getting into Durham is a great goal to have, but it’s also important to think about the long-term plan. Like Oxbridge, LSE, and other top UK universities, Durham will not only want to see a genuine passion and commitment to studying your chosen course but also a plan of how the skills and knowledge you will develop on the course will help you achieve longer-term goals.

For example, consider how a degree in your chosen subject from Durham will help you to achieve your future academic or career goals. You may want to go on to study a Master’s or PhD, follow a specific career path, or land a graduate job at your dream company. Have a look at the industry links Durham has, its reputation amongst employers in different sectors, and what previous graduates (alumni) have gone on to achieve as inspiration.

Ultimately, having your own career goals in mind will help you enhance your personal statement and prove to Durham that you are motivated and committed to your academic future, and are therefore likely to secure a job post-graduation. For more support on coming up with a career plan and making the most of this in your application, get in touch with our team.

4. Lay the ‘groundwork’ for Acceptance

Extracurriculars are not to be overlooked. If they are related to your discipline or demonstrate skills that are valued by Durham then they could boost your application. This is especially because Durham looks for more than just good grades – they emphasise extra-curricular activities as well as great academics. Durham states outright that it is looking for evidence of extra-curricular experience.

Durham values well-rounded individuals who are interesting, unique team players who engage with activities outside of school. Highlight any relevant experiences, extracurricular activities, research, or projects that demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm for your subject. 

Outside of academia, Durham particularly likes students who have carried out leadership roles, or been involved in cultural activities or community service. Durham is also impact-driven. So, remember to explain the impact you had within these positions, as well as the impact these experiences had on you. 

5. Invest in your personal statement!

It may seem obvious considering the tips above, but making sure that you’re investing plenty of time into writing your personal statement is crucial to your application’s success. For many of Durham’s most competitive courses, lots of applicants will achieve the grades required for entry. In these cases, personal statements are one of the only factors Durham has to differentiate applicants and decide who to offer places to, so it’s really important to submit the best personal statement possible.

Use your personal statement as a chance to express what makes you unique. Describe your academic and career ambitions, detail your skills and experience, and explain why you would be an excellent candidate for your chosen course. Durham also particularly looks for students who have a clear passion for their subject area that extends beyond the bounds of the school curriculum. This can include anything from wider reading to extracurricular activities at school and work experience.

When it comes to personal statements, Durham specifies that their selectors consider why applicants want to study the subject and what applicants have done in the past that makes them particularly suitable to study the subject.

The Profs’ experienced personal statement tutors can provide further guidance on how you can write a stand-out statement that is tailored to the University of Durham and your specific course.

Insider tip 1: Your personal statement MUST be personal to you. If it can be read without it being undeniably tied to you individually, it needs reworking. Better yet, try to make your statement personal to your course at Durham university. How are you suited to this discipline, how have you shown that you excel in this subject, and why are you a good fit for Durham? Try to hit Durham’s criteria. For example, Durham claims to inspire and challenge their students so you should show curiosity, enthusiasm to learn and enjoyment of being challenged

Insider tip 2: Choose your referee wisely; their statement is almost as important as yours. A good referee is important. Obviously, you want them to speak highly of you, but ideally, they will highlight your skills and qualities that are relevant to your chosen degree. For this reason, as well as for the general impression of your application, it is best to choose a referee who teaches your chosen subject or within your discipline. It is also a good idea to choose a referee who knows you well enough to write you something of quality. Also, if you can’t fit something into your personal statement but you think it could bolster your application, ask your referee to mention it for you!

Note that all students applying to university for 2023, 2024 or 2025 will still be required to submit a UCAS personal statement as normal. However, from January 2025 onwards (October 2024, for Oxbridge applicants), there will be changes to the UCAS application process and students will no longer be required to write a personal statement. Instead, all applicants will answer a series of shorter, more tailored questions provided by UCAS.

6. Don’t trip on your admissions test

Most of Durham’s undergraduate courses do not require an admissions test. However, for Law and Maths, applicants are strongly advised to sit the LNAT, TMUA, MAT and/or STEP. If you are applying to Law or Maths, taking one of the appropriate admissions tests will make your application more competitive. If you’re a Maths applicant, achieving a high score on the admissions test could entitle you to a reduced offer!

Once you know which admissions tests and interviews you will be required to do, it’s important that you prepare adequately and in advance. Just like your A level (or equivalent) grades, any tests and interviews will play a crucial role in whether or not you are considered for a place on your chosen course, so it’s important to treat them with as much attention as your final exams.

How long you’ll need and how best to prepare for your admissions test or interview will depend on which one you are taking/attending. The following guides give you the key information and steps to start preparing for some of the additional stages used by Durham:

  • Preparing for the TMUA (Mathematics)
  • Preparing for the MAT (Mathematics)
  • Preparing for the STEP (Mathematics)
  • Preparing for the LNAT (Law)
  • Applying for Law (Law)

The Profs also advise working with a specialist admissions test expert who can guide you through the exact content you’ll need to learn, explain how to meet the mark scheme requirements, as well as provide tried-and-tested tips on how to succeed in the exam. The Profs’ admissions test tutors have years of experience successfully preparing students for the test they specialise in, and many have even been university admissions officers and exam markers themselves, so they know just what universities like Durham are looking for. Get in touch with our team to find out more about how we can help you.

Durham does not usually conduct interviews for undergraduate applicants. The main exception to this is BA Primary Education. Always double-check your specific course page.

Also, if English is not your first language you might be asked to take an English language proficiency test. So, ensure that you are adequately prepared. See here for more information. 

Get 1-to-1 guidance from an expert admissions tutor

At the Profs, we have many admissions consultants who can guide you through the process of applying to the University of Durham, as well as Oxbridge, UCL, and other top universities. We offer our students the very best tuition in the business – in fact, only 3% of tutors who apply to our network are accepted to work with us. As a result, 95% of our applicants receive an offer from their first or second-choice universities at undergraduate level.

Don’t gamble with your future. Get in touch with our friendly team today to access our dedicated support.

FAQs

What is the Durham acceptance rate?

In 2021, the undergraduate Durham acceptance rate was 19% (based on data by UCAS). The university received more than 32,570 applications and granted places to just 6,160 students. The Profs’ expert Durham consultants can help you stand out from the crowd and maximise your chances of being among the top students who receive an offer. Get in touch with our team to increase your chances of getting into Durham this year.

What are the most competitive courses at Durham?

Durham is particularly well-known for arts and humanities degrees, especially Theology and Religious Studies, English Literature, History and Geography, for all of which it is ranked third best in the UK behind Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Anthropology, for which it is ranked fourth in the UK. Some of these courses have higher grade requirements than those of Oxbridge, such as History, which requires A*AA (compared to AAA at Oxford). If you need support reaching the grades for entry, find out more about how The Profs’ subject tutors can help.

Many traditionally competitive subjects are also particularly competitive at Durham. Law applicants are required to take both the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) [LINK] and attend an interview. The entry requirements for subjects such as Mathematics and Computer Science are also extremely high, ranging from A*A*A-A*AA, with an admissions test (TMUA, MAT or STEP) recommended for Mathematics applicants. The Profs’ admissions test tutors can help with a range of admissions tests, including the LNAT, TMUA, MAT and STEP – speak to our team today to find out more. 

Note that unlike most universities, Durham no longer offers one of the most competitive degree courses in the UK, Medicine. It closed its medical school in 2017 and joined forces with Newcastle University, becoming part of Newcastle’s Faculty of Medical Sciences instead. 

Does Durham offer Medicine?

Durham no longer offers a Medicine degree programme. The university closed its medical school in 2017 and joined forces with Newcastle University, becoming part of Newcastle’s Faculty of Medical Sciences instead.

Is Durham University good?

Durham University is ranked as the 6th best university in UK league tables and 92nd in QS world university rankings, and is known for its high-quality research, especially in the arts and humanities.

Where is Durham University?

Durham University is based in the city of Durham, located in the north east of England and just over 5 hours north of London (by car). Its university buildings, colleges, and student accommodation are spread out across the city, with Stephenson College being the southernmost college and St Hild and St Bede being the northernmost.

How many students at Durham University?

Durham University has a total student population of around 16,000 as of 2022. Nearly 25% of its students are on postgraduate courses.

Is Durham a campus university?

Durham is not a campus university, as its buildings and accommodation are situated within colleges that are spread across the city. However, Durham itself is a relatively small and compact city that is surrounded by a rural landscape, so it offers a unique student experience that some describe as midway between campus and city in style.

When was Durham University founded?

Durham University was founded in 1832. The first college, University College, was established in 1837 in Durham Castle. This makes Durham the 9th oldest university in the UK.

What is Durham University known for?

Durham is regarded as one of the best universities in the UK and has an excellent reputation among employers. It is particularly well-known for arts and humanities degrees, especially Theology and Religious Studies, English Literature, History and Geography, for all of which it is ranked third best in the UK behind Oxford and Cambridge, as well as Anthropology, for which it is ranked fourth in the UK.

Does Durham University do Clearing?

Durham University does not typically offer places through Clearing. This is because its courses are very competitive and thus there are no spare places to offer. However, make sure to check on the university website and via UCAS when Clearing opens in 2023.

Does Durham University do interviews?

Most courses at Durham do not require applicants to attend an interview. The main exception to this is BA Primary Education, for which all applicants are interviewed. You may also be invited to interview if you have been out of education for a long time or Durham requires any additional information about your decision to apply to study your chosen course.

What are classes like at Durham?

Ordinarily, Durham hosts seminar sessions with small round table discussions. Class sizes are kept small – going up to 20 students maximum. In your personal statement, you could demonstrate alignment with this teaching/learning style to prove that you’re a good fit with the university.