Oxford University – Notes from Counsellors’ Conference

20% success rate overall.

18k applications this year

17% international students – 3200 places, no quotas. (cf 11& Cambridge, 34% Edinburgh, LSE 49%, St Andrews 45%)

Some very high acceptance rates for certain subjects e.g. classics – 90% acceptance rate.

Oldest English speaking uni in world.

3rd in THES World rankings (Harvard and Caltech above), 1st in UK.

259 courses available.  No change possible.


Lots of independent work. Lots of student support, college based, peer-based.  « Family system »

Finance – International students €20k to 30k & college fee €9k and living costs estmiated at €16k.  ie €45k upwards overall.  Very limited scholarships.  EU students eligible to living cost and tuition fee support based on household income.

If UK citizen but out of country for 5 years, treated as international.

General employment skills etc.  In most subjects, Oxford grads in top 5-20% of earnings compared with grads from same subejct from other universities.

Work restrictions on international students.

Open Days July and September.

Interesting Fact and Figures

  • 18k apps, 9k shortlisted, 3.6k offers.  (20-30% of these international).
  • 40-50% shortlisted, 20% offers 2015
  • UK students get more success.  Why success rates lower for internationals? Because students cluster around most competitive subjects.
  • « Over 50% of all pass for 2014 entry from outside UK were for 5 most competitive courses »
  • PP3, ECON AND Mgt, Law, Medicine, Maths.  Success rate for outside UK people are single figure percentages apart from Maths.
  • PPE and Econ-Mgt – lots of students apply who are not realistic. – both are high-level Maths subjects. 2-3s of 1st year is Maths.
  • MEDICINE – only 24 places for internationals.
  • Biggest success rates – theology, modern languages, arch and anthr, music, classics and English, Oriental Studies, Classics and Modern Lang, Class Arch and Ancient History, Materials Science, Chemistry (25%-34%)
  • Most idfficult – Econ and Management, Maths and Stats, Computer Science, Medicine (7-15%)
  • Avoid strategic applications – if students don’t have 100% passion for subject, they won’t be admitted.
  • They check academic achievement, admissions tests, written work, UCAS personal statement, UCAS teacher reference, interviews.
  • Numbers can’t go up – they protect their tutorial system.  (1 or 2 students).


  • IB 38-40, 3 x 6s 1 x 7. (Engineering 2 x 7, 1 x 6)
  • SATs combined score of at least 2100.  SAT Subject tests 700 or better
  • Various types of admissions test to help differentiate top candidates – various types of questions
  • TSA – no more than 2 mins per question
  • 1 in 6 receives an offer..


  • c53% called for interview.  December.  2-3 interiews, each 20-45 minutes.
  • if Skype needed, request.
  • Designed to emulate tutorial system.
  • Can the person think independently and critically?
  • No trick questions
  • Preparation – recent work, wider reading, subject in wider world, many sources of information, know your pers statement.
  • Example biochemistry entry interview – all UCAS forms are graded on 1-7 scale, then interviews at 2 colleges (graded on basis of interviews), so then averaged out of 21 (2 interviews, application form).
  • Typical interview – check out nervousness, ask them to describe some area of science they are confident and knowledgeable  – then probe that.  E.g. membranes – student describes.  Proteins can pass through membranes.  Have recognition molecules attached to them.  What different kinds of membranes?  Similar structure, different composition.  So how does the cell ensure that membranes are of right type? Lengthy answer.  Etc etc, further probing…