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How to get into the most selective universities

Many teachers are asked by students, “what A Level grades do i need to get into the most selective universities?” to which the teacher will reply…. What exactly?

The requirements don’t really roll off the tongue. But we can help.

Today, in our final installment of the Dear Headteacher series, we are happy to share with you the complete collection of grades needed, by subject, for a student to get into the UK’s leading research intensive universities.

This resource was originally formed by Philip Rogerson of Sherborne School, whose extensive experience in education had informed our entire 2-week HE advice series from the start. Philip consulted EVERY prospectus of the UK’s leading universities to gather this information firsthand…

What are the most selective universities?

The “most selective” universities, for the vast majority of degree courses, are those which were members of The Russell Group and The 1994 Group in 2012 : i.e. leading UK research universities.

These leading institutions are:

Bath Leeds Nottingham
Birmingham Leicester Oxford
Bristol Liverpool Queen's Belfast
Cambridge London: Glodsmiths' Reading
Cardiff London: King's College

St. Andrew's

Durham London: LSE Sheffield
East Anglia (UEA) London: Queen Mary Southampton
Edinburgh London: Royal Holloway Surrey
Essex London: SOAS Sussex
Exeter UCL Warwick
Glasgow Loughborough York
Imperial Manchester  
Lancaster Newcastle  


How do students get into these institutions?

Below you will find a list of how many of these universities require A*AA, AAA, AAB, etc. at full A-Level, against most of the undergraduate degree subjects which they offer.

A Level Grades

A Level Grades

A Level Grades

When looking at this resource, please note the following:

  1. For science & engineering, grades given are required for a 4 yr. Master’s course, (if offered).
  2. Highest grades largely reflect highest number of applicants.
  3. There is a lot of competition for some of the courses requiring AAA or A*AA: this is not just an Oxford and Cambridge issue.
  4. Most courses require three good A-Level grades: AAC can be a severe disadvantage.
  5. Some courses also require a good AS grade in a fourth subject.
  6. These grade requirements are increasing every year: e.g. for Economics, 6 unis. needed AAA in 2008, 12 needed A*AA or AAA in 2010, but 20 need A*AA or AAA for 2014 entry.

Dear Headteacher


Posted by Dear Headteacher on Tue, 14 Feb 2017

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UniBox's 'Dear Headteacher' series brings together a complete set of guidance articles created by the Director of Higher Education and Careers at Sherborne School, Philip Rogerson, based on his 20 years' experience of helping pupils get the university places they deserve. 'Dear Headteacher' is part call to arms, part hard-headed advice and all good practice. We hope that schools across the UK get some hugely valuable insights out of this 2-week series, especially in terms of supportive advice.

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