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The Recruitment and Admissions Office is responsible for managing the admissions process.

The questions below have all been asked by our applicants or their parents at one time or another, and are intended to provide further information regarding the application process, some of our requirements, our collegiate system, the University and life as a student.

If you find that your query is not addressed or if you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Recruitment and Admissions Office directly. Our email address is

Subjects, qualifications and requirements

+Do I always need an A level in the subject I want to study as a degree?

Where programmes do not state a specific subject in their entry requirements, applicants can presume that this is not a major requirement.

For several of our programmes, a specific subject may not be essential, but may be an advantage. If you suspect this may be the case, please check the department's website or contact the academic department directly to seek specific advice.

+Do you consider international qualifications?

Yes. We welcome international qualifications, and will consult with UCAS, UK NARIC and individual institutions to ensure that the offers we make are comparable with our A level offers.

+Do you have a list of 'preferred' A level subjects?

We do not have a policy that excludes certain A level subjects when considering applications although, in line with many other universities, we only recognise General Studies in a small number of subject areas.

We recruit on merit and potential and our entry standards are among the highest in the country with average entry qualifications exceeding three A grades at A level.

Our admissions tutors also closely consider other parts of an application, taking into account personal references and evidence of motivation and interest in the subject applied for, as well as extracurricular skills and achievements in areas such as music, drama, sport or community service. There are some subjects, where applicants are required to hold certain qualifications showing they have significant prior knowledge that would allow them to study the degree programme of their choice. All such requirements are published. With all subjects we advise prospective applicants to contact our academic departments at a very early stage to discuss how they can best prepare for the course they eventually wish to study.

Our Admissions Policy and information on entry requirements for all courses at Durham University is available from our website and from UCAS.

+Does Durham require me to have a Modern Language GCSE as a condition of entry?

Applicants who wish to study a modern language will be asked for at least one qualification in a language – usually at A level or equivalent. Where programmes do not state a language in their entry requirements, applicants can presume that a language is not a major requirement.

For several of our programmes, a language may not be essential, but may be an advantage. If you suspect this may be the case, please check the department’s website or contact the academic department directly to seek specific advice. We are happy to advise potential applicants whatever stage they are in their studies and welcome queries from students choosing GCSE, AS and A level subjects, or their equivalent.

+Does Durham University recognise IGCSEs as proof of English Language proficiency?

Yes. Durham University recognises the IGCSE as proof of English Language proficiency, and currently asks for grades A*-C (or grades 9-4 in the numerical system).

+Does Durham University recognise the International Baccalaureate?

Yes. Durham University recognises the International Baccalaureate (IB). Our academic departments have noted the excellent preparation it provides for university study, and we value the breadth and depth of study that it offers. Please check our qualifications page, or the UCAS website for information regarding IB entry requirements.

+Does Durham use the UCAS tariff?

We do not make offers based on the UCAS tariff. Please visit the UCAS website or our department websites for information regarding entry requirements.

+I left school a few years ago, does my UCAS application require a reference?

It is Durham University's policy to ask for a reference. Our programmes are very popular and our Admissions Selectors require as much information as possible to be able to make an informed decision. It would, therefore, be in your best interest to include a reference. This does not need to be from an academic acquaintance; we have made offers to applicants who have included a reference from an employer, or, in the absence of an employer, a professional who knows them well. 

If you would like further advice about who we would accept as a referee please contact us at

+Is General Studies counted as an A level?

For the majority of our subjects, General Studies is not recognised. Please check the entry requirements of the subject you wish to study, or contact the academic department directly, to identify whether General Studies is recognised.

+What do I need to include in my personal statement?

We believe this is a crucial part of the UCAS application. Many of our departments do not hold interviews and our Admissions Selectors rely on the information given in the personal statement to differentiate between strong applicants who hold similar qualifications, have similar predictions and a strong reference, when deciding whether to make an offer. It is your opportunity to tell us why you are applying, why you have chosen your programme of study, what you have done to demonstrate that you are committed to the subject and what makes you an interesting individual who would fit into life at Durham. The personal statement is your opportunity to personalise your application and it is very important that you take time to prepare it well. We provide further advice on what our selectors look for in your personal statement. It is worth noting that the personal statement must be written by you and not copied from another source. Plagiarism software is becoming increasingly sophisticated at detecting work that is not original, and we will take any incidents of plagiarism very seriously.

+What is Durham’s policy towards the Extended Project?

The Extended Project does not form part of the entry requirements for undergraduate degree programmes at Durham University. Nonetheless a high predicted or actual grade in this award will be considered a positive attribute when selecting amongst applicants with similar levels of overall achievement.


+What is Matriculation?

Matriculation is the ceremony which new students attend in Durham Cathedral and is the act of placing a student's name upon the matricula or roll of members of the University.

+Will Durham accept the Cambridge Pre-U qualification?

Durham University will accept the Cambridge Pre-U qualification as suitable for admission to its undergraduate courses provided all other entry requirements, such as English Language proficiency, are met. Durham notes the academic rigour of the linear approach, the retention of subject specialism and the expanded reporting scale at the top end of achievement.

+Will I get extra credit for taking four subjects to A2?

Our programmes are very popular and many of applicants do take four subjects. However, our offer will be based on three subjects.

Please note that the majority of our programmes do not recognise General Studies.

The Collegiate system

+Do I have to live in a college if I live locally?

Every student at the University belongs to a college. You remain a member of your college throughout your time at Durham and beyond. The colleges are more than just places to eat and sleep. Each college is a small community providing a wide range of activities and facilities for study, sports, the arts, socialising, relaxation and welfare.

First year students are encouraged to live in college. We appreciate that, due to exceptional circumstances, this is not always possible. If you have special circumstances that may make living in college difficult, please contact the college to discuss. 

Further details of the Colleges are available on our website

+I have recently received an offer to study at Durham. The offer has been followed with confirmation of membership of one of the colleges but I would prefer to join another College. What should I do?

All undergraduate students at Durham must be members of one of the colleges, so your UCAS offer will be quickly followed with details of membership of a Durham college, nearly always specifying a particular college. Very rarely, you might receive an 'open' offer in which the college you would join is unspecified.

You may request a change in college preference up to the point at which the college allocation process takes place, which is usually during February. You can find out more about the college allocation process on our website -

Any request to change college can never put your UCAS offer from Durham at risk and will not affect the warmth of your welcome at any college.

Making decisions

+Am I more/less likely to receive an offer if I am from a postcode classified as ACORN category 4 or 5?

We make offers to suitably qualified applicants from postcodes classified as ACORN category 4 or 5 in the same proportions as they apply. Our decisions are based on an assessment of each applicant's merit and potential for undergraduate degree study at Durham.

+It’s December and despite sending my application to UCAS two months ago, I haven’t received a decision from Durham yet. Should I be worried?

The deadline for applications to all full-time, undergraduate programmes at Durham is 15th January. If you apply by that deadline you are guaranteed equal consideration. This means that we ensure that we have sufficient offers available at the deadline to provide you with a fair and equal opportunity to be successful in your application to Durham. In this way we can also ensure that offers are made based on your merit and potential, not on the timing of your application.

Depending on when in the application window we receive the majority of applications to the course you have applied to therefore determines when we can make our decisions. You may receive a decision relatively quickly after submitting your application, but you may have to wait longer. If you do have to wait longer this does not necessarily mean your application has been unsuccessful, as it will still be being considered by our Admissions Selectors.

We know that you will have spent a lot of time preparing for making an application and writing your personal statement and we believe that your application deserves to be considered carefully and in detail before a decision is made. Your application will usually be viewed by more than one admissions selector who will consider all the information provided very carefully, comparing it against the entry requirements for the programme. They are looking for the applicants with the most merit and potential to succeed on their course at Durham so they will pay a great deal of attention to your personal statement to make sure that our course is a good fit for your academic interests and aspirations. They will also compare your application against the others received to ensure that the strongest applicants overall are successful. This process takes time but we believe that each application deserves very serious consideration and every possible chance to be successful.

All of this means that if you are successful in gaining an offer, you can and should be proud of your achievement. We receive high volumes of applications from extremely well qualified applicants and a successful decision means that your application has been judged to be amongst the very strongest we have received.

If you would like an update on the progress of your application at any time you can contact us at and we will be happy to provide you with advice.

+Does Durham University use contextual information?

Yes. Durham seeks to recruit the most able and motivated students from all backgrounds who can best benefit from a Durham University education.

The primary assessment method is prior academic achievement. Admissions staff look carefully for evidence of merit and potential in the UCAS application, including an individual assessment of:

1. A level (or equivalent) grades
2. GCSE (or equivalent) grades
3. the personal statement
4. the reference
5. the development of study skills
6. motivation for the degree programme applied for
7. independence of thought and working
8. skills derived from non-academic extracurricular activities such as engagement in sport, the arts or voluntary and community work
9. contextual consideration of merit and potential.

In addition to the contextual information provided to us by UCAS, which includes your educational journey since age 11, an indicator of whether you have spent time in care, and contextual information contained in the personal statement and reference, the University also provides our selectors with the following contextual information:

1. the postcode classification according to the ACORN dataset
2. if an applicant has participated in a significant outreach activity organised by the University e.g. a Summer School
3. an indicator of whether the average school performance where the applicant took their GCSEs is above or below the national average.

No individual piece of the contextual information will be more important than any other. Our admissions selectors will include in their consideration information about your broad educational context, and we welcome the inclusion in the reference any information that teachers believe has a bearing on the context of educational achievement.

+Why are admissions selectors advised if an applicant has had participation in outreach activity organised by the University, e.g. summer schools?

Participation in outreach activity organised by Durham will not confer any automatic advantage or disadvantage in the likelihood of an applicant receiving an offer.  It indicates that the University has some personal knowledge of the applicant, which may be of interest to the selector.  It is for individual admissions selectors to make a judgment about the overall relevance of any one piece of contextual information available to them.