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Information for Unsuccessful Applicants

Thank you so much for applying to study with us.  We know you’ll be disappointed you didn’t receive an offer from us.   

Every year we receive many more applications from well-qualified applicants than we have places to offer.   

During the admissions process we assess your application against our entry requirements and our selection criteria.  Your application is considered both individually in terms of the context of your educational background, your achieved or predicted grades, as well as your personal statement and reference, and also in comparison with other applications. 

Because we look at your application holistically and are considering a range of factors as well as achieved or predicted grades, this may mean that even if you have, or are predicted to achieve, the very highest grades, you may still not be made an offer. 

We’ll have given you a reason why we’ve been unable to make you an offer of a place when we sent our decision to UCAS, so please do look at this on UCAS Hub.

The additional information below should also help you understand why your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion. 

Change course offer 

Sometimes we’re unable to make an offer for the course you originally applied for but have been able to offer you an alternative, which we identified you might be interested in.  The change course offer you’ll have been made usually relates closely to your original choice of course, or closely matches the subjects you are studying, or interest in the subject is mentioned in your personal statement. 

While you don’t have to accept a change course offer and can turn it down if you wish, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to think about it carefully.  Please visit our courses database for more information about the course we selected you for.  

GCSE Maths

Many of our courses require GCSE mathematics or its equivalent at a specific grade as some modules within the course contain significant mathematical content. If youve not achieved GCSE mathematics at the grade needed then unfortunately we were unable to offer you a place. 

GCSE English Language 

For some of our courses we require GCSE English language or its equivalent at a specific grade.  If you’ve not achieved GCSE English language at the grade needed then unfortunately we’ll have been unable to offer you a place. 

Personal statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to show us that you’re the ideal candidate for your chosen course.  Some of the things we look for in a personal statement include: 

  • What areas about the subject you enjoy and why you enjoy them. 
  • What you understand about the course including your own views on areas of the subject, whether there are things you agree or disagree with, if there are theories you agree or disagree with and most importantly why you think this. For our most selective courses we’re looking for evidence of your critical thinking skills and independent thought. 
  • Research done around the subject – this might include reading, but we can only take this into account when you’ve told us what you have learnt, your observations and findings. 
  • Your passion, knowledge and skills by demonstrating your engagement with the subject  
  • A little bit about what you get involved in outside of your studies. Whether it’s work commitments, caring responsibilities or you’re involved in high level sport, music or drama. If you’re successful in your studies whilst also balancing other demands you’re showing the multi-tasking skills needed at university.  
  • Relevant interests to your chosen course, for example if you are applying to a course and have been involved in tutoring other students, work experience or volunteering.   
  • A memorable, strong opening, an engaging middle, and key points at the end reinforcing commitment and enthusiasm to the course and university life.  

A strong personal statement will include all the points above in depth. Except for Primary Education and our Foundation courses we don’t interview as part of our admissions process. The personal statement is therefore extremely important in helping us make decisions between applicants who have very similar academic profiles.   

If you feel you’ve been waiting a long time for a decision on your application this will partly be because of the care and attention we give to every personal statement.  For our most competitive courses the final decision often comes down to our judgement that your personal statement was not as strong compared to those of others who were successful in being offered a place.

High level of competition

Admission to Durham as an undergraduate is incredibly competitive. Every year, the number of extraordinarily strong applications we receive is greater than the places we have available on our courses.  

When we can’t offer a place based on competition, a lot of time will have been spent comparing applications to find why one application is just a little bit stronger than another.  We know that many of you who are unsuccessful because of competition are ideal Durham candidates - it says much more about the volume of high-quality applications we receive than it will ever say about your individual suitability for Durham.  

We know that this will be very disappointing and you may have received offers from other top universities.   We’d encourage you to take time to reflect on your successful applications elsewhere when planning your next steps. Speak to your parents, carers, and your school/college about all of your possible options. 

Listed qualifications/achieved qualifications

We receive thousands of applications every year from very highly qualified applicants.  If weve been unable to accept your application and listed qualifications as a reason this is either because the qualifications youve already achieved werent as strong as those of other applicants or your achieved qualifications dont meet our minimum entry requirements.

Incomplete application

We may have been unable to offer you a place because your application was missing essential information that we needed to make a decisionThis may have been a reference, or mention of a qualification or subject essential to study the course. 

Choice of subject combination

Your application either asked for a subject or combination of subjects that were unable to offer. Certain subjects cannot be studied in combination due to timetabling and staffing restrictions or because the course regulations do not permit it. For example, its not possible to study science subjects as part of the BA Liberal Arts degree.

Similarity detection

Your personal statement was flagged by UCAS through their Similarity Detection Service as being plagiarised. We have assessed your application on this basis and are unable to accept it.

Feedback requests

We hope the above reasons give more insight into why your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion. 

So many of you have shown remarkable merit and potential for the future.  So many of our decisions say far more about the limited number of places and the complex decisions we must make than they do about your academic potential. We hope you’ll understand the decision as a reflection only of the extraordinary talent in our applicant pool, not a judgement about your own abilities.  

While we appreciate you may wish to ask us for more information on what was missing from your application or how you could improve it, we’re not able to respond to requests for further feedback. 

Many of you will be welcomed by other outstanding universities, therefore we hope that you continue to pursue your education and career goals and wish you all the very best for the future.