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What you should know about the admission process at Oxford

Oxford University is one of the oldest, most prestigious and competitive universities in the world. Its roots can be traced back to the 11th century, and it has since grown to become a leading centre of academic excellence and research.

It's not surprising that students aspiring to get into Oxford face the gruelling admission process and have to deal with the fear of rejection.

Dr Matthew Williams, Access and Career Development Fellow at Oxford, has seen both sides of the coin: his application to one of the top UK universities was rejected when he was 17, and he worked behind the scenes of the selection process for Philosophy, Politics and Economics degree, one of the most competitive courses at Oxford.

In one of his YouTube videos, he gives a unique insight into the nuances of the admission process at Oxford and important lessons that can be taken from these by prospective applicants.

How many students get into Oxford

According to Dr Matthew Williams, only about 17% of Oxford applicants on average (some courses are more competitive than others) get offers and are successfully admitted to undergraduate courses.

At the same time, he underlines that, even if you end up being rejected, you still should think of your efforts as an achievement, considering how much hard work and capability it takes and how many other brilliant candidates you compete against. And, of course, you can grow and learn even more by asking to provide a specific feedback on your application.

The decision process

When it comes to applications, the candidates are judged solely on their academic ability and potential. For example, despite the aura of elitism, the type of school you went to is relevant only in the context of your school performance relative to your background, so underrepresented students have a chance to stand out and shine more.

There's no such thing as the so-called "legacy admissions" when a candidate has an advantage because a parent or other relative went to the same university, and extra curriculars like playing sports or participating in any other activity that is not related to a course don't give you any additional points over other applicants.

What is actually relevant

Oxford tutors carefully consider all data related to the academic performance. They look into candidates' grades in the wider context, taking into account their specific backgrounds, as well as their personal statements, teacher references, the results of admissions tests (when it's possible) and interviews.

Dr Matthew Williams points out that the differences between applicants are very small, and the number of places is limited, so the tutors usually make their final decision based on the so-called "teachability" or suitability for the Oxford tutorial process as demonstrated by a candidate. It means:

  • the ability to think out loud/share one's thought process

  • one's willingness to contribute to tackling intellectual challenges/solving academic, intellectual problems

  • independent mindedness or the inclination to formulate your thoughts and ideas without relying on others.

Want to know more about what it's like to study in the UK and how to get into the best universities in the country? LEO International Online School offers a diverse and intensive two–year A-Level programme designed to prepare students for university entry in the United Kingdom. Learn more about this programme and our other courses here, and don't hesitate to contact us at


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