University College London – Acceptance Rate, Ranking, Notable Alumni, and More

A member of the federal University of London, University College London is the second-largest university in the United Kingdom by total enrollment, trailing only the Open University. 

The school was founded in 1826 as London University by followers of the utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. At the time, UCL was the only university in the city of London and the first secular institution in England. 

Although its main campus is in central London’s Bloomsbury region, UCL has other institutes and teaching hospitals throughout London, as well as satellite campuses in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, east London, and Doha, Qatar. 

Many museums and collections operate in association with UCL, including the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy. With an endowment of approximately £1.54 billion, UCL is one of the best schools in the world. 

Many important figures graduated from University College London, including revolutionaries who became leaders in the emancipation of India, Kenya, Mauritius, Ghana, Japan, and Nigeria. 

The school served as a home institution for the inventor of the telephone and one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA. Over the years, many winners of significant awards have been associated with UCL, including 34 Nobel Prize winners and three Fields medalists. 

University College London Acceptance Rate

University College London
Ethan Doyle White, The UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, CC BY-SA 4.0

University College London is the second-largest school in the UK, so that means it must have a high acceptance rate, right? Well, sort of. 

In the 2019-2020 school year, 41,095 attended UCL, which is a lot. But the school only accepted 63% of the students who applied. To be sure, that’s a higher number than Cambridge, which only accepts 21% of its applicants, while American Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Yale take fewer than 5% of potential students. 

Still, even at the higher end, it’s clear that UCL is a reasonably competitive school. Thousands of students each year are rejected from the school, which means that an applicant cannot take acceptance for granted. To help give themselves the best possible chance of making it in, students should specialize in their applications

When they talk about specialization, scholars mean that strong academics have their areas of expertise, where they know not only the most important elements of their field but also the lesser-known and foundational parts. 

As this description demonstrates, a strong focus means that you’re an expert. The knowledge shows to people that you know what you’re talking about and have something to offer the community. With this knowledge – and more importantly, achievements such as awards – your application will show Imperial that you will contribute to the community. 

University College London Ranking

With a history that stretches out almost two full centuries, University College London has established itself as one of the world’s top-rated schools. 

According to the respected U.S. News & World Report, UCL is the 19th best university globally, the third-best school in the United Kingdom, and the third-best in Europe. 

Several of its individual programs earn high ranks, with its neuroscience and behavior, social sciences and public health, arts and humanities, radiology, nuclear medicine, and medical imaging degrees all within the top five in the world. 

Every other essential list agrees about the quality of UCL. The site places the school in the number eight place on its international list, singling out UCL’s international student body and faculty, its academic reputation, and its reputation as an employer. 

According to the Times World University Rankings, UCL’s academic citations, its international outlook, and its research successes earned it a position as the 16th best school in the world. 

On the Center for World University Rankings score, UCL earns 88.4, making it the 19th top school in the world. The site places UCL as the 3rd best school in the UK and 7th globally for its research. 

Notable Alumni

As the first English university to accept students from any religious background, University College London had a head start training a wider range of students. For that reason, the school boasts alumni who have been leaders in a variety of fields

Some of the biggest names in popular culture studied at UCL. 1993 graduate Christopher Nolan has gone on to direct Hollywood blockbusters, including The Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar. After graduating from UCL in 1996, classmates Chris Martin, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, and Guy Berryman went on to form the Grammy-award-winning pop group Coldplay. 

Television executive Andrew Davenport graduated in 1987 and then went on to create the children’s TV phenomenon Teletubbies

On the academic level, several Nobel Laureates were educated at UCL. Graduates and fellows Charles K. Kao, Peter Higgs, and Roger Penrose won Nobel Awards in physics, while Jaroslav Heyrovský won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry. 

Winners in Physiology or Medicine include Martin Evans, Bernard Katz, Francis Krik, and Frederick Gowland Hopkins. Former student Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel peace prize while student Trygve Haavelmo won for economics. 

This list is just a small sample of the internationally recognized excellence from UCL. Its alumni include two Fields medalists, innovators in the fields of arts and architecture, and numerous politicians.

But for every famous name who graduated from UCL, countless others have used their degrees to improve their lives and the lives of those in their communities. 


Like every other public institution in the United Kingdom, University College London can be a very expensive or a very reasonable endeavor, depending on a variety of factors. 

For Home students, which is the designation given to students from the United Kingdom, the government has determined that students enrolling in 2021 will pay £9,250 per year for almost every program. Without question, that’s a reasonable price for such an outstanding education. 

But remember that the rate can change in later years. Each year, the UK government determines the rates for studying at national schools such as Imperial, which means that future tuition rates have not yet been determined. To make matters more complicated, the government has not yet decided upon tuition rates for European citizens. 

For students from the rest of the world, tuition fees vary according to degree. For example, an international student starting a BSc Physics degree in 2021 will pay £31,200 for the first year, £31,200 in 2022, and £31,200 in 2023.

Those prices can be restrictive. But fortunately, home and international students can apply for financial aid and scholarships. Financial support varies from work-study programs to full scholarships. 

Of course, these aids change according to several factors, including citizenship, course of study, and college. So be sure to check often at the financial aid offices to make sure you have everything you need. 

University College London Acceptance Rate for International Students

University College London Building
Gnesener1900, Rockefeller Building, UCL, CC BY-SA 3.0

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the school’s large enrollment and history of a diverse student body, UCL is particularly welcoming to international students. Currently, the school has more than 18,000 students from outside of the United Kingdom, nearly 40% of its student body. 

Those numbers should be very encouraging for international students who want to go to UCL. But one must remember a few things before applying. 

Although 60% of the school’s student body comes from within the United Kingdom, the remaining 40% comes from anywhere globally. 

For that reason, applicants from overseas are competing with most of the world for a spot at UCL. Also, it’s important to remember that UCL, like all English public universities, requires specific paperwork within the application. 

Fortunately, UCL strives to make applications as easy as possible for international students. The school features many departments and resources for those coming from outside of the UK, including special accommodations and help to secure Visas. 

Furthermore, the school offers several forms of financial support to bring down the costs of attendance for non-Home students. These scholarships often have their own requirements, sometimes including a partnership with your nation’s consulate, but UCL is clearly ready to help. 

None of these support systems completely eliminate the challenge of applying from outside of the UK. But they do prove that UCL wants international students to come and be part of their student body.

Is the University College London Right For You?

Some of you may look at those numbers and decide that University College London isn’t the right fit for you. You may decide that you can’t make the cut or that its standards or too high, especially with international students.

But before you give up, consider the benefits.

As we’ve already seen, University College London is one of the best schools in the entire world. Even if its long list of famous alumni didn’t convince you, there’s plenty of evidence that UCL graduates go on to have happy and financially fulfilling careers. 

Sure, some international students may be put off by the extra cost and paperwork involved with applying. Still, they should also remember the school’s administrative methods to help students come from outside of the UK. 

Despite all of that information, only you can decide if you belong at UCL. The school is proud of its long history and its large-scale population. It works to bring together people from all over the world and emphasizes a culture of diversity and difference. 

UCL is a decidedly urban university, and it offers all the good elements, and bad elements, of an internationally famous city. 

University College London is one of the best schools in the world, and for many would be the perfect fit school.