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Updated: 10:00hrs 02 February 2024

Durham University: Recruitment and Admissions  

The following Q&A provides detail on Durham University’s undergraduate admissions processes for international and home students.   

This is further to media reports on undergraduate student admissions to universities, especially as regards International Foundation Programmes.   

Key messages:  

  • Durham University is a leading, high-quality university. We never compromise on our academic standards.  
  • We have a robust, transparent, equitable and published admissions policy that is consistently applied at every stage of the recruitment process.  
  • Entry to degree courses is not made available to international students at the expense of home students. We have separate recruitment streams for home and international students. International students do not get preferential treatment over home students. 
  • Our admissions decisions are made, first and foremost, on applicant academic qualifications and achievements.  We do not compromise on quality.  
  • Admissions decisions are made by Durham University staff.


What is Durham’s admissions policy?  

Durham University has a robust, transparent, equitable and published admissions policy that is consistently applied at every stage of the recruitment process.  

Entry to degree courses is not made available to international students at the expense of home students.  

We have separate recruitment streams for home and international students. 

Over 70% of our undergraduate students are from the UK (2022/23 figures: latest available).  

How are admissions decisions made?  

Our admissions decisions are made by Durham University staff in line with our published admissions criteria.

What are International Foundation Programmes?  

International Foundation Programmes are intensive, year-long courses which offer a route of progression to degree courses.  

They are not new. Durham University has admitted students from such programmes for the last two decades and from our International Study Centre since the 2017/2018 academic year.  We have always been completely transparent about this.  

Our International Foundation Programme is run by a third-party partner, Study Group.  It provides a one-year foundation programme for students mainly coming from countries that have 12-year school systems (schools in England and Wales have 13-year systems).   

There is also a one-year pre-Masters programme. Students enter full Masters programmes at Durham if they meet all the University’s stringent entry requirements at the end of that programme. 

How do students progress from International Foundation Programmes to Durham University?   

Students undertaking International Foundation Programmes are required to meet challenging progression requirements at the end of the year to transfer to a degree course. These are published on our website.  

There are high standards for admission to our International Foundation Programmes. There are also high standards for progression for degree study at Durham University which are consistently applied.  

How do you ensure high academic standards?  

We do not compromise on quality.

Entry grades to our degree programmes from international foundation programmes are benchmarked against our entry requirements for students applying to the University directly.  

We have high entry standards to ensure outstanding students can reach their potential in studying with us. We periodically benchmark performance of our Durham University International Study Centre (DUISC) students against the performance of students coming through direct entry routes.  

What is your response to the recent Sunday Times article on entry requirements for Durham University?  

A story in the Sunday Times, published on 27 January 2024, misleadingly conflates the entry requirements for foundation year programmes and entry requirements for degree programmes.   

The Sunday Times story ignores this crucial difference.  

This critical detail was highlighted with the newspaper more than once but not reflected in their report.   

The Sunday Times report shares details relating to entry requirements for International Foundation Programmes, not Durham University degree programmes.  

These foundation requirements are not comparable to entry requirements to our degree programmes, as published on our website.  

We refute the comments made to the Sunday Times by a third party that the International Foundation Programme’s pass rate was 100% and students never fail.  This is plain wrong. We do not see 100% progression to our degree programmes.  

The inaccurate and misleading comments made by a third party about entry to Durham University were never put to the University before publication of the Sunday Times article. This was made clear in our numerous representations to the newspaper on the 27, 28 and 29 January.   

The facts regarding progression from our International Foundation Programme to Durham University undergraduate degree courses were clarified on the evening of Monday 29 January by the Sunday Times in an amendment to their online report.   

The actual progression rate for this academic year was 74%.    

How do entry requirements to Durham from International Foundation Programmes compare with other students?  

Durham University entry requirements for international students who have completed International Foundation Years are benchmarked to ensure they are equivalent to those for home students entering with A levels or equivalent.   

We require equivalent academic and English language standards, whether students apply to us having completed an International Foundation programme or directly.

For example, to progress to an LLB Law degree at Durham University (direct entry A*AA), students must achieve average marks of at least 80 per cent for an International Foundation programme and the same results from the separate National Aptitude Test for Law (LNAT) as home/UK applicants.   

To clarify and emphasise information already shared with the Sunday Times and other media outlets, we do also offer a pathway for home students through a foundation programme, with similar entry requirements to those coming via an international pathway.  

How does Durham University work with recruitment agents?   

Like many higher education institutions, Durham works with several international recruitment agents.  We have robust standards and processes for recruiting and managing our agents.    

The role of recruitment agents is to raise awareness of the Durham University opportunities in international recruitment markets to potential applicants. They also provide potential applicants with guidance on the UK university application process.  

We expect consistently high standards from our agents. We always expect information provided to prospective students to be of high quality. Where an agent falls below those standards, decisive action will be taken.  

Durham signed up to the Agent Quality Framework when it launched in December 2023. 

How does Clearing work for international students and home students?  

Durham University entered briefly into Clearing for 2023 for both home and international students, the first time in 10 years.  

Clearing was open through July and August 2023 after students achieved their academic qualifications.  

The reason for going into Clearing was to encourage and attract better qualified candidates with higher grades to come to Durham. 

In 2023, we recruited around 150 students through Clearing - of whom two-thirds were home students - out of an overall undergraduate recruitment cohort of 4,752. 

We have separate recruitment streams for home and international students, and this also applies to Clearing.  

Entry to degree courses is not made available to international students at the expense of home students. 

International students do not receive preferential treatment over home students.  

In making admissions decisions, we may offer flexibility for special circumstances for both international and home students.   

However, we never compromise on our minimum acceptable grades for entry to Durham for both international and home students.   

Does Durham University conduct interviews for entry to undergraduate degrees?  

We only conduct interviews for our BA Primary Education.  Interview is compulsory and obligatory for any qualified applicant, regardless of whether they are home or overseas, for professional reasons. 


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