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Most popular Russell Group universities

Is your uni IN right now? The official most popular Russell Group universities of 2024

Bit awks for Oxford and Cambridge


As well as arguing whose uni is better, a rite of passage for every uni student is arguing whose university is the most popular and well, the coolest. Spoiler alert, it’s not gonna be York.

But how do you actually work this out? The number of girlies with skinny scarves in the lib? The number of people with their grimy paws around a blue razz Lost Mary in the SU smoking area?

Well, now new figures released in UCAS’ 2023 end-of-cycle data tell us how many people applied to study at each Russell Group university. From this, we can work out the Russell Groups that are the most popular and which the most students want to go to.

Surprisingly, the two best universities in the country, Oxford and Cambridge are the least popular. This is likely to do with the long and difficult application processes for these universities. Both Oxford and Cambridge require an entrance exam and interview on top of the personal statement that every other uni requires. This will most likely put a lot of people off. Cambridge had the fewest applications at 21,940 closely followed by Oxford with 24,230.

Below Oxford and Cambridge is LSE as the third least popular Russell Group university. However, with 26,240 applications LSE might be one of the least popular but it is the most oversubscribed Russell Group due to having such a small number of spaces open for students. Of the 26,240 people who applied, only 1,815 people were accepted giving it an acceptance rate of 6.92 per cent.

But the University of Manchester is officially the most popular Russell Group university in 2024 after a huge 93,450 students applied to study there last year. This is 71,510 more people than those who applied to study at The University of Cambridge.

With 77,615 applications in 2023, Edinburgh is closely followed by UCL as the second most popular Russell Group.

So, these are officially the most popular Russell Group universities, based on how many students applied in 2023:

Made with Flourish

24. University of Cambridge – 21,940 applications

23. University of Oxford – 24,230 applications

22. London School of Economics – 26,240 applications

21. Queen’s University Belfast – 29,825 applications

20. University of York – 30,240 applications

19. Imperial College London – 30,725 applications

18. Durham University – 34,150 applications

17. Newcastle University – 35,980 applications

16. University of Glasgow – 37,300 applications

15. University of Exeter – 38,450 applications

14. Queen Mary University of London – 41,155 applications

13. University of Sheffield – 46,665 applications

12. University of Liverpool – 43,975 applications

Most popular Russell Group universities

11. University of Southampton – 45,280 applications

10. Cardiff University – 46,355 applications

9. University of Warwick – 47,130 applications

8. University of Birmingham – 56,645 applications

7. University of Nottingham – 56,890 applications

6. University of Bristol – 61,490 applications

5. University of Leeds – 69,085 applications

4. King’s College London – 69,300 applications

3. University of Edinburgh – 71,135 applications

2. University College London – 77,615 applications

1. University of Manchester – 93,450 applications

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