UK Universities and the IB Diploma Programme

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) is accepted by all universities and isdescribed as a good preparation for university by the UK university and colleges admissions service(UCAS).

When searching on the UCAS website for universities and courses, most universities specify an IB offer on their entry requirements tab. For example, to apply for English Language and Literature at Christchurch College, University of Oxford, an applicant will be required to attain 38 points in all with 6,6,6 in their higher level subjects.

Heads of Admissions from top UK universities have said the following about the DP: 

“We welcome applications from students following the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Most degree courses offered at Bristol require a point score of at least 32 with some requirements as high as 38 points, with 18 points at higher level. Where specified subjects are required at A Level, we may specify 6 points at HL for grade A* or A, and 5 points at higher level for grade B.”  - University of Bristol

 “King’s welcomes students from the UK and across the globe studying the IB Diploma. Our offers will usually specify certain marks in three subjects at higher level, in addition to an overall point score for the whole Diploma. Our point score includes points for Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay.” - King’s College, London

“We welcome applications from IB students. Our offers are based on your overall IB score, but we may also require specific grades in relevant higher level subjects. Our course pages give full details of the grades and subjects required. Our typical offer ranges from 31-36.” - University of York

These examples prove selective universities make offers based on the total points achieved by the applicant as well as attainment in the higher level subjects. 

The UCAS tariff system

UCAS has a well-known ‘tariff’ system to enable qualifications to be compared. Most institutions receiving applications from IB students however, do not use the UCAS tariff in their application procedures; UCAS estimates that the tariff is only used in about 30 percent of IB applications. The current 2016 tariff allocates points for the total IB score, or for the individual subjects if a student has not completed the full DP. 

As of 2017, a revised UCAS tariff system will be implemented, in a change of approach allocating points to the subjects that comprise the DP. Details of the new tariff are found on this page. Note that even if a university makes an offer based on the tariff, it may stipulate that the points should be from a specific combination of Diploma courses. 

Parents and students sometimes ask what the A Level equivalent of an IB points score is. This is difficult as it is not comparing like with like. A Level outcomes are usually based on 3 A Levels, whereas the DP is a 5 A Level equivalent programme with prescribed elements. For a number of years, the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) has defined a ‘good pass’ as consisting of ABB for A Level students and 34 points for IB students, in order to exempt students from student number controls. 

Some examples of IB offers from a range of universities during 2014/2015 were:


UniversityCourseEntrance offer
University of Oxford  English 38 points + 666 at higher level 
University of Cambridge  Natural Sciences  40 points + 776 at higher level 
Kings College London  Medicine 35 points + 666 at higher level 
Bristol University  Maths 38 points + 66 at higher level 
Durham University Law 36 points + 666 at higher level 
University College London  History 39 points + 19 at higher level 
Leeds University  International Business  35 points + 17 at higher level 
Nottingham University  Geography 34 points + 5 at higher level 
University of Bath Chemical Engineering  36 points
Southampton University  Modern Languages 34 points + 17 at higher level 
University of Kent  Computer Sciences  34 points + 16 at higher

Many UK universities vary their offers depending on the subject being applied for, e.g. Exeter University requires 34 for Biology, 36 for Psychology and 38 for Economics. However, a number of universities have taken the initiative to request the same points total for all subjects, tempered by differences in the points for higher level. Currently, these universities are:

  • Birmingham University 32 total points
  • Royal Holloway College, London 32 total points
  • University of Kent, 34 total points
  • University of Leeds, 35 total points
  • Kings College, London 35 total points
  • University of Bath, 36 total points

University attitudes to the DP

Universities have a very positive attitude to DP applicants as IB students have developed a broad range of skills and so are prepared for higher education. The recently published HESA report comparing IB and A Level students outcomes in higher education clearly demonstrates that IB students make excellent progress at university. In particular, this report shows:

  • That between 2012 and 2013, 46 percent of DP students achieved places to study at a top 20 UK university1 compared to 33 percent of A Level students.
  • DP students have a significantly greater likelihood of earning a first class honours degree compared to their A Level peers (23 percent versus 19 percent respectively).
  • Of the students who successfully complete a full-time undergraduate degree at a UK university, DP students are significantly more likely to be engaged in further study, while A Level students are more likely to join the workforce at this point.

How does the DP prepare students for university? 

The DP prepares students for a successful transition to higher education as it:

  • is challenging; offers a global perspective;
  • is an integrated programme;
  • is interdisciplinary;
  • develops extended writing skills;
  • includes the Extended Essay is an independent project developing inquiry, research, independent study and extended writing skills;
  • develops critical analysis through its Theory of Knowledge course;
  • develops student’s affective skills such as resilience, time management and perseverance.

If you any questions about the DP as a preparation for university entry then please contact IB through IB Answers.


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