G5 University Applications: Your Essential Starter Guide

When researching UK university applications, you will likely have heard of Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge Universities), but you may also have heard of the ‘G5 Universities’, sometimes known as the Golden Triangle. This guide will explore what this term means, which universities are included and why you may want to apply to them.

Last Updated: 27th February 2024

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If you’re looking to apply to the best universities in the UK, you will have no doubt heard of Oxbridge; the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. These are frequently considered the best universities in the UK, but there are others that could be considered in the same range of quality and prestige. 

Beyond Oxbridge, you may have seen that some of the other highest-rated universities in the UK can be found in London. While these universities can’t compete with Oxbridge in terms of age or legacy, they have still become highly regarded within the education space, with some courses being equally as competitive as Oxford or Cambridge. 

While these universities aren’t officially linked in any capacity (outside of some aspects within Oxbridge), they are often considered together under the label ‘G5 Universities’. What does this mean though? Will it impact your application in any way? This guide will explore the term and the universities that it houses. Let’s take a look:

What Is a G5 University?

The term G5 University, which is sometimes known as Loxbridge or The Golden Triangle, is not an official title given to any university but has become popular when describing 5 major universities found within Oxford, Cambridge and London. While the line-up isn’t universally agreed upon, the most common list of G5 Universities is as follows:

The G5 Universities

Are there any other G5 Universities?

These five universities are the ones you will most commonly see references, but some sources claim that the following universities could also be considered G5 Universities:

King’s College London is the most common of these three to see references, with it even being included within the Wikipedia entry for the term. However, in this guide, we will only be considering the primary five universities.

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Why Are G5 Universities So Important?

Each year, many applicants wish to apply to the best universities the UK has to offer. While the best options are subjective and may differ depending on your subject choice, the G5 Universities tend to be ranked in the top spots in many categories. Here are some of the key areas that G5 Universities are known for:

Range of Courses

Each of these universities (with the exception of LSE) is known for its wide variety of courses available for undergraduates and beyond. From STEM to Humanities and the Arts, these universities cater to a wide variety of subject interests. 

As well as this, many of these courses (particularly at Oxbridge) have been run for decades or even centuries, making them some of the most established courses in the world. 

While LSE doesn’t strictly meet this criterion, they do offer a wide variety of courses within the fields of Economics, Law and Politics. These include a wide variety of specialised or combined courses, meaning applicants should be able to find a more specific course to meet their interests.

With the university being located in Central London, the UK’s hub for politics and finance, LSE tends to be a popular choice for those hoping to enter these fields. 

History and Legacy

This point mostly applies to Oxford and Cambridge, seeing as they have history dating back as far as 1096 (Oxford is most likely the 2nd oldest university in the world). The legacy that these two universities have in undeniable, with many Oxbridge traditions still being maintained by faculty and students to this day. 

We explore this topic, including the famous rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge in our Oxford vs Cambridge Guide, so be sure to have a look if you want to learn more about the origins of these iconic universities. 

Although the three London universities can’t compete in age (UCL is the oldest opening in 1826), being located within the UK’s capital has opened each of them to rich histories of their own. Just being located within England’s most iconic city is enough to make these universities iconic – helped by the fact that they are typically the highest ranked within the city. 

Quality of Teaching

As we’ve alluded to already, each of these universities is typically found within the Top 10 in national rankings, with Oxford and Cambridge often taking the top spots. Internationally, Oxbridge and Imperial have all placed within the Top 10 in some tables, competing with some of the most prestigious universities in the world:

G5 University Rankings 2024

Complete University Guide (National)The Guardian (National)Times Higher Education (International)
Oxford2nd2nd1st
Cambridge1st3rd5th
Imperial6th5th8th
LSE3rd4th46th
UCL9th9th22nd

Complete University Guide (National)

Oxford: 2nd

Cambridge: 1st

Imperial: 6th 

LSE: 3rd

UCL: 9th

 

The Guardian (National)

Oxford: 2nd

Cambridge: 3rd

Imperial: 5th 

LSE: 4rd

UCL: 9th

 

Time Higher Education (International)

Oxford: 1st

Cambridge: 5th

Imperial: 8th

LSE: 46th

UCL: 22nd

Beyond rankings, these universities are all known for their expert faculty, advanced facilities and fantastic connections for students to further their prospects. 

Russell Group Universities

One thing to consider is that all of the G5 Universities are Russell Group Universities. If you don’t know what that means, the Russell Group is an organisation that manages 24 universities in the UK. Their job is to ensure that teaching standards, resources and facilities all meet a high standard to ensure success for their students.

As well as the G5 Universities, the Russell Group also includes universities from other major cities in the UK, including Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Cardiff. All of these universities frequently appear in the top half of national university ranking tables, so it’s fair to say that the Russell Group’s techniques are effective in providing high-quality teaching. 

Should I Apply to a G5 University?

Now that we understand a bit more about the G5 Universities, it may seem like you should definitely be applying for them – you do get five choices in your UCAS application after all. However, there are a few things to consider before making this decision. 

1. G5 Universities Are Extremely Competitive

These are some of the top universities in the UK, so thousands of applicants will be applying to them each year. Spaces on most courses are very limited, so applicants need to truly be able to stand out in order to be competitive. 

For most courses, applicants will not be able to rely just on achieving high grades in their exams in order to succeed, as this is often considered a minimum entry requirement. For some courses, including all courses at Oxford and Cambridge, applicants must complete additional entry requirements outside of their UCAS application. These include interviews, admissions tests and submitting work (we’ll explore these in more depth later).

Success rates at these universities tend to be fairly low due to the amount of applications received each year. Below are the overall success rates for each university in 2022:

G5 University Acceptance Rates 2022

ApplicationsOffers MadeAcceptance Rate
Oxford23,8193,64515%
Cambridge22,4704,23818.9%
Imperial28,8777,61626.4%
LSE22,3664,99022.3%
UCL78,99325,06031.7%

Oxford

Applications: 23,819

Offers Made: 3,645

Acceptance Rate: 15%

 

Cambridge

Applications: 22,470

Offers Made: 4,238

Acceptance Rate: 18.9%

 

Imperial

Applications: 28,877

Offers Made: 7,616

Acceptance Rate: 26.4%

 

LSE

Applications: 22,366

Offers Made: 4,990

Acceptance Rate: 22.3%

 

UCL

Applications: 78,993

Offers Made: 25,060

Acceptance Rate: 31.7%

With all this in mind, it’s important to take a realistic look at your application thus far. Do you believe that your grades and additional work are competitive? Would you feel confident in taking an admissions test or interview? If not, then you may wish to consider applying to universities with lower entry requirements. If you do feel confident, then it may still be that you require support in one way or another.

2. G5 University Course Selection

Between the five G5 Universities, most major subjects are available to study. However, due to the traditional nature of these universities, new courses are not developed as frequently as at other universities, particularly at Oxbridge. As such, some degrees that have become more popular in modern times, such as Film Production, Game Design and other computing-based courses, are not currently available within the G5 Universities. 

As well as this, certain speciality courses will only be available in a very limited number of universities, which sometimes doesn’t include any of the G5 Universities. If you’re hoping to study a specific course, there’s no point in compromising and choosing something related but not the same just because it’s at a G5 University. 

3. UCAS Limitations For Applicants

If you were considering applying to all five G5 Universities, that isn’t actually possible under the rules put in place by Oxbridge and UCAS. In a UCAS application, no one is allowed to select both Oxford and Cambridge as university choices in the same application. 

This rule has been put in place to reduce the number of applications received each year. Oxford and Cambridge are already two of the most in-demand universities, but if applicants were allowed to apply to both, this could potentially double the number of applications each university needs to process. In order to reduce the workload of their staff, the rule was put in place not to allow applications to both universities in the same admissions cycle. 

As an additional consideration, applicants for medicine are also limited to only four choices for actual medicine degrees. The fifth option is still available to applicants, but it must be used on a non-medicine course (some related courses such as Biomedical Science are allowed). 

Which G5 University Should I Apply To?

If you’ve decided that a G5 University sounds right for you, your next step is to decide which one/s you want to apply for. Here are some of the top things to consider when making your choice:

Subject Specialties

While the majority of courses are all G5 Universities are well-regarded, most of these universities have areas that they are more well-known in. That’s not to say that these universities actually specialise in certain subjects (excluding LSE), but some courses have certainly garnered a reputation for truly being the best of the best. 

University of Oxford Logo

While Oxford is fairly well-rounded in all subjects that it teaches, including Law and Medicine, some consider Oxford to be the best place to go for budding politicians and public figures. Oxford is certainly considered to be stronger at teaching humanities in many cases, with its Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) degree being one of the most popular that they offer (it was the degree of choice for many modern Prime Minsters). 

University of Cambridge Logo

Opposite to Oxford, Cambridge is often considered the stronger STEM university of the two. Two of the top courses within the university are Engineering and Natural Science, with the latter being particularly popular among applicants. 

Imperial College London Logo

Imperial offers a wide variety of degrees, but one area that they frequently perform well in is Engineering. While Cambridge tends to be on top for general Engineering, Imperial frequently ranks first within the various sub-categories of the subject. These include Chemical, Civil and Electrical Engineering, which are all available as stand-alone degrees. 

The London School of Economics and Political Science Logo

LSE almost exclusively focuses on Humanities subjects, so it’s fair to say that they are more of a speciality university. With that being said, their courses in Economics, History and Politics tend to be very popular among applicants.

University College London Logo

UCL is probably the most general of the five universities, with no particular subject standing out as their speciality. However, they frequently rank well in many major subjects, so it is clear that they provide top-quality teaching to all of their students.

University Locations

When applying to any university, it can be easy to forget that it’s not all about the course. For most applicants, choosing a university also means choosing where you want to live for the next 3+ years. This is an incredibly important decision as it will impact your lifestyle during your studies, so you need to ensure you are studying in a location that you like. 

While all of the G5 Universities are based within cities, they still have a fairly different feel from one another: 

Oxford

Oxford is a much smaller city than London but it is known to be very active for students. The city is very accessible for those with bikes, features a fair amount of green space and has all of the major amenities that a student may need, including an active nightlife. 

Oxford-City-University-Student

Cambridge

While it’s similar in size to Oxford, Cambridge is comparably more calm and quiet. Cambridge features greater access to green space and is somewhat less active in terms of student events outside of the university. However, it still offers a compelling lifestyle for students while being just a little bit more serene. 

Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge

London

London is the busiest city in the UK, so it’s no surprise that attending any of the London-based universities will offer the most active lifestyle for students. With all three of the universities located around Central London, students will need to be able to embrace the noisy, fast-paced lifestyle that comes from living in this location. However, with a wide variety of venues, facilities and activities, as well as a robust transport system, those who are looking for a life in the city will get the full experience here!

London Night Skyline

Teaching Styles

Oxbridge is known for its unique teaching style that has been operating for centuries. This teaching style differs from what you would find at most universities, including the London-based ones:

Oxbridge

Oxford and Cambridge emphasise teaching through Tutorials and Supervisions respectively. While named differently, these sessions follow the same general concept; students will spend time with their lecturers (either one-to-one or in groups of two or three) discussing the topics being taught and engaging in the sharing of ideas with personal feedback. 

Oxbridge students will have these sessions frequently and they are put in place to allow both students and lecturers to get truly hands-on with their teaching. Oxbridge students still attend lectures, workshops and other group sessions on top of this, but the Tutorial/Supervisions are the crown jewel of any Oxbridge course. 

London

In contrast to Oxbridge, the three London courses have fairly standard teaching methods, although each will have its own specific differences. Students will primarily be attending lectures, seminars and practical classes, although some courses do offer occasional small group or one-to-one sessions, similar to Oxbridge. 

Colleges

Another element of study exclusive to Oxbridge is the Collegiate systems at each university. When applying to Oxford or Cambridge, you aren’t just applying to the university itself but also to one of the many colleges within it.

These colleges each have rich histories and will be a major part of your time at university as your college will be at the centre of many parts of your lifestyle. Everything from teaching to accommodation and formal events runs through your college in one way or another, so it’s important to do your research beforehand to see which college appeals to you. 

You can learn more about the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge in our Oxbridge College Guides:

Open Days

Reading about the differences between universities is important, but the next step should be to attend open days if at all possible. Going to an in-person open day is always preferable as you will get a feel of the campus, facilities, faculty and surrounding location, all while being able to ask important questions to members of staff. 

However, attending an open day in person isn’t always possible. Thankfully, most universities, including the G5 Universities, run virtual open days as well as in-person events, allowing you to gain a deeper insight into the university and ask questions. 

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How To Apply To A G5 University

Once you know where you want to apply to, you now need to be aware of the admissions process required for applicants at each G5 University. For some, the process will be fairly standard, but other courses will have a lot of additional requirements that may take months to prepare for. Here are the four primary requirements to consider when applying to any of these universities:  

UCAS Application

Every university in the UK will require you to apply through UCAS, so this process is mostly the same for all applicants. You will need to provide personal details, select your desired courses, provide an academic history and include a reference from an academic source, all of which is standard.

The only differences come if you are applying to Oxford, Cambridge or any medicine course in the UK. If you are applying for these, then your application will need to be completed and sent off several months earlier than the standard UCAS application deadline. 

Oxbridge/Medicine UCAS Deadline

16th October

Standard UCAS Deadline

31st January 

This deadline must be met, or else your application to those courses will not be considered. 

Personal Statement

Within your UCAS Application, you must include your Personal Statement, which is a 4,000-character-long document that explains why you should be admitted to your university choices. Only one statement is written and sent to all five options, so you will need to make sure it’s applicable to each one and doesn’t feature any information specific to a single university. 

The Personal Statement is very important in most university applications, as it’s one of the primary deciding factors for admissions tutors alongside your grades. However, at Oxbridge, it is much less important.

This is due to the next two requirements being far more valued by Oxbridge admissions tutors (this is especially true of Oxford, as it was confirmed by multiple admissions tutors during the 2023 Open Day to be of little importance in admissions). 

Even if you are applying to Oxbridge, you should still put plenty of effort into your statement as no one is guaranteed a place there, no matter how competitive your application is.

Admissions Tests

Admissions Tests are not a standard feature in university admissions, but there are certain universities and courses in which you will be required to sit one. 

These tests are designed to test an applicant’s subject knowledge, ability or general skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving, and can be extremely useful for admissions tutors during the decision-making or shortlisting process. Some of the most prominent admissions tests you will find are as follows:

Medicine Degrees

All medicine applicants, as well as dentistry and some other related courses, will be required to sit the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). Previously, two medicine admissions tests existed but the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) was removed in 2024, leaving the UCAT as the only one. 

The UCAT is not a subject-specific test but instead tests an applicant’s aptitude using multiple very general question types, including Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning. Only one section features questions relevant to medicine, the Situational Judgement test. 

Law Degrees

Various law degrees in the UK require applicants to sit the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT), a two-sectioned test designed to test an applicant, analytical and reasoning skills. 

Of the four G5 Universities that offer a dedicated law degree (Imperial does not offer Law as a standalone course) all of them use the LNAT as a requirement for entry, with each using the scores in slightly different ways. 

Oxbridge

Oxbridge is the most prevalent when it comes to admissions tests as they have a wide variety of tests for different subjects. 

Oxford conducts tests for their Sciences and Mathematics courses, the Physics Admissions Test (PAT) and Mathematics Admissions Test (MAT), as well as various Humanities admissions tests such as the English Literature Admissions Test (ELAT), Modern Languages Admissions Test (MLAT) and the more general Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) which is used for a wide variety of subjects. 

Cambridge has a wider variety of smaller tests, as well as some tests that are exclusive to certain colleges. The most widely used admissions tests are the Engineering and Science Admissions Test (ESAT) and Test of Mathematics for University Admissions (TMUA), but many other subject-specific admissions tests are run for everything from Architecture to History and Modern & Medieval Languages. 

These tests don’t commonly have cut-off scores, meaning there isn’t a minimum score to achieve to be considered. However, due to the competitiveness of Oxbridge, applicants will need to score highly to remain competitive within the admissions process.

Imperial

Imperial: In 2024, Imperial adopted two admissions tests used at Cambridge, the ESAT and TMUA, for a variety of courses, including Engineering and Economics. Other than these, some subject departments also have internally run admissions tests for certain subjects. 

LSE

LSE uses the LNAT for their Law courses but does not have any other widely used tests for standard applicants. The only other test they run is the Undergraduate Admissions Assessment (UGAA), which is designed for applicants with “non-traditional backgrounds”. 

UCL

Other than the LNAT and UCAT, the only admissions test that is prominently used is the Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates (UPC) entrance test. This is for international applicants who do not have direct qualifications for their course and is designed to test the applicant’s subject knowledge and understanding of English. This is not a test that will be required of any UK applicants, however. 

Submitted Work

At each of these universities, some courses may require you to submit some form of additional work to the college or subject department relevant to your application. This can be anything from an essay to a portfolio or a specified task. These can be required instead of, or alongside sitting an admissions test depending on the subject you have applied for, so be sure to check the programme page in case additional work is required. 

Interview

Lastly, we have interviews. These are standard at Oxford and Cambridge, with every course requiring applicants to attend at least one interview either in person or remotely. These are traditional panel interviews that last roughly 30 minutes and are sat with 2 – 3 faculty members from the college you have applied to. 

However, Oxbridge aren’t the only ones that use interviews in their admissions processes:

Medicine Degrees

All medicine degrees require applicants to attend interviews, so a medicine applicant may be required to attend up to four during their application. Medicine reviews can take on a variety of forms, including standard panel interviews and Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). These require applicants to work through a cycle of multiple “stations”, each requiring the applicant to answer a question, complete a task or act in a role-play.

Be sure to double-check which interview style each of your medical school choices uses to ensure that you are prepared for whatever comes your way. 

Imperial

Most departments will interview applicants who are successfully shortlisted after submitting their Personal Statement and completing their admissions test. This format will vary depending on the department but will typically resemble a panel interview. Some applicants may also need to attend a Recruitment Day, which is a group event that involves applicants completing multiple group tasks and tests.

LSE

For some degrees at LSE, applicants may be required to complete a series of interview-style questions as recordings. These will be used similarly to standard interviews, although the admissions tutors will be able to rewatch your response. Check the page of your chosen course to see if you will need to complete this, or contact the department directly if you are unsure. 

UCL

UCL do not commonly conduct interviews outside of medicine, but it’s stated that some subjects may require an interview to be attended on some occasions. However, the details behind this are not too specific.

Wider Reading

In order to stand out in your interviews, it’s a good idea to engage in wider reading for your subject. This essentially boils down to engaging with your subject outside of your standard curriculum, whether through reading books, following news stories or researching specific topics.

It can be difficult to know where to start, so our Wider Reading Starter Guide highlights ways you can further engage with your field and offers book recommendations for a variety of subjects. 

You should now feel a lot more comfortable in your understanding of the term ‘G5 University’ and should now be able to decide if attending one of these universities is for you. While, for many, attending the best university for your subject is desirable and important, it’s important to remember that most universities in the UK will offer you a quality teaching experience that will put you on the right track to achieving your dream career.

The G5 Universities are prestigious and inspiring, but they are also highly competitive, even once you have your place there. This environment may not be the best for every student, so be sure to consider all of the pros and cons before deciding where you want to apply. 

If you definitely do want to attend a G5 University but feel that you may need some support in becoming a truly competitive applicant, then you may want to consider a Programme from UniAdmissions. We’re the world’s first Oxbridge Preparatory School, specialising in getting applicants their offers at Oxford, Cambridge and other prestigious universities. 

We do this through our unique curriculum consisting of expert one-to-one tuition, live intensive courses, enrichment seminars and our vast library of preparation materials. If you would be interested in learning more about our Programmes, book a free Admissions Consultation today or explore our Oxbridge Programmes page.    

Secure your place at Oxbridge with world-class application support from UniAdmissions

At UniAdmissions, we are specialists in supporting applicants for Oxbridge, Medicine and more. With our expertly crafted curriculum, extensive preparation materials and innovative Portal, we have developed programmes that cater to applicants of over 30 subjects across Oxford, Cambridge and more.

Discover our Oxbridge Programme by clicking the button below to learn how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

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