How to get into Imperial College London
For Undergraduate (UG) and Masters (MS) degrees
Imperial College London, or Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine, is a public research university established by Royal Charter in 1907, an institution that has kept growing with the merger of museums and royal colleges and schools such as the Royal College of Science, Royal School of Mines, and City and Guilds of London Institute.
With its main campus located in South Kensington, Imperial is represented by students from 140 countries; nearly 60 percent of its student body is international. It has a total of 17,700 students, 9,500 of them in undergraduate programs. The university has an academic staff of over 3,750 and an administrative staff of 3,900.
Imperial is ranked 9th in the QS World University Rankings 2020 and 10th in THE World University Rankings 2020. Notable alumni include Alexander Fleming and at least a dozen other Nobel laureates.
Programs and courses offered
Imperial’s main focus is its science, engineering, business, and medicine programs. Full-time undergraduate programs are offered by departments from Aeronautics to Electronics and Electrical Engineering, and from Computing to Life Sciences and Physics.
Bachelor’s degrees are granted after three or four years of study and master’s degrees after four or five years, or after six years for the MBBS/BSc program. Master’s programs after one year of full-time study (two or three years part-time) are also offered to degree holders.
The university offers three types of doctoral degrees: PhD (three or four years of full-time study or part-time study), professional doctorate degrees EngD and MD (Res) for working professionals, mainly by the departments of Engineering and Medicine, and integrated PhD with features of a traditional doctorate degree along with training (comprising a one-year master’s program and three-year doctoral program).
The first step is to choose a program (“courses” is the term used by Imperial) from the list of programs for the relevant year of entry. Under each program listed on the undergraduate program webpage, information about the application procedure, entry requirements, study program, program structure, modules, teaching, assessment, tuition fees and funding, and scholarships and bursaries, and careers is given.
The admission requirements vary between programs (details available on the webpages of the programs). Generally, the qualifications for Indian students are ISC or CBSE Class 12 certification with 90 percent overall across five subjects and a score of 90-95 percent in relevant subjects. A rank on the common merit list of the JEE Advanced test may also be required.
For applicants submitting A-levels, the minimum standard is AAA overall. Depending on the program, it is 38-40 points overall for applicants presenting IB, and 5, 5, 5 for those offering AP.
The preferred three subjects vary depending on the program. The university does not make offers below three “A”s at the A-level or below 38 IB points with at least a grade 6 at higher levels in relevant subjects or their equivalent. Applicants may have to clear other admission tests (such as the Mathematics Admissions Test for the BSc Pure Mathematics program).
All applicants must submit proof of proficiency in English. They can submit test scores, pass the Imperial College London Pre-Sessional English Programme (standard or higher), or provide previous qualification confirming proficiency. If not, they need to give evidence of exemption.
How to apply
To join Imperial, you need to apply online through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). You can track the progress of your application on UCAS Track. A final decision on your application is made only after all the applications have been received, by the January 15 deadline (for example, January 15, 2020, for October 2020 entry).
An indication of the deadlines: for October 2020, the UCAS application went live on May 21, 2019. Students applying to Oxford/Cambridge and Imperial, and those applying for at least one clinical program (such as medicine) applied before October 15, 2019. The deadline for other applicants was January 15, 2020.
The UCAS application fee is £20 for one program or £25 for multiple programs.
The application evaluators take into account your complete profile as an applicant, including educational and social circumstances. Depending on the program, applicants living within a reasonable distance from the university are invited for an in-person interview with a member of the academic staff. Telephonic interviews are held for overseas applicants.
If you are selected, you will be asked to meet a set of conditions based on your qualifications. You may have to meet additional requirements. Once you receive notification of admission, you will need to select a firm first choice and an “insurance” (second) choice, usually by May 1. Requests for deferral should be made without delay.
Tuition and other fees
Tuition fees depend on your fee status (whether you are an overseas or home student), your program, and additional course costs (mandatory or optional courses). It may be between £31,000 and £33,000 per annum for most programs but is much higher (£44,000 per annum) for medicine. The exact tuition and additional fees are given on the webpages of each program.
Halls of residence, made up of 2,500 single and twin rooms, are available to undergraduate students. All first-year students are guaranteed accommodation at the halls. The weekly rent per person, which depends on the hall of residence and type of accommodation, is in the range of £105-£288, and includes utility bills, Internet, maintenance, etc.
According to a rough estimate given on the university website, the weekly cost of living for a 38-week academic year for students staying at a hall of residence includes rent £178.47; food £50; travel £28.80; and personal and leisure £40.35, adding up to £11,479.38 for a year. The weekly cost of living for a 52-233k academic year for students going in for private-sector housing is rent £179.98; food £50; travel £28.80; and personal and leisure £40.35, adding up to £15,198.76 for a year.
The President’s Undergraduate Scholarships reward students of all nationalities who demonstrate the highest academic excellence and potential. Up to 112 President’s Scholarships are presented, under which students receive £1,000 in each year of study.
A number of external scholarships, bursaries, and awards are also available. Other scholarships can be found using the scholarship search tool available on the university’s fees and funding webpage.
As in the case of undergraduate programs, you can make your graduate program choice from the list of courses given on the College website. In addition to departments, programs are offered by the Imperial College Business School, Dyson School of Design Engineering, and Science Communication Unit.
Proficiency in English is mandatory, and candidates can provide proof in one of the methods mentioned under the same topic under UG programs. In addition, doctoral students have to fulfil the Doctoral Academic Communication Requirement through an assessment within three months of registration, to identify those who require guidance with their writing competence.
How to apply
You can apply through the Imperial Gateway online application system for two programs per academic cycle. There are fixed deadlines for all programs except those run by the Imperial College Business School.
Other programs remain open until the places are taken; popular programs may close early, in some years before Christmas, and applications may have to be submitted early.
Generally, overseas applicants should submit their applications by July 30 and UK applicants by August 1 to ensure their applications are processed.
The application fee for the 2020-21 entry was £80 for MSc programs and £125 for MBA. There is no application fee for other postgraduate programs.
Applicants are advised to upload scanned copies of certificates of their qualifications so that their applications are processed more quickly. The names of two people to provide academic references (your personal tutor, your thesis supervisor, or your line manager in a research group) need to be provided.
The selection process for “postgraduate taught” programs runs from mid-November until August, unless all the places have already been taken. You will know the result usually six to eight weeks after the university has received a complete application, but you need to check the webpage of the relevant department.
Three criteria are the most important: the interview, academic report and professional reference, and personal statement. Master’s program applicants may have to attend an interview.
The academic referee’s report may play a major part in reflecting the applicant’s motivation, and a professional reference can establish the applicant’s career progress. The latter may be a requirement for certain programs that require work experience. The personal statement gives an idea about the applicant’s qualifications and motivation.
For postgraduate research programs, the interview (through video-conferencing if the applicant’s cannot visit the College), academic/professional references, and identification of the research topic beforehand, along with the name of the research supervisor at Imperial, are required.
Tuition and other fees
For full-time postgraduate taught programs for overseas students in the 2020 cohort, the annual fee was £32,500 for engineering programs, except those offered by the Department of Computing, which was £33,250.
For postgraduate certificate medicine programs, it was £17,500; for Centre for Environmental Policy programs, £26,500; for Department of Life Sciences programs, £24,250-£30,000; for Department of Mathematics, £28,000-£33,500; and for Department of Physics, £20,900-£28,500.
The annual fee for Centre of Languages, Culture, and Communication programs was £22,600. At the Imperial College Business School, £53,500 was the full-time program fee for overseas students in 2020-21.
For postgraduate research masters (MRes) programs, the annual fee for full-time programs for overseas students was £32,500 for engineering programs; £24,500-£32,800 for natural sciences programs; £31,800-£35,600 for medicine programs; and £16,100 for Imperial College Business School programs.
For postgraduate research programs, the annual fee for full-time programs for overseas students was £25,250-£31,500 for engineering programs; £38,400 for medicine programs; £21,600-£30,100 for natural sciences programs; £22,600 for Centre for Languages, Culture, and Communication programs; £21,600-£39,600 for Crick Institute programs; and £16,100 for Imperial College Business School programs.
The President’s PhD Scholarships provide 50 students full funding for tuition fees, a stipend of £21,400 per annum for living expenses, and a consumables fund of £2,000 per annum for the first three years of study.
A number of external organizations also provide support to students. The fees and funding webpage provides a scholarship search tool with information about scholarships for Imperial programs.
Admission tips to get into Imperial College London
- For UG programs, the acceptance rate is 5:1 to 13:1
- As with other top colleges, Class 12 grades carry their weight
- Try to get a good rank in JEE Advanced common merit list
- For PG programs, take extra care with your personal statement and referee report
- For research programs, select your topic beforehand and find a supervisor at Imperial
- For all programs, brush up your English and your interview skills