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The top universities in the UK

Making up your mind about which university you want to study at is a process of deliberation and research. We hope to make this process a little easier with our exploration of the best universities in the UK.

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When many international students put a pin on the map to mark where they’re going to study abroad, it is more often than not the UK. Studying in the UK remains the dream of many aspiring students with world-renowned institutions, globally accredited degrees and favourable post-study work options. The question that often arises when debating exactly where to study is “What are the best universities in the UK?” and which universities make the list of the top ten institutions in the UK. We’re here to answer just that, by exploring some of the top-ranked UK universities and what is on offer for international students in the UK. 

 

Before we take a trip around the UK to discover the top universities in the country, it’s useful to understand how we put this list together. We’ve used a combination of the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021, the QS World University Rankings 2021, and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. Let’s get started.

 

University of Oxford 

 

Arguably one of the most well-known universities in the UK and across the world, the University of Oxford frequently tops the ranking lists globally. Both the QS World University Rankings 2021 and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 put the institution at number one in the UK, with the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021 awarding Oxford the runner-up spot. The university also enjoyed the top spot in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. This is a position that it has held for five consecutive years. 

 

The university is based in the historic city of Oxford, which is known for its architecture and international student community, with 45 per cent of students hailing from overseas. Competition for places at the university is also extremely high with over 23,000 students applying for just 3,300 places in 2019. The university is home to more postgraduate students than undergraduates, with just over 12,000 students studying for an advanced degree. 

 

The University of Oxford is not the only university in the city with Oxford Brookes University also offering international students the opportunity to study in the UK

 

University of Cambridge 

 

Another of the UK’s fabled universities, the University of Cambridge is known for its rivalry with the University of Oxford, but also as the home of many world-renowned researchers, including physicist Stephen Hawking. Founded in the 13th century it is one of the oldest universities in the world and home to around 24,000 students and a 298,000 strong alumni community. 

 

The University of Cambridge frequently battles it out with the University of Oxford at the top of the rankings, with the former winning the race with number one spot in the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021. The institution also ranked in the top ten universities worldwide on both the QS World University Rankings 2021 and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. 

 

Find out a bit more about the top cities for international students in the UK

 

University of St Andrews 

 

Holding the title of Scotland’s first university and one of the oldest in the world, the University of St Andrews traces its roots back to 1410. Over 10,000 students study at the university, with 7,985 undergraduates and 2,133 postgraduate students pursuing degrees. The university also the reputation of being one of the most international in Scotland and the UK, with students coming from more than 130 countries. 

 

The University of St Andrews is considered to be one of the more prestigious universities in the UK and is ranked in third place by Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021. The university holds its own on the world stage placing in the top 100 in the QS World University Rankings 2021 and the top 250 in Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. 

 

You may want to explore what it’s like to study in Scotland and find out more about how to use the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021.  

 

Loughborough University 

 

Enjoying a five-star QS rating and a position in the top 250 universities globally in the QS World University Rankings 2021, Loughborough University has also been awarded gold by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). The university has over a century’s worth of experience in the higher education sector and was a winner of the University of the Year 2020 in the WhatUni Student Choice Awards (WUSCAS), which is voted for by students. 

 

Loughborough is favourably rated by the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021, coming in at number six, which is a two-place rise from the university’s 2020 ranking. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 also places the university in the world’s top 400. 

 

While you’re here you may find it interesting to explore some of the top business schools in the UK.

 

University of Bath 

 

The University of Bath is known for its favourable graduate outcomes, with the university holding the distinction of being one of the most targeted by employers in recent years. The institution has an 18,000 strong student community, of which 30 per cent come from overseas, representing 130 countries. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 87 per cent of the research produced by the institution was rated as world-class and above. Bath has a place in the top ten in the Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021, coming in at number nine. 

 

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 has the University of Bath as a top 250 global institution, while the QS World University Rankings 2021 put the university inside the world’s top 200 at number 173. If you did choose the university as your study abroad destination you would also be studying in a city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known for its architecture and Roman history. 

 

Get up to speed with the top medical schools in the UK

 

Lancaster University 

 

Named the International University of the Year in 2020 by the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, Lancaster University is known for its high-quality research and excellent teaching. The university also shares many key partnerships with universities around the world, enhancing both research and opportunities for students. 83 per cent of research conducted at the university is considered to be world-leading or internationally excellent. This has not gone unnoticed with the university being placed in the world’s top 150 by the QS World University Rankings 2021 and it is similarly ranked by Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021. 

 

There are of course many other top-ranked universities in the UK, including:

 

  • University of Edinburgh (QS World University Rankings 2021: 5th in the UK)
  • University of Warwick (QS World University Rankings 2021: 10th in the UK)
  • University of Bristol (Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021: 14th in the UK)
  • University of Glasgow (Complete University Guide University League Tables 2021: 19th in the UK)
  • University of Leeds (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021: 20th in the UK)

 

Armed with this new knowledge of some of the best universities in the UK, you’ll have a better understanding of what’s on offer. We also have some useful information on studying in the UK, an in-depth guide to post-study work options in the UK and you may be inspired by some alumni success stories from the UK

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