What are the top ten universities in the UK?

Written by Calvin Bowers

Knowing which universities to apply to can be a really tough decision. At Developing a Student, we believe you should do your research; find out which cities you like, which universities offer the best course for your subject, and which university culture best matches your personality.

After you have thought about all these factors, university ranking lists can be a helpful resource to work out, which is suitable for you. There are many different lists, each considering various factors such as research quality, student satisfaction, student to staff ratio and much more.

This list is based on the Times Higher Education 2021 University Ranking.

What are the top ten universities in the UK? 

  1. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. There are records of teaching dating back as far as 1096.

There are roughly 24,000 students across the entire university, including undergraduate, postgraduate and other visiting students, making it much smaller than many other leading UK universities.

The university follows a distinctive collegiate structure, which means that while students and staff are part of the broader university institution, they are part of a much smaller community.

  1. University of Cambridge 

Founded in 1209 The University of Cambridge is the fourth oldest university in the world. It is currently home to 22,579 students who belong to one of the 31 constituent colleges, like Oxford.

To ease the pressure of the demanding workload, Cambridge encourages students to live on campus, in college, for the entirety of the undergraduate degree. This means that your living spaces and social spaces are all contained within a small area.

With only 125,000 residents, Cambridge is a smaller city, making it much more manageable to navigate and live in. The majority of colleges are in the centre of the city, along the River Cam.

  1. Imperial College London

Imperial College London is a small Science university with an international reputation for Science, Engineering, Business and Medicine. Many people know Imperial for its application of these academic subjects into industry and enterprise. The university was created by amalgamating the Royal College of Science, the Royal School of Mines and the City & Guilds College in 1907. And since has held an elite status for impactful, cutting edge scientific research.

The university has around 17,000 students and 8,000 staff, attracting undergraduate students from over 125 countries worldwide.

  1. University College London 

University College London is London’s leading multidisciplinary university. Established in 1826, it is now home to over 42,000 students, over 50% from outside the UK.

The eleven faculties together offer 440 undergraduate programmes and 675 postgraduate programmes, which have consistently produced some of the world’s most celebrated minds.

Located in London’s heart, directly opposite Euston Station, UCL is at the centre of London’s creative and innovative scene. The main campus sits in the Knowledge Quarter and is close to a whole range of educational resources.

  1. London School of Economics 

London School of Economics (LSE) is focused on all things Social Sciences and has earned a world-class reputation in Economics and political science. This year LSE are celebrating their 125th birthday. They are reflecting on the myriad ways they have challenged existing ways of thinking and sought to find the cause of things.

LSE is a competitive university to apply to; they have roughly 12.4 applications for every undergraduate place. In the year 2019/2020 they had around 10,000 undergraduate students.

The campus is based in central London, taking in the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

  1. University of Edinburgh 

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1583, making it the sixth oldest university in the UK, and one of the world’s oldest. In 2019/2020, they recorded over 44,500 students, with over 25,000 of these studying Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Many people know the university for its research and cultural legacy. It is the home of dolly the sheep, the first cloned animal, and was Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for the famous character Sherlock Holmes.

Located just North of the meadows, a vast open green space, regularly populated with students, and only a stone’s throw away from the Old town, The University of Edinburgh campus sits in the perfect location.

  1. King’s College London 

Kings College London is another top university in London. It was found in 1829 and is home to more than 29,000 students, making it much bigger than some other London Universities.

There are nine academic faculties at King’s, made up of smaller departments offering a vast range of courses.

Kings have expressed their dedication to diversity and inclusion, as both an employer and educator. They ensure all staff, students and members of the broader university community are treated with dignity, courtesy and respect.

  1. University of Manchester 

Much to many people’s surprise, the University of Manchester, in its present form, was technically founded in 2004.

This is because it was created by combing two historical institutions: Victoria University of Manchester and UMIST (University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology). These universities were established in 1851 and 1824, respectively.

The University of Manchester has over 40,000 students making it the largest single-site university in the UK. This huge student population creates a university, and a city, full of vibrant diversity, culture and history.

  1. University of Warwick

Warwick has over 27,000 students, with around 44% of those studying social sciences, and 43% studying Science, Engineering and Medicine. The university was opened in 1961, after an idea to build a university in Coventry post Second World War.

Warwick has 29 academic departments and over 50 research centres and institutions.

It is a campus university, which means the whole university is located just outside of the city.

  1. University of Bristol 

The University of Bristol has its roots in the University College, Bristol which was founded in 1876. From there the University College expanded greatly, and in 1909 King Edward VII approved a charter, transforming the college into the University of Bristol.

Located in the heart of Bristol, the university is seamlessly intertwined with a vibrant and lively city. The majority of teaching occurs at the Clifton Campus; the campus is an eclectic mix of ultra-modern science labs and ancient Victorian architecture.

For more help and guidance on university, visit our pages on dropping out of university, changing degree, and university costs.

Last Updated: Monday February 22 2021
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