Students looking for universities in London will encounter a range of options as vibrant and multicultural as the city itself. Whether you want a specialist or multidisciplinary institution, central or more suburban surroundings, or the option to combine a flexible study schedule with your career, your chances of finding a good match in the UK capital are high.
For a taste of what’s on offer, here’s a look at the top 10 universities in London, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2013/2014.
University College London (UCL)
Ranking consistently within the top ten in the world in the QS World University Rankings (4th this year), University College London (UCL) is extremely popular with international students – who account for more than a third of the student body. This multidisciplinary world-class research institute is organized into 10 faculties, and its campuses and teaching hospitals are all conveniently located in the heart of central London. The main Gower Street campus is a short walk away from many of the city’s cultural institutions, as well as the party atmosphere of Soho, London’s entertainment center, and famous shopping district, Oxford Street.
Imperial College London
Never far from UCL in the rankings, Imperial College London is also a consistent feature in the QS global top ten (5th this year). This prestigious science-focused institution emphasizes the importance of laboratory work to complement teaching and research. Its global appeal is reflected in high international student numbers (just under a third of the student body in 2012). Imperial’s main campus is in South Kensington; not far from the city center, and it’s close to the huge green space of Hyde Park, the monumental Royal Albert Hall, luxury superstore Harrods, and several of the city’s biggest museums.
King's College London
Climbing seven places in the rankings since last year to 19= in the world, King’s College London (KCL) excels across a wide range of subjects. KCL’s strong international student presence is complemented by world-leading academics and a range of scholarship opportunities. The multi-faculty research-led university has five London campuses, four of which are situated by the Thames, right in the heart of London, with easy access to famous landmarks.
London School of Economics and Political Science
The UK’s only university specializing in the social sciences, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) ranks 68th in the world this year. It gets a much higher position in many of the individual subject rankings, reflecting its role as a world-leading pioneer in subjects such as international relations, politics, sociology, law and accounting. International students from over 150 countries attend this cosmopolitan institution, which again occupies a location close to the heart of the city – in the Chancery Lane area, historically associated with the legal professions.
Queen Mary, University of London
Ranked 115 in the world this year, Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL) offers teaching and research across a wide range of subjects, including medicine and dentistry at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. Out of QMUL’s 17,840 students, around 10% are from EU countries other than the UK, and 30% from further afield. A distinctive feature of QMUL is its 1,176-room Student Village in the vibrant East End area of London.
Royal Holloway University of London
While many universities in London are centrally located, it’s important to remember that some are much further out. Situated about an hour away from central London on public transport, the Royal Holloway University of London (ranked 265=) campus has been named one of the most beautiful in the world. This is another global university, with students from over 100 countries, offering courses in arts and humanities, sciences, social sciences, management and economics.
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS)
The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (SOAS, ranked 337 this year) focuses on the languages, cultures and societies of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East. International students from over 160 countries account for 38% of the student body. Like UCL, SOAS is in the Bloomsbury area of London, known for its attractive garden squares, history of literary inhabitants, and high concentration of academic resources – including the extensive Senate House Library and the British Library (the UK’s national library).
City University London
City University (ranked 347) is named to reflect its relationship with ‘The City’ – London’s historic financial and commercial district, also known as ‘the square mile’. Offering a broad spectrum of courses, the university’s best-known institutes include the Sir John Cass Business School, City Law School and the School of Health Sciences. Of its 17,000 students, 16% are from the EU and 28% are international.
Named after the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Brunel University (ranked 360=) is best known for its engineering and design courses, but also offers a range of courses in arts, business, law, health and social sciences, information systems and sport. Again, it boasts an internationally diverse student community, with nearly 15,000 students from over 100 countries. All courses are based at Brunel’s campus in Uxbridge, West London, about an hour’s journey by public transport to the city center.
Birkbeck College, University of London
Finally, Birkbeck College, University of London (ranked 374=) is the only institution in London that allows students to complete full three-year degrees during evening courses, with all the visa and loan privileges of daytime study. It’s again located in the Bloomsbury area, close to UCL and SOAS, with the idea being that students are able to complete a day’s work before attending class. Birkbeck teaches a wide range of subjects to students of all ages and abilities (average age is 34) from over 100 countries.
Image credits: UCL; Christian Richters (Imperial College); Royal Holloway University of London; Alun Salt (School of Oriental and African Studies); City University London; Birkbeck College