Top universities in the UK | Top Universities

Top universities in the UK

By Holly Hemmings

Updated January 16, 2024 Updated January 16, 2024

The UK is home to 90 of the universities on this year’s QS World University Rankings making a great place to study. Four of these institutions rank in the global top 10 and a further 20 universities rank in the global top 50. 

The rankings this year were attained using a methodology that looks at several indicators such as academic reputation, employer reputation, international research network and sustainability. 

Read on as we discover the top 10 universities in the UK. 

QS World University Rankings – Top universities in the UK 

British rank 

Global rank 

University 

Cambridge University 

Oxford University 

Imperial College London 

University College London (UCL) 

22 

The University of Edinburgh 

32 

The University of Manchester 

40 

King’s College London 

45 

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) 

55 

University of Bristol 

10 

67 

The University of Warwick 

Other top universities in the UK

Outside of the top 10, there are plenty of universities all across the country which provide excellent teaching, have great facilities and lead to abundant employment opportunities. In Scotland, Edinburgh Napier University offers students the same access to the beautiful Scottish city as it's top 10 counterpart. It scores highly for both international student and international faculty ratios, indicating a diverse community of people who study and work abroad.

In the north of England, University of Central Lancashire could be a great option whereas in the Midlands, universities such as Loughborough University and De Montfort University score highly for their international research network and international student ratio respectively. Their broad curriculum and wide range of study options allow students to really make the most of their studies as well as their university experience. In the south of England there are some great options such as The University of Brighton.

Furthermore, Wales also has some top universities such as Cardiff University which ranks highest in the country and Northern Ireland contains entries such as Queen's University Belfast.

10) The University of Warwick

The University of Warwick

Remaining in 10th place in the UK this year is the University of Warwick which is also ranked 67th globally. Their success in the rankings is largely due to the university’s global outlook as they score the highest in the international faculty and international student ratio indicators as well as also coming 17th in the UK for their international research network. 

One of the younger universities, founded only around fifty years ago in 1965, today the university is attended by almost 29,000 students 10,000 of which are studying internationally from 150 countries. 42.9 percent of the people, student, and staff, at the university come from another country.  

Furthermore, the university strengthens its international work by offering all students study abroad placements in one of over 200 partner institutions in 40 countries worldwide. 

9) University of Bristol        

University of Bristol

Ninth in the UK is the University of Bristol, which has also risen six spots in the global rankings this year to 58th place. The university achieves high scores across all ranking indicators, particularly for employer reputation where it ranks 10th in the UK and 60th globally. 

University of Bristol places its students at the centre of its operations, being the first university in the UK to admit male and female students on an equal basis in 1876. It is also viewed so favourably by employers as a result of its Bristol Futures initiative which encourages students to work on their personal development planning and create a portfolio of work that acts as an asset to their career progression but also offers engagement opportunities so that students may start networking with businesses within the city of Bristol and beyond. 

8) London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

London School of Economics (LSE)

In eighth place in the UK is the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) which has risen nine places this year to 45th place worldwide – the first UK university in our countdown to be within the top 50. LSE achieved a perfect score in both the international faculty and international student ratio indicators, making it one of the most diverse places to study in the UK and the world. 

60 percent of LSE’s 11,000 students are from overseas. In terms of its alumni, 62,000 are from the UK with 30,000 from other European countries, 27,000 are from North America and 25,000 are from east and south-east Asia. 

7) King’s College London (KCL)

King's College London

Seventh in the UK again this year is King’s College London, which drops three places in the world rankings to 40th place. The first of four London-based universities in the UK top 10, KCL achieves impressive scores in all indicators, particularly for their international research network where it’s ranked 14th in the world. 

To foster a sense of community in the international research field, KCL hosts a European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research award. This award aims to uplift the work that is being done by the university and their international colleagues and support the careers of researchers who are making the most significant contributions to their fields. 

6) The University of Manchester

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester ranks sixth in the UK again this year, taking 40th place in the global rankings. Manchester graduates are looked on particularly favourably by employers – the university ranks 21st in the world and fourth in the UK for the employer reputation indicator. 

The University of Manchester was England’s first civic university and closely linked to the city’s industrial heritage. Today the university prioritises the employability of their graduates by placing a higher focus on skills that can be transferred to the workplace as well as offering career services such as counselling, CV workshops, internships, career mentorships and job vacancy emails. Their Manchester Leadership Programme also allows students to combine volunteer work with their course. 

5) University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh

Ranked fifth in the UK and 22nd in the world is The University of Edinburgh – the only Scottish institution in the top 10. It scores particularly highly for its international research network, suggesting the level of international academic work that the university partake in, and also for sustainability where it ranks sixth in the world and takes the title of the most sustainable university in the UK. 

Th University of Edinburgh is furthering their pursuit of sustainability by setting the goal to be completely carbon neutral by 2040. 

4) UCL (University College London)

University College London (UCL)

Just missing out on a spot in the UK top three is University College London (UCL), which drops one place in the global rankings this year to ninth place. This makes it the first university in our UK rankings to enter the global top 10. Its highest score is for its international research network where it comes second in both the UK and also the world. 

In order to further develop their international research work, UCL has recently established a new Research Innovation and Global Engagement office which aims to improve the way the research conducted at the university reaches the public in order to make a more substantial impact on people’s lives. 

3) Imperial College London

Imperial College London

Taking the bronze medal position in the UK is Imperial College London, the highest-ranked university in England’s capital city. It remains in sixth place in the world rankings and also scores highly for its employer reputation. 

Imperial College London specialises in the subjects of science, engineering, medicine, and business with a focus on high-quality educational practices and world-leading innovative research. It holds a Silver Athena Swan award which celebrates the university’s efforts to enhance the careers of women in the fields of science, technology, maths, engineering, and medicine. 

2) University of Oxford

University of Oxford

As per usual, it is a battle between Oxford University and Cambridge University for the first place in the UK rankings. This year it is Oxford in second place, ranked third globally. However, it does score first place in the UK for employer outcomes and third in the world. 

Oxford is considered the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Though no clear date of establishment can be found, teaching practices in Oxford date back to 1096. Later, in 1249, the first colleges and halls of residence were built. Today, Oxford is made up of 36 colleges and three societies. 

2) University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

Taking first place in the UK again this year is the University of Cambridge which also retains second place in the World University Rankings. Achieving high scores across all indicators, Cambridge is ranked the highest in the UK for employer reputation and fourth in the world for this indicator. 

Cambridge University was established in 1209 and, similarly to Oxford, is made up of 31 colleges. The student body of Cambridge is incredibly diverse with students and alumni predominantly from Europe, North America, Asia and beyond. The university has produced 121 Nobel Laureates, 47 world leaders and 210 Olympic medalists. 

This article was originally published in June 2020 . It was last updated in January 2024

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