Top Universities in the UK 2021 | Top Universities

Top Universities in the UK 2021

By Julia G

Updated February 25, 2021 Updated February 25, 2021

The University of Oxford continues its domination as the top university in the UK for 2021. The elite institution has dropped one place since last year’s ranking and is now the fifth best university in the world, while their rival institution the University of Cambridge remains in seventh place. 

There is a total of 90 UK universities in the QS World University Rankings 2021 – six more than last year. Four of these institutions make it into the global top 10, with a further four in the global top 50.

Read on for more information on the top 10 universities in the UK and view the full results of the QS World University Rankings 2021 here. You can also find out more about the methodology used to compile the rankings here.

QS World University Rankings 2021 – Top 10 Universities in the UK

UK Rank

Global Rank

Institution

1

5

University of Oxford

2

7

University of Cambridge

3

8

Imperial College London

4

10

UCL (University College London)

5

20

University of Edinburgh

6

27=

The University of Manchester

7

31=

King’s College London (KCL)

8

49

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

9

58

University of Bristol

10

62

The University of Warwick

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 62nd globally for another year. Their success in the rankings is largely due to the global outlook of the university, which achieves near perfect scores in the international faculty and international students ranking indicators. 

9) University of Bristol        

University of Bristol
 

Ninth in the UK is the University of Bristol, which nonetheless drops nine spots in the global rankings this year to 58th place. The university achieves high scores across all ranking indicators, particularly for academic reputation where it ranks 74th globally.

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 drops five places this year to rank 49th globally – the first UK university in our top 10 to make it into the global top 50. LSE is ranked seventh in the world for international students, making it the most diverse UK university in our ranking.

7) King’s College London (KCL)

King's College London

Seventh in the UK again this year is King’s College London (KCL), which climbs two places in the global rankings to joint 31st. One of four London-based universities in the UK top 10, KCL achieves impressive scores in all indicators, particularly academic reputation where it ranks among the top 50 universities in the world.

6) The University of Manchester

University of Manchester
 

The University of Manchester ranks sixth in the UK this year, taking joint 27th place in the global rankings. Manchester graduates are looked on particularly favourably by employers – the university ranks 21st in the world for the employer reputation indicator.

5) University of Edinburgh

University of Edinburgh
 

Ranking fifth in the UK, and remaining the 20th best university in the world, is the University of Edinburgh – the only Scottish institution in the UK top 10. It scores particularly highly for academic reputation and employer reputation, ranking 25th and 31st in the world respectively for these indicators.

4) UCL (University College London)

University College London (UCL)

Just missing out on a spot in the UK top three is UCL (University College London), which drops two places in the global rankings this year to 10th. Its highest score can be found in the academic reputation indicator where it places 13th in the world.

3) Imperial College London

Imperial College London
 

Taking the bronze medal position in the UK is Imperial College London, the highest-ranked university in the capital. It moves up one position globally this year to eighth place and takes ninth place globally for academic reputation. 

2) University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

As per usual, it’s a battle between the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge for first place in the UK rankings. Once again, it’s Cambridge in second place, ranked seventh globally. However, Cambridge is the highest ranked university in the UK for both academic and employer reputation, in second place globally for these indicators.

1) University of Oxford

University of Oxford

Taking first place in the UK again this year is the University of Oxford, which drops one place in the global rankings to fifth. Achieving high scores across all indicators, Oxford is the highest ranked school in the UK for faculty-student ratio (eighth place) and citations per faculty (44th place).

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The next 10 best universities in the UK can be found below:

QS World University Rankings 2021 – Top Universities in the UK 11-20

UK Rank

Global Rank

Institution

11

  77=

University of Glasgow

12

  86 

Durham University

13

  87 

University of Birmingham

14

  90 

University of Southampton

15

  91 

University of Leeds

16

  93=

The University of Sheffield

17

  96 

University of St Andrews

18

  99 

The University of Nottingham

19

  133=

Queen Mary University of London (QMUL)

20

  135=

Lancaster University

A further 29 UK universities are ranked within the world’s top 500 institutions.

QS World University Rankings 2020 – Top Universities in the UK 21-49

UK Rank

Global Rank

Institution

21

  150=

University of York

22

  152=

Newcastle University

23

  159 

Cardiff University

24

  164 

University of Exeter

25

  173=

University of Bath

26

  181=

University of Liverpool

27

  205 

University of Reading

28

  207 

University of Aberdeen

29

  209 

Queen's University of Belfast

30

  226 

Loughborough University

31

  242=

University of Leicester

32

  246=

University of Sussex

33

  267=

University of Surrey

34

  300 

University of Strathclyde

35

  301=

Heriot-Watt University

36

  308=

Royal Holloway University of London

37

  319 

University of Dundee

38

  333=

University of East Anglia (UEA)

39

  344=

Birkbeck College, University of London

40

  346=

SOAS - School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

41

  350=

City, University of London

42

  368=

Brunel University

43

  380=

University of Kent

44

  383=

Oxford Brookes University

45

  411=

University of Essex

46

  416=

Goldsmiths, University of London

47

  474=

Swansea University

48

  485=

Aberystwyth University

48

  485=

University of Stirling

After 500th place, the QS World University Rankings group universities together into bandings, e.g. 501-510, 511-520. The remaining 35 universities and their banding can be seen below. 

QS World University Rankings 2020 – Top Universities in the UK 501-1000

UK Rank

Global Rank

Institution

50

511-520

Aston University

51

541-550

Coventry University

52

581-590

Kingston University, London

53

601-650

Bangor University

54

601-650

Ulster University

57

601-650

University of Bradford

55

601-650

University of Hull

56

601-650

University of Portsmouth

60

651-700

Northumbria University at Newcastle

58

651-700

Plymouth University

59

651-700

University of Westminster

61

701-750

Keele University

63

701-750

Middlesex University

64

701-750

University of Greenwich

62

701-750

University of Huddersfield

65

751-800

Bournemouth University

67

751-800

London South Bank University

66

751-800

Nottingham Trent University

82

  801-1000

Birmingham City University (BCU)

73

  801-1000

De Montfort University

79

  801-1000

Edinburgh Napier University

84

  801-1000

Glasgow Caledonian University

69

  801-1000

Liverpool John Moores University

75

  801-1000

London Metropolitan University

69

  801-1000

Manchester Metropolitan University

75

  801-1000

Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh

81

  801-1000

Sheffield Hallam University

82

  801-1000

The Robert Gordon University

72

  801-1000

University of Brighton

78

  801-1000

University of Central Lancashire

68

  801-1000

University of East London

74

  801-1000

University of Hertfordshire

80

  801-1000

University of Lincoln

77

  801-1000

University of Salford

69

  801-1000

University of the West of England

This article was originally published in June 2020 . It was last updated in February 2021

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Written by
Julia is the Assistant Editor for TopUniversities, publishing articles for students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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