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Top 10 Universities in London

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Students looking for top universities in London will encounter a range of options as vibrant and varied 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 10 highest-ranked universities in London, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2018.

1. University College London (UCL) 


UCL maintains its position as the seventh best university in the world this year, building on the impressive performance of the last couple of years. The university is extremely popular with international students, who account for more than 40% of its student body. A multidisciplinary institute, it covers a broad spectrum of subjects (this is one of the main points of difference between UCL and Imperial), and has a high percentage of postgraduate students – around 53%.

Its faculties and teaching hospitals are all located in the heart of central London, close to the British Library and a cluster of other leading London universities – SOAS and Birkbeck are both close neighbors. The main Gower Street campus is also just a short walk from the party atmosphere of Soho and the shopping district centered on Oxford Circus.

2. Imperial College London 

Imperial College London

Imperial College London is eighth in the world in 2018, up one place on the previous year. This science and technology-focused institution is known for its leadership in engineering and natural sciences, as well as having a prestigious business school and one of the UK’s largest medical faculties. As is the case with UCL, Imperial College London has a strong global appeal, reflected in very high international student numbers (around half of the student body). Its main campus is in South Kensington, not far from the city center. Students will find themselves 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.

3. King's College London 

King’s College London

King’s College London is one of the largest and oldest colleges of the University of London collegiate, and is ranked joint 23rd in the world this year alongside the University of Edinburgh. Again, this comprehensive research-led university is a popular choice for international students, who comprise 30% of the student body, while postgraduates make up nearly 40% of its 29,600 enrolments.

It has a particularly good reputation for courses in the humanities, law and the sciences, including health sciences. Claiming to be “the most central university in London”, King’s College London has five London campuses, four of which are fairly close together by the River Thames, near iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge, the London Eye and Big Ben.

4.  London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)


The UK’s only university specializing in the social sciences, LSE is up two places in 2018 to now rank 35th in the world. It gets an even higher position in many of the individual subject rankings, reflecting its role as a world-leading pioneer in subjects such as anthropology, politics, sociology, law and accounting. Another highly international institution, LSE boasts more than 100 languages spoken on campus. It also occupies a location close to the heart of the city in the Chancery Lane area, historically associated with the legal professions. Just to the north of the river, it’s within walking distance of the British Library, and close to the cultural institutions of Trafalgar Square and the nightlife and theaters of the West End.

5.  Queen Mary, University of London 

Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL)

Ranked 127th in the world this year, 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. Of QMUL’s 23,120 students, more than 3,400 are completing joint programs overseas in China, Greece and France. The university’s main campus is in Mile End, set along the Regent’s Canal and close to many of the recently regenerated and increasingly trendy parts of the East End – including the curry houses of Brick Lane, art galleries of Whitechapel and Hoxton, and hipster-filled bars and music venues of Shoreditch. In August 2015, QMUL announced plans to launch a free business advice scheme for UK start-ups in the financial and technology industries, which is now available as the qLegal scheme.

6.  Royal Holloway, University of London 

Royal Holloway, University of London

While many of the top universities in London are centrally located, some are a little further out. Though still within the London area, Royal Holloway, University of London is actually in the nearby town of Egham – less than an hour’s train journey from central London. Ranked 259th in the world this year, Royal Holloway is another global university, with 9,844 students, of which over 20% are from outside the EU. It offers courses in a broad range of subjects, and is particularly strong in arts and humanities (it’s ranked joint 14th for performing arts in the QS subject ranking). Perfect for students looking to combine a more suburban experience with the choice of popping into the city for nights out or day trips, Royal Holloway offers one of the most beautiful campuses in the UK.

7.  School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) 


SOAS is ranked joint 296th in the world in 2018. The university is focused on the languages, cultures and societies of Asia, Africa and the Near and Middle East – the only institution in Europe specializing in this field. Just over half of its students come from outside the UK, representing 133 countries. Like UCL and Birkbeck, SOAS is in the Bloomsbury area of London, known for its attractive garden squares, history of artistic and intellectual inhabitants (the Bloomsbury Group), and high concentration of academic resources – including the extensive Senate House Library and the British Library (the UK’s national library). Founded in 1916 as the School of Oriental Studies, SOAS is currently celebrating its centenary with a range of events to mark its achievements over the last 100 years.

8.  Birkbeck College, University of London 

Birkbeck College

Birkbeck College, University of London is ranked joint 308th in the world this year, and is the only one of these top universities in London that allows students to complete full-length degrees during evening courses, with all the visa and loan privileges of daytime study. Birkbeck is again located in the Bloomsbury area, close to UCL and SOAS and within walking distance of many central London attractions, and it schedules its programs with the aim of allowing students to complete a day’s work before attending class. The majority of students study part-time, taking advantage of the university’s flexible ethos, and are enrolled on a wide range of programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

9.  City, University of London 

City University of London

City, University of London (formerly City University London) is the next highest-ranked UK university, coming 343rd this year. It’s named to reflect its close relationship with The City – London’s historic financial district, also known as the square mile. It prides itself on having strong links with leading companies in this competitive district, ranging from giants of the financial services sector to media companies and medical research centers. It also marks its special links with the city by having the Lord Mayor of London as its Chancellor. City, University of London offers a broad spectrum of courses, but is perhaps best known for its Cass Business School, City Law School and the School of Health Sciences. Of almost 19,000 students, 16% are from EU countries other than the UK, and 32% are from countries outside of the EU. It became a constituent college of the University of London on September 1 2016.

10. Brunel University 

Brunel University

Named after the Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Brunel University (ranked joint 346th in the world) is aptly 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 more than 12,700 students from over 110 countries.

All courses are based at Brunel’s campus in Uxbridge, West London, which is just under an hour from the city center on the London Underground. As a campus-based university, it provides a complete student community, with accommodation, libraries, bars, restaurants, a sports center and green spaces all within walking distance.

This article was originally published in October 2013. It was updated in September 2016 and again in June 2017 to reflect the latest QS World University Rankings® results.

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of, Laura oversees the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edits the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributes to market research reports including How Do Students Use Rankings?

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Hi Suresh, I'm not sure about which London universities offer particularly strong PhD programs, but you can search for the top universities for your subject with our latest subject rankings. :)

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Hi Sanchi, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is the highest ranked university for law in London - you can view the latest law ranking here. Hope this helps. 

Hello,I am here to ask about which is the best university of International Business in U.K./London.I am from Malaysia and I am looking for bachelor in International Business Management.Thank You.

Hi Chong, please take a look at our rankings by subject for business and management, with the results narrowed down to show only UK universities. You could use our compare tool to help you choose between institutions. Hope this helps. 

Thank you Sabrina~

Hi.I'm looking for top business schools in England.My daughter is going to study business administration next year.she is in grade 12 now.
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Hi Fariba. We don't currently have a ranking dedicated to business, but you may want to take a look at our rankings of the best universities in the related areas of accounting and finance, here. This could be a good starting point to identify some UK universities of interest to your daughter. To search for UK business courses, you can also visit our sister site, QS Course Finder.

Hope this helps!

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You can get an idea of what to include in your essay by ensuring that you answer the question that has been set by the tutor. Start with your angle on the answer, say how you're going to prove it, and then prove it. There is plenty of advice out there about how to put an essay together. Talk to your tutor. Maybe ask to have a look at other top grade essays from previous students. 

The people who write sample essays will not necessarily know what's been covered in your class. Your tutor will want to see that you have been paying attention. And then there's the problem of the next essay...what will you do then? Spend more money?

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