10 UK universities that rank among the best in the world

How to apply to Oxford

This article about 10 UK universities that rank among the best in the world was published by the Great British Mag content team on 13 April 2021. 

As an international student looking to study in the UK, your choice of university is the most important decision you’ll make. It will decide where you’re going to live, what you’re going to study, how much of a budget you’ll need and ultimately, what your whole study abroad experience will be like.

Using the Times Higher Education ranking for 2021, we’ve put together a list of the UK universities that make it into the top universities in the world. Choose wisely! 

University of Oxford   

Ranking in the world: 1 

Percentage of international students: 40%

The University of Oxford first opened its doors in 1096, making it the oldest university in England and the second oldest in the world. And it is believed that the University of Cambridge was formed after an argument with the residence of Oxford and the university.

The university normally has 12,000 undergraduates and 10,000 postgraduates and many international students study under the Rhodes scholarship scheme. A few world leaders have studied at the university under the Scholarship including Bill Clinton, President of American.

Famous alumni: Hugh Grant, Oscar Wilde, Stephen Hawking, Margaret Thatcher 

Fun Fact: Multiple parts of the university were used throughout the Harry Potter film series, like the entrance to the Great Hall

University of Cambridge   

Ranking in the world: 6

Percentage of international students: 25%

Just missing out on the second-place spot (behind the California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech) is the University of Cambridge. First opened in 1209, the institution prides itself on its history, influence, wealth, architecture and a 16 million-book library. Around 25% of the university is made up of international students and places are very competitive. 

Famous alumni: Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Rachel Weisz 

Fun fact: The first ever game of football (with official Association rules) was played in Cambridge

University of Cambridge is one of the most beautiful universities in Britain.

Imperial College London  

Ranking in the world: 11  

Percentage of international students: 63%

Prince Albert (husband of Queen Victoria) established Imperial College London, which focuses on science, engineering, medicine and business, in 1907. International students make up a significant proportion of the total number of students across its three main campuses and teaching hospitals in London.  

Famous alumni: H.G. Wells, William Crookes, John Ambrose Fleming  

Fun fact: The college’s Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Tissue Bank houses the UK’s largest amount of brain specimens (1,650)

University College London (UCL)  

Ranking in the world: 16

Percentage of international students: 48%

Founded in 1826, UCL was the first university in London. These days, 40,000 students chose to study at UCL, of which 53% are undergraduates. Whilst the university has some famous alumni, its buildings are also well-known and have appeared in many Hollywood films, such as Gladiator and Batman.

Famous Alumni: Chris Martin, Christopher Nolan, Alexander Graham Bell   

Fun fact: It was the first university in the UK to admit students of all religions

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)  

Ranking in the world: 27  

Percentage of international students: 70%

The London School of Economics and Political Science (commonly shortened to LSE) was founded in 1895 and joined with the University of London as a school in 1900. It specialises in social sciences (economics, media, statistics, philosophy, and history) and more than 70% of students come from outside the UK.  

Famous alumni: Mick Jaggar, George Soros, Juan Manuel Santos

Fun fact: Both Queen Elizabeth II and the late Queen Mother officially opened several LSE buildings

University of Edinburgh   

Ranking in the world: 30  

Percentage of international students: 40%

The University of Edinburgh was founded in 1582 and is one of Scotland’s oldest universities. It houses many different fields of study across five main campuses scattered around the city. Currently the University houses around 36,000 students, of which 40% originate from outside the UK.  

Famous alumni: Charles Darwin, Pippa Middleton, Gordon Brown

Fun fact: The University of Edinburgh boasts the UK’s oldest student newspaper, in publication since 1887

University of Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful universities in Britain.

King’s College London   

Ranking in the world: 35  

Percentage of international students: 40%

King George IV and Arthur Wellesley founded King’s College London in 1829. In the late 1900s, the institution expanded through the addition of five separate universities. It comprises nine academic faculties, which are divided into schools (for social science, public policy and medicine), departments, centres and research divisions. Of the 30,000 students currently enrolled into the college, around 12,000 are international students. 

Famous alumni: Desmond Tutu, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy   

Fun fact: Contributors from King’s College London helped to discover DNA structure and Hepatitis C

University of Manchester   

Ranking in the world: 51  

Percentage of international students: 19.1%

The University of Manchester prides itself on being part of the Russell Group, universities that are well-respected for their research. It was formed in 2004 after two institutions (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the Victoria University of Manchester), dating back to 1824, merged together. Currently, almost one in five students here come from outside the UK.  

Famous alumni: Benedict Cumberbatch, Brian Cox, Anthony Burgess

Fun fact: It’s considered the largest single campus university in the UK

University of Warwick   

Ranking in the world: 77  

Percentage of international students: 40%

Created in 1965, the University of Warwick was originally founded in a government effort towards expanding higher education. Historically, the university has strong links to the Labour Party – with former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair describing it as ‘a beacon among British universities for its dynamism, quality and entrepreneurial zeal’. Its current student enrolment features over 40% international students. 

Famous alumni:  Sting, Germaine Greer, Stephen Merchant, Anne Fine

Fun fact: The Warwick Business School has a campus, albeit a few rooms, in the Shard, London (fancy!)

University of Bristol   

Ranking in the world: 91  

Percentage of international students: 11.7%

The University of Bristol dates back to 1876 when it was known as University College, Bristol. It specialises in sciences, medicine and dentistry and is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities. The University of Bristol is organised into six academic faculties composed of multiple schools and departments running over 200 undergraduate courses. 

Famous alumni: David Walliams, Angela Carter, Emily Watson

Fun fact: The University of Bristol was the first university in the country to accept women enrolments on an equal basis with men 

See more

List of the best universities in the UK

Eight most beautiful universities in the UK

How to choose a UK university