Best universities in England 2019

Find the best universities in England with Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

December 9 2017
Best universities in England

Higher education institutions in England are some of the most popular around the globe and over 200,000 international students choose to study in England each year.

England is the largest country in the United Kingdom and boasts a fascinating history that deserves to be explored. As well as the bustling capital of London (home to 8.7 million people), there is a multitude of major cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Bristol, Liverpool, Newcastle and Leeds – all of which are easily accessible for students.

Thousands of families from all over the world have chosen to live in England, meaning it has a rich, multicultural feel to it. The nightlife and cultural offering is varied throughout the country and there is always something to do. There are plenty of art galleries, concerts, open-air markets, sports matches and pubs for students to enjoy. 

English scientists and institutions have won more than 100 Nobel Prizes, an achievement very few countries can contend with. Many scholarships, grants and bursaries are available for international students at English institutions and the cost of living is good – including health care, which is provided free of charge by an institutionalised national system.

Below are some of the best universities to study at in England based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018

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The top five universities in England

1. University of Oxford 

The University of Oxford’s exact founding date is unknown; there is evidence to suggest that teaching began around 1096 – making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second oldest functioning university.

Spread over Oxford’s medieval city centre, the university consists of 44 colleges and halls, with over 100 libraries – making it the largest library system in the UK.

Oxford has the youngest population of any city in England and Wales, with a quarter of the residents being students (nearly 22,000 from over 140 different countries).

Oxford is a modern, research-driven university but its particular strengths lie in sciences – it was recently ranked number one in the world for medicine. If its medical sciences division was a university in its own right, it would be the fourth largest in the UK. It is also among the top 10 global universities for life sciences, physical sciences, social sciences and the arts and humanities.

2. University of Cambridge

Established in 1209, the University of Cambridge is the fourth oldest surviving university in the world and the second oldest in the English-speaking world.

The campus is in the centre of the city, with other listed buildings on or near the river Cam. There are 31 autonomous colleges, in which students attend small group teaching sessions called college supervisions.

There are approximately 18,000 students at Cambridge – with nearly 4,000 from a range of 120 different countries. It is also home to 100 libraries with more than 15 million books, nine arts, scientific and cultural museums, and a botanical garden.

Cambridge University Press is the university’s publishing business and it has over 50 offices worldwide, producing up to 45,000 titles spanning all kinds of academic research, education and bible publishing.

Covering every possible category, 92 affiliates of the university have been awarded Nobel Prizes. 

3. Imperial College London

Established as a university in 1907, Imperial College London was the result of a merger between the Royal College of Science, the Royal School of Mines and the City and Guilds College.

It is a science-based institution in the centre of London, located around the museum district of South Kensington – it formed part of Prince Albert’s mission to make this area a centre for education.

Imperial's focus is on science, engineering, medicine and business. It is home to the largest concentration of high-impact research of any major UK university. Its motto is Scientia imperii decus et tutamen, which translates as “Scientific knowledge, the crowning glory and the safeguard of the empire”. It boasts 14 Nobel Prize winners, including Sir Alexander Fleming, the inventor of penicillin.

Notable alumni include author H.G. Wells, Queen guitarist Brian May and Sir Liam Donaldson, former UK chief medical officer. 

4. UCL

Founded in 1826 to bring higher education to those who were typically excluded from it, UCL became the first university in England to admit women on equal terms as men in 1878.

UCL is a constituent college of the University of London and is a member of the Russell Group. Based in the heart of London, it has a 36,000-strong student body and approximately 850 professors. International students, from around 150 countries, make up for one third of the population.

It has one of the largest systems of postgraduate study in the country, with almost 52 per cent of students involved in graduate programmes.

UCL was the first British university to open a campus in Doha, Qatar and it also has a presence in Adelaide, South Australia.

With 29 Nobel Prizes awarded to UCL students or staff, the university has been the birthplace of many significant scientific discoveries, including William Ramsay who discovered the noble gases in 1904.

5. London School of Economics and Political Science

Founded in the late 1800s by Fabian Society members Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Graham Wallas and George Bernard Shaw, the purpose of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) was to improve society by "studying poverty issues and analysing inequalities".

LSE is one of the most prestigious social science universities in the world, specialising in economics, politics, sociology, law and anthropology. It is based near Aldwych in central London, where King George V laid the first stone of its "Old Building" in 1920. It is home to 9,600 students from over 140 countries.

As well as associations with 16 Nobel Prize winners, the LSE counts 37 past or present world leaders among its alumni. British prime minister Clement Attlee was an assistant lecturer in 1912 and Lord Beveridge was appointed director in 1937, going on to publish the famous Beveridge Report, a keystone of the UK’s welfare state.

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Top universities in England 2018

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results 

England Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 Institution City/Town
1 1 University of Oxford Oxford
2 2 University of Cambridge Cambridge
3 8 Imperial College London London
4 16 University College London London
5 =25 London School of Economics and Political Science London
6 36 King’s College London London
7 =54 University of Manchester Manchester
8 76 University of Bristol Bristol
9 91 University of Warwick Coventry
10 97 Durham University Durham
11 104 University of Sheffield Sheffield
12 121 Queen Mary University of London London
13 =126 University of Southampton Southampton
14 =130 University of Exeter Exeter
15 =137 University of York York
16 139 University of Leeds Leeds
17 =141 University of Birmingham Birmingham
=18 =147 University of Nottingham Nottingham
=18 =147 University of Sussex Brighton
21 =150 Lancaster University Lancaster
22 =159 University of Leicester Leicester
23 =175 Newcastle University Newcastle
24 =177 University of Liverpool Liverpool
25 =188 University of East Anglia Norwich
26 197 Royal Holloway, University of London London
=27 201–250 University of Reading Reading
=27 201–250 St George’s, University of London London
=29 251–300 University of Bath Bath
=29 251–300 University of Essex Colchester
=29 251–300 University of Surrey Guildford
=32 301–350 Anglia Ruskin University East Anglia
=32 301–350 Birkbeck, University of London London
=32 301–350 Brighton and Sussex Medical School Brighton
=32 301–350 Goldsmiths, University of London London
=32 301–350 University of Kent Kent
=32 301–350 Loughborough University Loughborough
=38 351–400 Aston University Birmingham
=38 351–400 Brunel University London London
=38 351–400 City, University of London London
=38 351–400 Royal Veterinary College London
=42 401–500 University of Hull Hull
=42 401–500 Middlesex University London
=42 401–500 The Open University Nationwide
=42 401–500 Oxford Brookes University Oxford
=42 401–500 Plymouth University Plymouth
=42 401–500 Soas, University of London London
=48 501–600 University of Hertfordshire Hatfield
=48 501–600 Keele University Keele
=48 501–600 Liverpool John Moores University Liverpool
=48 501–600 Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne
=48 501–600 University of Portsmouth Portsmouth
=48 601–800 University of Bedfordshire Luton
=48 601–800 Bournemouth University Bournemouth
=48 601–800 University of Bradford Bradford
=48 601–800 University of Brighton Brighton
=48 601–800 University of Central Lancashire Preston
=48 601–800 Coventry University Coventry
=48 601–800 De Montfort University Leicester
=48 601–800 University of East London London
=48 601–800 University of Greenwich London
=48 601–800 University of Huddersfield Huddersfield
=48 601–800 Kingston University London
=48 601–800 Leeds Beckett University Leeds
=48 601–800 University of Lincoln Lincoln
=48 601–800 Manchester Metropolitan University Manchester
=48 601–800 Nottingham Trent University Nottingham
=48 601–800 University of Roehampton London
=48 601–800 University of Salford Manchester
=48 601–800 Teesside University Middlesborough
=48 601–800 University of the West of England Bristol
=48 601–800 University of Westminster London
=72 801–1000 University of Derby Derby
=72 801–1000 London South Bank University London
=72 801–1000 Sheffield Hallam University Sheffield

Read more: Graduate employability: top universities in the UK ranked by employers


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