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It is June right now. In the admissions cycle, this means that things are beginning to ramp up. It is likely that you are preparing to take mock exams in school in a matter of weeks, the results of which will be used to determine your predicted grades that will form part of your university application. Perhaps, as well, some of your classmates have started to visit universities. As such, you are possibly wondering which universities are the best, and which ones are right for you.


Here we have a list of the 10 top UK universities, as determined by Times Higher Education, alongside crucial information about each university.


  1. University of Oxford

The oldest university in England, Oxford University is home to top scholars, hundreds of libraries and gorgeous architecture. Its alumni include over 30 world leaders, 29 Nobel Laureates and 160 Olympic Medallists.


Good Bits


Attend Oxford, and you will have employers courting you before you even graduate. The tutorial system also means you have a level of personal attention from leaders in their field that only Cambridge can match.


Not-So-Good Bits


Current students would note the heavy workload, first of all. Oxford is also a city and a university full of tradition. Sometimes this can be great fun – formals in great halls – and sometimes it can feel antiquated. If you are someone who hates culture, perhaps Oxford is not the place for you.


What Else?


Oxford is a collegiate university. It is formed of 44 colleges and permanent private halls. The college is often your social hub at the university, with each college essentially a mini-campus within the university.


2. University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in England and the other half of Oxbridge. Currently placed second in the Times Higher Education rankings, Cambridge and Oxford are old rivals. Each sport, for instance, takes part in an annual varsity event pitching Oxford against Cambridge to win medals and bragging rights for the year.


Good Bits


Cambridge is particularly active for science. A number of tech start-ups have emerged connected to the university, leading to the nickname ‘Silicon Fen’. It has a unique approach to teaching the sciences. The Natural Sciences Tripos is the framework through which most of the sciences, including Physics, Chemistry and Biology, are taught at Cambridge.


Not-So-Good Bits


Cambridge is a beautiful city, but it is also only a very small city. Cambridge also asks for higher-grade requirements for most subjects in IB or A-Level exams than its counterpart in Oxford.


What Else?


Cambridge and Oxford are very similar, but their differences are important. They do not offer all the same courses, and often the structure can vary greatly. Be sure to do your research to figure out which suits you best.


  1. Imperial College London

Imperial is consistently one of the leading universities for Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Business. It is located in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, one of the nicest parts of London.


Good Bits


Imperial has a great reputation worldwide and is situated in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Many Imperial graduates are highly sought after by start-ups and blue-chip companies.


Not-So-Good Bits


The same criticism can be said of any of the London universities on this list. Attending a London university is expensive and you are often spread across the city. The increase in the maintenance loan you can receive from the government is often not enough to catch up to the higher cost of living in the capital and it is not uncommon for your halls to be an hour journey from your classes.


What Else?


Note Imperial’s specialisms, STEMB. It does not offer all subjects.


  1. UCL

UCL is known as the global university. It was the first English university to admit students irrespective of class, religion or race. It was also the first to admit women on the same terms as men.


Good Bits

UCL is one of the world’s leading universities and its graduates are considered amongst the most employable. Almost 90% of students leave UCL with a 2.1 or higher.


Not-So-Good Bits

UCL is one of the most competitive British universities, typically asking for at least AAA in A-Levels or 666 in your Higher Level subjects for IB. Their most competitive course, Philosophy, Politics and Economics, has 30 applicants for every single place.


What Else? 

Notable alumni include Alexander Graham Bell, Marie Stopes, and Christine Ohuruogu.


  1. London School of Economics and Political Science

Often just referred to as LSE, the London School of Economics and Political Science is another of Britain’s top universities found in London. It has particular strengths in Law, Economics, History, Philosophy and Politics.


Good Bits 

If you want to be taught by experts in the social sciences, LSE is the place for you. LSE has been instrumental in policy since its creation, founded in the late 1800s with the express purpose of bettering society by ‘studying poverty issues and analysing inequalities’.


Not-So-Good Bits

Students do complain about the buildings not being the best. It is also worth noting that their history degree only starts in the fifteenth century, and as you might expect, has a strong focus on economic and political history. If this is not the sort of history you enjoy, apply elsewhere.


What Else?

All of the London universities have very internationally diverse student populations, but LSE has the highest proportion of international students, making up 70% of the total student population.


  1. University of Edinburgh

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is a gorgeous, ancient city featuring striking landscapes and both medieval and neo-classical architecture. The university dates from 1536 and its alumni include JK Rowling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gordon Brown and David Hume.


Good Bits

Edinburgh is a Scottish University, which means there are some key differences. One is that many degrees which are typically three years, such as History or English, are instead four years long. You leave with a Scottish MA (not equivalent to a postgraduate masters). With this extra time, you have the opportunity to study courses outside of your primary subject.


Not-So-Good Bits

Despite being, way, way up North, Edinburgh is still a very expensive city to live in. Prices are almost comparable to London.


What Else?

For professional degrees be sure to check that it is a qualifying degree for where you would like to live and work after university. Law, for instance, is Scottish Law, which differs from English and Welsh law. Be aware of this when choosing your course.


  1. King’s College London

King’s College has played a major role in advances that shape the world today. For instance, the discovery of DNA’s structure.


Good Bits

 It is London’s most central university and has partnerships including the British Library, the British Museum, the Tate Modern and Shakespeare’s Globe.


Not-So-Good Bits

 It is London’s most central university. It might be too much for you to be right in the heart of the country’s capital. Plus, as previously mentioned, London is a very expensive city to live in.


What Else?

King’s is particularly distinguished in many areas of healthcare. This includes dentistry, medicine, psychiatry and nursing.  


  1. University of Manchester

One of two red brick universities on this list, the University of Manchester is part of the Russell Group – a consortium of leading research universities in the UK.


Good Bits

Manchester offers you a vibrant, large city without the cost of London. The university also has the largest single-site campus in the UK. You are guaranteed a lively and welcoming student experience.


Not-So-Good Bits

Though relatively well-regarded, and with the largest alumni-network of any campus-based university (more than 300,000 people spanning 190 countries) outside of the UK, the University of Manchester is not as well known.


What Else?

Benedict Cumberbatch attended the University of Manchester.


  1. University of Bristol

Bristol is the other red brick university on this list. It is also a member of the Russell Group and it is also situated in a vibrant, large city. However, Bristol is much further south and is close to Bath, Somerset and South Wales.


Good Bits

Bristol is a city with gorgeous architecture both old and new – see the Clifton Suspension Bridge, for instance. It also has plenty of green, leafy spaces and was named the best place to live in the UK in 2017.


Not-So-Good Bits

Hills! Bristol is a very hilly city so be prepared to get your calves working.


What Else?

Bristol was the first institution of higher education to admit women on an equal basis to men.


  1. University of Warwick


The University of Warwick is the newest university on this list, founded in 1965. Located in the Midlands, the University of Warwick is a campus-based university with a consistently great reputation.


Good Bits

Warwick has literally hundreds of sports and societies for you to choose from. The cost of living is relatively cheap (especially compared to some of the other universities on this list). Lastly, the university’s strengths lie in the arts and humanities, so if you are interested in English or History, for instance, Warwick is a great place to study.


Not-So-Good Bits

The University of Warwick is not located in the picturesque old town, but rather in a campus closer to the city of Coventry and the town of Leamington Spa. If you are after quaint and beautiful surroundings, you will probably be disappointed.


What Else?

Warwick’s students have the opportunity to study abroad for either a semester or a year and can even obtain a double degree. Their international partners include Columbia, McGill, Cornell, UC Berkeley and Sciences Po Paris.


Check out our university admission guides for more information on applying to these institutions, or find out more about the acceptance rates for the top UK universities here.

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