15 Best Universities in the UK for International Students

There are many universities in the UK for international students, but the number of choices can be a little overwhelming at first glance. While many higher education institutions in the UK can be an excellent academic choice, there are other factors like cost of living, lifestyle, and accommodation options that can influence your decision. So, how do you know which one is most worth your investment?

In this post, we’ll discuss the best universities in the UK for international students and what to consider when choosing your perfect UK university. Let’s get right to it!

The system of universities in the UK for international students

If you want to study at one of the best universities in the UK for international students, a useful place to start is by understanding the higher education system. There are a few different types of higher education schools in the UK:

  • Further education colleges

From 16 years old, you can study various academic or vocational courses at higher education colleges, which prepare you for university. Examples of college programmes include A levels, BTECs, and Higher National Certificates. Whilst the terms ‘college’ and ‘university’ are used interchangeably in America, this is not the case in the UK – you do not study for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in UK colleges!

  • Universities

A university is an institution where individuals study at higher education levels. They are given the legal authority to award academic degrees by the government and typically conduct research across a broad spectrum of academic disciplines. In the UK, students typically enter undergraduate courses at 18 years old. These tend to last for three years, although some courses, like medicine, require students to study for longer.

At university, you can earn bachelor’s degrees and foundation degrees, along with diplomas and certificates of higher education. Once you have completed your undergraduate studies, you can move on to postgraduate study. This can come in the form of master’s degrees, graduate diplomas, and PhDs.

  • University colleges

A university college is an institution that provides further education programmes but lacks full or independent university status. The college may be part of the university, including its own resources, academic facilities, and staff members. Additionally, some universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have college systems. These systems aim to create a community feel and improve the student experience.

How to choose a university in England as an international student

Choosing just one of the many universities in England for international students can be tricky. So, we’ve put together a list of a few factors you could use to base your decision on.

  • View the rankings

Take a look at the UK university league tables to see where your preferred universities currently rank. These resources can give you an idea about which universities have the best facilities, the greatest student experiences, and the most outstanding teaching methods.

  • Visit the university

One of the best ways to get a feel for a university is to visit an open day. An open day lets you talk to staff members, see where you could be having your lectures, and visit some halls of residence. If you are not going to visit the UK at this time, you could also try out a virtual open day or tour or even contact the university directly. A good university will always be happy to help answer your questions.

  • Evaluate your specific course

Some universities provide more unique courses than others. Certain universities may specialise in something you want to study, while others may not offer it. Do your research and find out how your course ranks in the UK.

  • Do your research

In addition to researching university websites, you may want to turn to social media and student forums to explore genuine opinions and insights. The Student Room is one of the most popular forums out there to discuss UK universities!

Our list of the best universities in the UK for international students

  1. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge has a long-term rivalry with the University of Oxford for the UK’s best overall university spot. Established in 1209, this institution is the third oldest worldwide, which has given it a chance to establish its world-class reputation. As one of the best universities in the world, it is extremely competitive.

Students: According to the university’s statistics, around 25% of undergraduate and more than half of the postgraduate students are international students. This includes more than 9,000 students from over 140 countries.

Best subjects: Cambridge has 42 top-ten-ranking subjects, 33 of which take the number one spot, including archaeology, chemistry, economics, French, maths, music, and more.

International appeal: Aside from ranking as the number one UK university, this institution appeals to international students due to its diverse community spanning over 700 clubs and societies, which makes it easy for you and others to make new friends.

Find your Cambridge student accommodation today!

2. University of Oxford

Founded in 1096, the University of Oxford is the second-oldest institution in the world, giving it plenty of time to establish its incredibly high rank. Constantly judged against the reputation of the University of Cambridge, Oxford continues to strive towards academic excellence and high-quality teaching. Find out which Oxford colleges are best to see what kind of family you could meet here!

Students: Around 23% of undergraduate and 65% of postgraduate students are international students. This involves more than 12,000 students from over 160 countries, meaning there are plenty of cultures here.

Best subjects: With 39 subjects ranking in the top ten and 12 of these ranking number one, there are plenty of outstanding subjects to study at Oxford. These include everything from biomedical sciences to classics to law.

International appeal: This university attracts international students for several reasons, including its impressive global reputation. Additionally, the Students’ Union is incredibly supportive of new students, with over 200 societies to try out. You can even take the pre-sessional English course if you are worried about your English abilities.

Discover Oxford student accommodation today!

3. University College London (UCL) 

University College London (UCL) is a leading public research institution in England’s capital. As far as universities in London, England, for international students go, UCL is one of the best, known for its dedication to academic excellence, innovation, and research. It offers a diverse range of courses and modern facilities to support student learning. It continues to grow a global community of scholars committed to pushing the boundaries of academia.

Students: Around 18,000 international students study at UCL, meaning over 150 nationalities are represented by the student body. 

Best subjects: An impressive 37 subjects rank in the top ten here, indicating that UCL is a fantastic university across many fields. Some of UCL’s specialities, such as American studies, are even number one.

International appeal: This university appeals to international students not only because of its excellent academic facilities but also because of its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Many international students dream of living in the heart of the capital, and UCL can help individuals achieve this!

Check out our student accommodation in London today!

4. Durham University 

Durham University is well-known for consistently ranking high, which can be explained by its dedication to academic excellence and research. Divided into 17 colleges, this institution helps build a close-knit community and appeals to students from all different cultures.

Students: Durham welcomes more than 4,000 international students from 150 countries across the globe.

Best subjects: Currently, many of this institution’s subjects rank highly, with three ranking in the top ten. These include theology and religion, classics and ancient history, and archaeology, making it a great place to study if you love the arts. 

International appeal: This university appeals to international students due to its unique collegiate system, which can help individuals feel a little more at home. Furthermore, the city’s stunning old-world architecture and advanced facilities add to the student experience.

Check out our student accommodation in Durham today!

5. King’s College London 

With a central London location and progressive facilities, King’s College London attracts students of all kinds and is particularly known for its inclusive campus life. By providing a rich cultural and educational experience, King’s College London ranks consistently high in national league tables and has become a hub for critical thinking and research.

Students: King’s College London is currently the 12th most international university, representing students from 160 countries. This is one of the most diverse universities in London, England, for international students.

Best subjects: 13 subjects rank in the top ten here, although King’s is particularly well-known for its excellence in law, the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences. 

International appeal: This university boasts one of the best systems for international student support with a Students’ Union that aims to provide the best experience possible for any individual through its events, societies, and sports clubs. Furthermore, this institution offers incredible employability prospects and networking opportunities to help further international students’ chances of success.

Discover our best student accommodation in London today!

6. Imperial College London

As one of the top universities in London, England, for international students, Imperial College London is in the heart of the capital and constantly pushes the boundaries of knowledge via high-quality research and innovation. There are also many affordable things to do in London for those who want to save money.

Students: As one of the most international universities in the UK, Imperial College London welcomes thousands of students from more than 140 different countries. In addition, 37% of undergraduates and 47% of postgraduates are international students.

Best subjects: If you’re a STEM student, you may be interested in the range of courses offered here. Imperial College London ranks highly for different types of engineering, maths, chemistry, computer science, and medicine, amongst other subjects.

International appeal: This university is the only institution to focus entirely on engineering, science, medicine, and business, making it unique and appealing to international STEM students.

Discover our best student accommodation in London today!

7. University of Manchester 

Located in the vibrant city of Manchester, this well-established institution attracts students from all over the world. It has made a global impact in research, teaching, and innovation. Plenty of courses are available here across various disciplines, whatever you may be looking for. There are also many student resident areas and great nightclubs for when you want to get away from your studies!

Students: The University of Manchester is a very diverse institution, with international students making up 32.4% of its student population.

Best subjects: The University of Manchester ranks highly for many subjects, including education, music, civil engineering, philosophy, and linguistics. 

International appeal: The campus has both historic and modern buildings, providing a stimulating environment for students to thrive academically and socially. Additionally, this institution remains dedicated to making a positive difference in society via its high educational and research standards.

Explore our options for Manchester student accommodation today!

8. University of Edinburgh

Located in the heart of Scotland’s capital, the University of Edinburgh is a popular institution due to its reputation, rich history, and global impact. Many are drawn to this city for its old-world charm, from its cobbled streets to its long-standing castle and vibrant nightlife. There are many fun things to do in Edinburgh, whether you’re a party animal or a bookworm wanting somewhere to study

Students: The University of Edinburgh welcomes more than 24,000 international students from over 130 countries, showcasing this institution’s dedication to diversity and inclusion. 

Best subjects: As this institution is so respected, it’s no surprise that 30 subjects rank in the top ten. These include veterinary medicine, nursing, Asian studies, German, and architecture, showing that the University of Edinburgh is world-class in many academic fields.

International appeal: This institution attracts students worldwide due to its state-of-the-art facilities, which inspire students to study hard and reach their full potential. With a dedication to research and international collaboration, this institution helps students thrive both in an academic and social sense.

Explore our options for Edinburgh student accommodation today!

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

As one of the best universities in London, England, for international students, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is committed to furthering knowledge and understanding of all the social, political, and economic challenges facing our world. With a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes available, you have plenty of choice. Known for its influential research, this school has even produced various Nobel Prize winners!

Students: Around 70% of LSE’s students come from outside the UK, and many orientation activities are on offer to help international students settle into their new homes.

Best subjects: LSE is particularly well-known for its academic excellence in social science, economics, and political science. So, if you intend to study a programme in one of these faculties, LSE could be a fantastic choice.

International appeal: LSE’s international appeal comes from its outstanding central London location, which provides students with easy access to other places around the country and elsewhere, along with an exciting city environment.

Discover our best student accommodation in London today!

10. University of Leeds

The University of Leeds strongly emphasises interdisciplinary approaches and collaboration, offering all its students a supportive place to study, putting its best bookshops aside! The campus not only blends historic and modern architecture to create a pleasant learning environment but also boasts fantastic facilities, which adds to its global impact and societal advancement.

Students: Leeds welcomes 14,000 international students from 137 countries, making it one of the most multicultural institutions in the UK.

Best subjects: At the University of Leeds, 18 courses rank in the top ten, from marketing to mechanical engineering, accounting and finance to creative writing. With such a broad spectrum of high-ranking subjects, there are plenty of top-quality programmes to choose from here.

International appeal: With over 300 societies and clubs to try out, international students will find something they enjoy here, along with people they can make friends with. There are plenty of cultural campaigns, discussion forums, and student-led projects to inspire every student, regardless of their background.

Check out our student accommodation options in Leeds today!

11. University of Bristol

This institution combines its historic campus with modern facilities, offering an inspiring environment to study in. Devoted to addressing global challenges and creating a positive impact, the University of Bristol is one of the best universities in the UK for international students. 

Students: Over 28% of students here are international, and the whole institution represents over 150 countries.

Best subjects: With 30 subjects ranking in the top ten, it’s difficult to choose this institution’s best subject. However, three engineering courses rank in the top ten here, suggesting this institution can offer aspiring engineers a fantastic academic experience.

International appeal: Bristol has an international reputation for high-quality research and academic excellence, so it’s no surprise that it draws students from all over the globe. Furthermore, Bristol is one of the healthiest UK universities and creates desirable graduates by employers, ranking highly in the graduate employability rankings.

Explore student accommodation in Bristol today!

12. University of Birmingham

Established in 1900, the University of Birmingham is famous for its commitment to academic excellence and societal engagement. It offers a broad range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses across various disciplines. This institution strongly focuses on research-led teaching and is at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and innovations.

Students: The University of Birmingham has been a leading global university since its establishment, so it is no surprise that it now has one of the biggest international student communities in the UK. 5,000 students from over 150 countries study here!

Best subjects: The University of Birmingham is well-known for its global excellence in economics, engineering, and medicine, although plenty of courses have an internationally recognised reputation here.

International appeal: In addition to consistently ranking highly based on its academic excellence, this university attracts international students for various reasons. For one, the best nightclubs in Birmingham can create unforgettable experiences for students on Friday and Saturday nights!

Check out our student accommodation in Birmingham today!

13. University of St Andrews 

Founded in 1413, the University of St Andrews is one of the top universities in the UK for international students. Its unique student experience promotes a sense of belonging. The university also creates additional opportunities for students, encouraging them to get involved in charity fundraising, volunteering, politics, and governance.

Students: As Scotland’s most international university, around 45% of the University of St Andrews’ population is made up of international students.

Best subjects: The University of St Andrews is respected in various disciplines but is particularly well-known for computer science, international relations, and physics.

International appeal: This institution has been voted the best student experience in the UK multiple times in the National Student Survey, indicating that all kinds of students can feel at home here.

Explore St Andrews student accommodation today!

14. University of Warwick

Founded in 1965, the University of Warwick is a prestigious institution in Coventry. In the Research Excellence Framework, 92% of this institution’s research has been judged as world-leading or internationally excellent, and it has established itself as a globally-recognised university. This midland location is a great place to study, with an old-world charm, cheap places to eat, and plenty of societies to try.

Students: Warwick welcomes more than 9,500 students from 147 countries and offers plenty of different study options. International students can advance their academic studies through the International Foundation Programme, English Language programmes, and Summer School.

Best subjects: The University of Warwick ranks highly across its faculties, but it particularly stands out in the fields of business, economics, and international studies.

International appeal: This institution mostly attracts international students due to its high rankings across the board. It currently ranks 11th in the UK for its overall performance and even higher for graduate prospect outcomes. This suggests that this institution can help support international students looking for an industry career.

Discover student accommodation near Coventry and Warwick today!

15. University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool is a Russell Group institution with an extensive global network of successful alumni, which works to offer opportunities for networking and mentorship across different industries. Putting academics aside, Liverpool is well-known for its high-energy nightlife and live music, along with being home to The Beatles.

Students: The University of Liverpool welcomes almost 8,000 international students from more than 130 countries and is recognised for its diverse and inclusive learning environment.

Best subjects: The University of Liverpool is known for its strengths in research across various faculties. Seven of its subjects rank in the top ten, including marketing, nursing, and physiotherapy.

International appeal: Liverpool attracts international students for various reasons, including its cultural scene and diverse entertainment venues, all accessible from the best student areas. Furthermore, the university offers a great selection of programmes across many industries, making it easy for students to work towards their dream careers.

Explore Liverpool student accommodation today!

Our round-up on universities in England for international students

So, there you have it: that’s our list of the best universities in the UK for international students! Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what institution you might like to attend and what universities are best for your chosen programme.

If you want to learn even more about student life, be sure to visit our blog. We discuss everything you need to know, from setting up your student house bills to how to write a great personal statement!