Choosing a university and an area of study can be one of the first big life decisions students make as they finish high school and begin to enter the adult world. It's something many people begin to think about in the first year of high school or even earlier, and it's definitely not an easy process. Not only do you have to decide what you want to do and where you want to be for the next four years of your life, but the realization that these four years may be decisive for your career may be mind numbing for some.
Add to that the multitude of options that prospective students have today in different countries, and it becomes clear why this is a very stressful time for most people. So you have made your choice of country and decided to pursue higher education in England. England is home to some of the top universities in the world, and your choice will ultimately come down to a number of factors.
Everyone or almost everyone wants to get into the top and most prestigious universities, and there are many benefits to being in one. When you come from a top university, it's often easier to get internships and jobs straight after getting your degree, as employers are often more lenient and accepting of students who have the name of a respected and well-known school on their resume. It also makes getting into graduate school easier, if that is what you decide to do upon graduation. Being in top universities often means you’re surrounded by top talent giving you opportunities to grow as you learn and develop professionally.
However, more important than getting into a prestigious university is getting into a school that is a good fit for your particular needs and has a good reputation in your specific area of interest, and that may not necessarily be the top school in the country overall.
Things To Consider When Choosing A University
Of course, learning is the most important aspect of attending a university. You want to make sure that the university of your choice will be able to accommodate your learning objectives, whether it is doing original research, attending an honors program or being able to get particular practical experience.
While learning is the most important aspect of choosing a university, there are other aspects. University life is more than just learning, It’s a whole stage of your life and while you’re hoping to develop professionally it should also be a good fit for you personally. What type of community does a university offer? Are there cultural, ideological, religious or other groups where you can fit in?
If finances are an issue, what funding packages are available? Do you want some industry experience after you graduate, and will the university be able to offer you some?
Make sure to also take into account all the factors of moving to a new place, such as living cost, climate and activities available. Do you like living in the city and having plenty of job opportunities? Do you want to be in a small and cozy town? Where is the university located, and is its location a good fit practical for your particular needs? Will you be traveling often, and do you need to be close to airports and other transportation?
Best Universities in England
So you’ve set your eyes and heart on studying in England. The good news is that the U.K. is home to some of the top universities in the world and one of the most popular destinations for international students from all over the world. The bad news is that you have a lot of work to do when it comes to researching the schools and choosing the one that suits you best because there are so many of them that are so good. And then of course you have to do the work of applying there.
In 2018, Times Higher Education published a list of 1,000 best universities in the world. This is about 5 per cent of all higher education institutions. This list, which is published every year, includes 93 universities in the United Kingdom with two universities from England occupying the first two spots. The universities on the list were compared according to several core criteria including teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
On this list, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge are in the first and second spot in the U.K. and worldwide. Completing the list of top ten universities in England are three well known schools in London: Imperial College London, UCL (University College London) and London School of Economics and Political Science.
King’s College London, University of Manchester, University of Bristol, University of Warwick and Durham University complete the list of top 10 universities in England.
Universities in England for International Students
There are universities in England for international students. Most of the 93 universities on the list have a good percentage of international students, and the ones in the top ten have 30 percent and higher.
According to this list, the London School of Economics and Political Science boasts the highest percentage of international students in all of United Kingdom at 71 percent, the Imperial College London has 55 percent, and City, University of London has 53 percent of international students.
University Rankings by Subject
While it's good to know what the best and highest ranked universities are, make sure you don’t get to hung up solely on the rank or the prestige. It's equally, if not more important, to take into account what the best-ranked universities are in your particular area of interest, and that may not be in the top five or in the top 10 or even in the top 30.
Ukuni.com makes it easy to determine what the top U.K. universities are specifically for your chosen subject. For instance, according to them, University of Strathclyde in Scotland tops the list of schools for accounting and finance in the U.K. Completing the top five for this subject area are University of Bath, Lancaster University, University of Leeds and Loughborough University, all in England.
For someone wishing to pursue a degree in psychology, University of Oxford, University of Bath, University of St Andrews (in Scotland), Loughborough University and Durham University appear to be the best fit.
The best places for computer science are the University of Cambridge, Imperial University of London, University of Warwick, University of St Andrews and Durham University.
For a degree in economics, you want to aim for University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, University College London, University of Warwick or London School of Economics and Political Science.
If you’d like to pursue a degree in creative writing, your top five are University of Warwick, Newcastle University, Lancaster University, University of Birmingham and University of Nottingham.
For a degree in English the top five are Durham University, University of St Andrews, University of Oxford, University College London and University of Exeter.
Simply search for your preferred discipline, and you'll be presented with a list of universities in England.
Research Before You Decide
It's a good idea to learn as much as possible about your preferred and desired schools. Even if these are well-known universities, you want to get well acquainted with them before applying or beginning your studies.
University of Oxford and University of Cambridge, sometimes together referred to as “Oxbridge,” are two of the oldest universities in the world.
University of Oxford is the oldest university not only in the U.K. but in the entire English-speaking world. It consistently ranks among the first universities in the world and ranked first in the Times Higher Education Rankings for the last two years. It has about 24,000 students from more than 150 countries.
As you may have guessed, it's very competitive: Only one in six or one in seven applicants will get a place there. Among the famous people who studied at Oxford are 27 British Prime Ministers, 30 or more international leaders and 50 Nobel Prize winners. The University of Oxford is located in Oxford’s city center. It's also home to over 100 libraries, which is the largest library system in the U.K. and is 90 minutes away from London.
University of Cambridge is the second oldest university in the English-speaking world. It was founded in 1209 by a group of Oxford scholars who left Oxford after a dispute with the local people. Today, Cambridge has more than 18,000 students from all over the world. Cambridge also has 100 libraries that house more than 15 million books, nine museums and a botanical garden. 92 affiliates of the University of Cambridge received Nobel Prizes.
Imperial College London (which ranks third in the 2018 Times Higher Education Table) was established in 1907 after a merger between the Royal College of Science, the Royal School of Mines and the City and Guilds College. It's located in the center of London close to the museum district of South Kensington. Imperial’s particular strengths are in science, engineering, medicine and business.
UCL was founded in 1826, and in 1878 was the first university in England to start admitting women on equal terms as men. It's located in the center of London. It has about 36,000 students with about 30 percent being international students from 150 countries. 29 UCL affiliates received Nobel Prizes.
The London School of Economics and Political Science is one of the most prestigious social science universities in the world. It specializes in economics, politics, sociology, law and anthropology. It's also located in central London and has an extremely diverse student population. Of about 10,000 students, 70 percent are international students from over 140 countries. It has 16 Nobel Prize winners, and 37 world leaders were its alumni.
Russell group is a group of U.K. universities which strives to maintain the highest standard of research and has a reputation for excellence in academic achievement.
The Russell group includes these universities in England:
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
University of Exeter
Imperial College London
King's College London
University of Leeds
University of Liverpool
London School of Economics & Political Science
University of Manchester
University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
Queen Mary, University of London
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University College London
University of Warwick
University of York
The Russell group universities are often considered the most prestigious, and it's generally thought that attending one opens many doors in the future. For instance, some say that it's easiest for their graduates to find a job right after graduation. It's true that some recruiters respond better when the name of a Russell group university appears on an applicant's resume, but remember that the name or the prestige of your university is not the deciding factor in your career. Your passion and dedication for your subject, your achievements and your personal discipline and ethics are.
Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes about education and linguistic technology, and has published articles in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at www.tanyamoziasslavin.com