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You are here: Home Education Higher Education Choosing a university in the UK
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27/09/2011Choosing a university in the UK

Choosing a university in the UK Thinking of studying in the UK? Before you make your choice make sure that the city that you choose to study in fits your needs.

London is the favourite or preferred place for internationals due to its size, status and reputation as a major world capital. According to figures from the UK Council for International Affairs, eight of the top twenty UK universities that attract the most overseas students are based in London.

The city is the proud home for some of the most prestigious centres of education known worldwide. It is an ideal place to network for business and the number one choice for many international companies to locate their corporate headquarters. It is also highly likely you will find a restaurant serving dishes of your national food should you have a sudden urge to taste food from home.

According to UKCISA  the most popular universities in London for international students are:

•    University College London
•    London Metropolitan University
•    London School of Economics and Political Science
•    The University of Westminster
•    Imperial College of Science, Technology & Medicine
•    King's College London
•    University of the Arts, London
•    University of East London

(Rankings are based on data provided by UKCISA)

London isn’t the only city in the United Kingdom that offers internationals great choice. Below is a ranking (UKCISA) of other major cities which are most favoured by international students.


Manchester is a major cosmopolitan and contemporary metropolis. The city is one of the most culturally diverse and has a thriving arts and culture scene. There are two major universities, The University of Manchester – most popular with internationals, and Manchester Metropolitan University. It is also the home of football team Manchester United.


People tend to associate the city with the Robin Hood legend. The city is home to both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. It is considered one of the top four retail centres in Britain and is a rapidly growing city.

Warwick is a small attractive city and home to the medieval castle of Warwick. The University of Warwick is rated fifth in the UK for research excellence. Both IBM and Volvo have their UK headquarters in the city.

Oxford is known as the 'city of the dreaming spires' – poet Matthew Arnold. The city is famous for being the home of Oxford University and it attracts leading academics from all over the world. Oxford Brookes University and Ruskin College are two other reputable educational centres here.

The city of Preston, in North West England has a proud industrial history in textiles and later engineering. The University of Central Lancashire is based here and has become one of the fastest growing universities in the UK. Located nearby are the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, both popular places to go hiking.

Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle is based in the North East of England. Once the city was known for its ship-building worldwide, today the city has become a thriving cultural centre with an excellent nightlife, arts venues and a selection of restaurants with international cuisine. The city is also home to the University of Northumbria.

The northern city of Leeds is considered to be one of Britain’s leading cities for business (Omis Research). It was the first city to have full broadband enabling it to become a hub for new media companies. It is excellent for shopping with also a buzzing arts and culture scene. Both the University of Leeds and Leeds Metropolitan University are popular with international students.

This picturesque and historic city is best known for being the home of Cambridge University. The city remains small and is only fifty miles north of London. The area has also been called ‘Silicon-Fen’ as it is considered to be one of the most important centres for high-technology in Europe.

This is the second largest city in the UK with a population of just over a million residents. It is also the most culturally diverse city after London. It is an international commercial centre and home to two large convention centres (NEC, ICC) which account for 42 percent of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city is home to three universities, with The University of Birmingham being the most popular with internationals.

Much of the city is built on hillsides with part of the city inside the Peak District National Park. Sheffield has seen a surge of redevelopment in recent years. The arts scene is well established with a large creative business sector. There are two universities, University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

This historic Scottish city is full of character and known for being the home for the world-famous Edinburgh fringe festival held annually in August. The city has a strong high-technology business sector with the second strongest economy after London in the UK. There are four universities in the city with the University of Edinburgh being most popular with internationals.

Whilst quality of education is statistically one of the main reasons for internationals selecting institutions in Britain (UKCISA), referrals from past students suggest that the ‘student experience’ is also critical.

Prospective students should consider both the balance of education and social life when applying to Universities based in different cities in the United Kingdom. It is advisable to get a good understanding of different university cities before you make your choice and whether they fit your needs.

Peter Orange / Editor Expatica UK

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