England is a true travel hub, with rail, bus, and airport links to the rest of the world. You'll find history, architecture, culture, cosmopolitan cities, and beautiful scenery all in one tiny country, making it a popular destination for international students to study abroad, get an entire degree overseas, or continue their education in a graduate-level program. With its convenient location to continental Europe, no language barrier for English speakers, and globally recognized universities, it is no wonder so many international students decide to study in England.
The real challenge is choosing a university that's right for you. With all of the information available, it can be a tough decision.
To help you find the perfect British university to match your goals, we selected some of the best universities in England, based on factors such as available programs, class sizes, proximity to major cities, and more.
These universities are in no particular order and is not designed as a ranking, but instead attempts to inspire your imagination about the possibilities that await you in the UK. Read on for more advice and to learn the best universities in England for international students, broken down into eight popular categories!
Note: These universities were selected based on a variety of factors including their rankings, popularity among and support for international students, quality of programs, and their social scenes. Tuition prices are for the 2022 & 2023 academic years and are subject to change. All values are in USD.
How to choose a university in England
England, and the rest of the UK, have great universities with a vast range of benefits. That said, international tuition is expensive in the UK, so the decision of where and what to study should not be taken lightly. Fortunately, students from the United States can apply for FAFSA loans to cover tuition at universities in the UK.
When choosing a University, consider if you want to live in a big city or a smaller town, as the UK has plenty of both. Additionally, the cost of living will vary significantly between towns across England. London, for example, has a housing shortage and will be a more expensive option than, say, Lancashire. You can find a detailed cost of living breakdown throughout England on Numbeo (the source of all cost of living data provided throughout this article).
Another consideration when choosing a university in England is the path you decide to take. If you're studying abroad, first determine if your home university has programs, exchanges, or other relationships with Universities in England. Studying abroad through your existing university has benefits, including the ease of transferring credits and the convenience of a designed program. The alternatives are to go through a third-party provider or to directly enroll, which is typically the cheapest option but requires the most work on your end.
If you plan to get your entire undergraduate degree in England or are pursuing a graduate-level degree, you will need to apply and enroll directly with the university of your choosing. We always recommend you apply as early as possible to retain enough time to navigate the student visa process, but universities in England have much less stringent deadlines when compared to the US, and you can be accepted into a course within a month or two of the start date. That said, scholarship applications still close well ahead of the start of the semester, so don't procrastinate. The application process is also quite different in the UK, and you can choose to apply to multiple universities at once through a centralized system, and rank your preferred choice.
Additionally, the length of study to receive a degree is also different in England. Most bachelors are completed in three years, master's courses take one year, and Ph.D.'s take as little as three years as well.
Tips for studying in England
There are differences between how universities in England are structured compared to US universities. For example, you will take modules instead of courses, and the grading scale for these modules is also different. Additionally, your performance (for those getting an entire degree in England) will determine what type of degree you receive, with a first-class degree being the best.
Generally speaking, your module assessment will be less based on tests and more project and essay-based (depending on your program and degree type), with a single exam at the end of the course also being common.
If you are dependent on student loans (such as FAFSA for US citizens), expect a significant delay between accepting your application and the disbursement of funds. Your loans will be paid out in USD, then transferred to your university and converted to GBP before being deposited into your British bank account (HSBC has an international student bank account option, for those looking). This process can take a few weeks, so if you need this money for essential living expenses, do this well ahead of time.
While studying in England, don't take your access to the rest of the UK and continental Europe for granted. Ryanair offers flights for as little cost as a Saturday night Uber during a surge, and trains and busses will take you all the way up to the Scottish highlands. You can also always hop on a ferry over to Ireland for a weekend away.
Read more: How to Study Abroad in England on a Budget
Great for historical significance: Oxford University
Overseas Tuition: $36,606 - 51,292/year
Cost of living: $924 + rent
Chances are, you’ve heard of Oxford. It's the oldest university among English-speaking countries, and if that's not enough, scenes from the Harry Potter movies were filmed here. One-third of Oxford's student body is international, and sixty-three percent of postgraduate students come from outside of the UK.
Oxford is about 90 minutes northwest of London. The campus is gorgeous, and the town has a long history of craft breweries. Oxford University is regularly ranked in the top-10 globally, including ranking second in the 2022 QS World University Rankings and first in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of 2022.
According to the Oxford website, famous Oxford alum, known as Oxonians, date back to the 13th century and include an astounding 55 Nobel Prize recipients, 28 British Prime Ministers, and 120 Olympians. The prestige and historical impact of Oxford University can still be felt today as Oxford remains a leader in research, spanning disciplines from humanities to medicine.
Great for art students: Kingston University
Overseas Tuition: $18,231 - 21,250/year
Cost of living: $1,136 + rent
Located in Kingston-upon-Thames, about 30 minutes southwest of London, Kingston is a great place to study. The campus is compact, and there are several accommodation options nearby. There are also postgraduate scholarship opportunities and meet-ups for international students.
Kingston is a charming town on the River Thames, a shopper's paradise with charming old buildings. It's cozy in the winter and balmy in summer, making it a fun place to be a student. Additionally, Kingston University is ranked within the top 50 universities in the UK according to The Guardians 2022 Rankings.
Kingston University offers a specific focus on professional arts and crafts, making it a fantastic destination for students interested in design, illustration, and animation. The university also has a thriving community of international students. According to the Kingston University website, nearly 22% of their student population are international students from over 140 countries outside of Europe.
Great for football fans: University of Manchester
Overseas Tuition: $26,342 - 61,903/year
Cost of living: $901 + rent
With 8,000 international students, Manchester claims to have one of the most diverse student populations in the UK. They offer airport pickup for students and host information sessions in countries around the world, including Brunei, Hong Kong, and Thailand. Accommodation is guaranteed for all fee-paying international students.
Manchester is a lively town in northwest England and is known for its football team as well as architecture and music scene. Manchester is serviced by buses, rail, and has its own airport.
The University of Manchester is committed to welcoming international students and fostering a multicultural environment. They offer a student immigration team to help support applicants and international students and provide a range of English language courses to prepare students for success in English-speaking studies.
Football is ingrained in the culture of Manchester, which is home to two iconic premier league teams, Manchester United and Manchester City. Manchester also hosts the National Football Museum, which is free for students (with proof of residency). Whether or not you begin studying in Manchester as a football fan, you will undoubtedly learn to respect the passion and love for the sport throughout the town -- just don't call it soccer.
Great for small class sizes: University College London
Overseas Tuition: $42,273/year
Cost of living: $1,136 + rent
Known as ‘London’s Global University,’ UCL is a popular spot with international students. It is one of the top universities in the UK and has a top-ten ranking with QS World University Rankings. Classes are small, with an average of nine students per teacher. Thirty percent of students are international, and courses focus on internationally relevant topics.
UCL is located smack-dab in London's Bloomsbury, a pretty neighborhood near Regent's Park and the British Museum. As an international capital, London is hard to beat – you’ll never run out of things to do.
Ranking 8th in the 2022 QS World University Rankings, UCL has one of the UK's most well-respected research programs. They also have a history of multiculturalism and breaking boundaries, as UCL was the first university in England to welcome students of all religions.
Great for post graduate support: University of Southampton
Overseas Tuition: $25,475/year
Cost of living: $830 + rent
The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 ranked Southampton 15th overall in the UK. Out of the 22,000 students enrolled, an astonishing 34% are international. Every student is entitled to three years of career advice after graduation, and the university collaborates with academic institutions all over the world.
Southampton is on the south coast of England, near the Isle of Wight. Old town walls still stand, and it was the launching pad for the RMS Titanic, which you might be familiar with. Its nickname is the "Green City," thanks to its parks and green spaces, making it conducive to summer festivals and events.
Southampton is also one of the sunniest cities in the UK, which is a significant benefit in a notoriously rainy country. The town is walkable and has a strong public transportation system, making it easy to enjoy all Southampton offers. Students can easily fill their weekends with football, live music, and a thriving art scene.
Great for sustainability and social progress: Bristol University
Overseas Tuition: $24,420/year
Cost of living: $914 + rent
Bristol was the first UK University to welcome women on an equal footing with men and the first in the UK to establish a drama department. It is also environmentally friendly: it was the first to become involved with the Green Impact Awards and is an accredited 'Fairtrade University.' Country-specific information is available on their website for international students.
The university is in downtown Bristol, a thriving yet relaxed town of cafes, bars, museums, and shops. Bristol is in Southwest England and was a finalist for the European Capital of Culture in 2008. This stems from a long history of being a cultural leader in the UK. In 2020, Bristol University started an anti-racism steering group to address "personal, cultural, and structural racism within the university."
Great private university: University of Buckingham
Overseas Tuition: $
Cost of living: $986 + rent
The University of Buckingham is the UK’s only private university with a Royal Charter and only has 1000 students. However, roughly 90 nationalities are represented, and more than half of the students are from overseas. There are five schools of teaching: Law, Humanities, Arts & Languages, Business, and Science & Medicine. The university spends more than most in the UK on IT, which builds a modern academic environment. Buckinghamshire is just over an hour northwest of London, in an attractive setting home to scores of native wildlife.
As a private university, students should expect to pay more in tuition; however, the University of Buckingham offers an accelerated, two-year degree which can help mitigate the overall expense of studying. That means students can graduate with a bachelor's degree, then move on to a one-year master's degree and graduate with both within three years.
According to the Office for Students National Student Survey, the University of Buckingham is ranked 6th in overall student satisfaction and third in academic support throughout England. With a small student population (around 2,700), they offer small class sizes and, according to the University of Buckingham website, a 10.4:1 student:academic staff ratio.
Great international university: University of Nottingham
Overseas Tuition: $26,410 - 34,993/year
Cost of living: $853 + rent
It’s not just for Robin Hood – the University of Nottingham is a major player in England’s international universities. Nottingham’s emphasis on internationalism in all areas of study makes it a great choice for international students. Besides its UK campus, Nottingham has campuses in Malaysia and China.
The UK campus is broken into four main campuses, and a free hopper bus connects them all. Nottingham is in the midlands, among rolling green fields, and on the banks of the River Trent.
The University of Nottingham is a powerful research institute in the UK, and is ranked 8th in research power according to the Nottingham website. They offer an interdisciplinary approach to research which has led to alum winning Nobel Prizes, including Sir Peter Mansfield Nobel Prize in Medicine for work on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a groundbreaking medical diagnostic tool.
Hop across the pond
Now comes the hard part -- deciding which school to choose. It is difficult to go wrong in a country that has been a leader in higher education for so long, so no matter where you end up, you are guaranteed both an excellent education and a good time. The best university in England for you personally is the one that's going to best match your career and lifestyle goals.
Deciding to study overseas, no matter how long or at what level, will be an investment. While studying in England as an international student is expensive, the accelerated course length compared to US universities makes the tuition fees much more reasonable. It's crucial to weigh the cost of living for an entire extra year (or two) of studying when comparing tuition fees across countries.
If you're like me, you will fall in love with the application style assessment that universities in the UK follow. Be prepared to write a lot more and take fewer tests than a comparable program in the US. Regardless of where and what you choose to study, gaining international education experience will develop more than just your CV. You'll be exposed to various cultures and perspectives, learn to adapt to new challenges, and take the next step on your path to becoming a global citizen.