So you want to study in England? Fantastic choice! Not only are you a stone's throw from continental Europe, you have access to a long list of globally recognized universities. Whether you are an undergraduate, postgraduate, or study abroad student, there are schools to meet your needs. Most universities have international student offices that can assist you with visas, scholarships, and language courses if necessary.
England is a true travel hub, with rail, bus, and airport links to the rest of the world. It's easy to get to and from, and for the English speaker, it's a nice transition, as you won't face a language barrier (though deciphering slang and accents is another story). You'll find history, architecture, cosmopolitan cities, and beautiful scenery all in one tiny country.
The real challenge is choosing a university that's right for you. With all of the information available, it can be a tough decision. Consider your preferred program of study, university size, proximity to major cities, and available scholarships to help narrow down the choices.
Here are the best universities in England for international students, broken down into eight categories:
- Best Historic University: Oxford University
- Best University for Student Life: Kingston University
- Best University for Sports/Football Fans: University of Manchester
- Best University for Small Class Sizes: University College London
- Best University for Post Graduate Support: University of Southampton
- Best University for Sustainability and Social Progress: Bristol University
- Best Private University: University of Buckingham
- Best International University: University of Nottingham
Oxford University: Best Historic University
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. The university's strength is in research that covers multiple disciplines, from humanities to medicine.
Oxford is about 90 minutes northwest of London. The campus is gorgeous, and the town has a long history of craft breweries. What more could you ask for from a college town?
Kingston University: Best University for Student Life
Located in Kingston-upon-Thames, about 30 minutes southwest of London, Kingston is a great place to study. There are postgraduate scholarship opportunities and meet-ups for international students. The campus is compact, and there are several accommodation options nearby.
It was the only university I came across to offer a Masters Degree in travel writing – a discipline that was right up my alley. Although the in-class time was less than what I was used to (2 classes a week for 1 year), the support was excellent, and I was thrilled with the results.
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.
University of Manchester: Best University for Sports/Football Fans
With over 11,000 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.
University College London: Best University for Small Class Sizes
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.
University of Southampton: Best University for Post-Graduate Support
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.
Bristol University: Best University for Sustainability and Social Progress
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 named the UK's greenest city in 2015 and the 10th happiest city to work in the UK in 2016.
University of Buckingham: Best Private University
The University of Buckingham is the UK’s only private university with a Royal Charter and only has 2,700 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.
University of Nottingham: Best International University
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.
Making the Right Decision
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. No matter where you end up, you are sure to have the opportunity for both an excellent education and a good time. Ultimately, the best university in England for you personally is the one that's going to best match your career and lifestyle goals.
This article was originally published in March 2013 and was updated in May 2021.