Study Abroad

10 Best Universities in the UK for International Students

The UK boasts world-renowned universities, making the decision of which one to choose as an international student a hard one. If you're planning to study abroad, consider attending one of these top universities in the UK.

The United Kingdom is not only popular for travelers who want to revel in its history of royalty, iconic music scene, and welcoming pubs, but it is a highly popular destination for international students. In addition to embracing British flair, international students in the UK will be able to study at some of the most prestigious universities in a range of different locations.

Why study abroad in the United Kingdom?

The United Kingdom is a compelling destination for studying abroad and gaining a comprehensive university experience. Here are some of the reasons which you may want to consider studying abroad in the United Kingdom:

  • Renowned universities: Some of the best universities in the world are located in the United Kingdom, and it is home to over 160 universities that offer a vast range of subjects to international students.
  • Accredited institutions: Most universities in the United Kingdom are internationally recognized, equipping students with reputable qualifications from accredited institutions.
  • Thriving international communities: While you can come to the United Kingdom to embrace British culture, you’re very likely to find large communities of international students. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 650,000 international students in the UK at any given time.

1. Cambridge

Best for top academic qualifications

Brown concrete building in Cambridge

📍 Location: Cambridge, England
💰 Average tuition for a semester through direct enrollment: $16,000 - $24,500 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $30,000 - $50,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1,000 - $1,305 USD per month
🌎 Percentage of international students: 40%

It is impossible to mention Cambridge without Oxford and vice versa, as both consistently rank among the best universities not only in the UK but the world. This debate has been ongoing since their foundation in the 12th century and it’s unlikely that it will be resolved anytime soon. However, Cambridge outranks Oxford - marginally - on the most recent QS World University rankings, where it ranks as the second best university in the world.

As one of the oldest universities in the world surrounded by bountiful meadows and Georgian architecture, Cambridge is alluring to both UK and international students, with around 40% of students coming from abroad. Most notably, Stephen Hawking, King Charles III, and Sir David Attenborough are among the alumni list at this world renowned university.

2. University of Manchester

Best for student lifestyle

A bridge in Manchester

📍Location: Manchester, England
💰 Average tuition for a semester through direct enrollment: $8,000 to $11,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $20,000 to $25,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $780 - $1,300 USD per month
🌎 Percentage of international students: 33.6%

Not only has Manchester had a substantial influence on British music and global football culture, it’s a city heavily populated by students. It is estimated that over 100,000 students are enrolled at a university in the city (there are 5!) at any given time.

As a result, the city is tailored to a vibrant student lifestyle, whether you’re a party goer, sports fanatic, or bookworm. In addition to the range of facilities and options available for students in and around the city, Manchester is known for its student-friendly cost of living which can sustain an exciting and busy lifestyle.

The University of Manchester ranks among the best universities in England, and offers an excellent standard of education, particularly for subjects such as business, economics, and marketing. Furthermore, the university opens its arms to over 10,000 international students per year, matching the city’s reputation of warmth and inclusivity.

3. Bristol University

Best for LGBTQIA+ students

A photo of a bridge in Bristol with hot air balloon's in the background

📍Location: Bristol, England
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $9,500 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $20,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1045 - $1300 USD per month
🌎 Percentage of international students: 28%

Located on the southwest of England, Bristol is known for its inclusivity, with iconic world class LGBTQIA+ festivals and award-winning villages. With a strong presence of LGBTQIA+ community members, there are many venues and supportive organizations making it an especially welcoming destination for LGBTQIA+ students.

Bristol’s creative spirit is manifested through its university namesake, placing great emphasis on practice-based and creative education, with departments such as drama, music, English, and more having strong reputations at this university.

4. University College London (UCL)

Best for international student community

Photo of front of UCL building

📍Location: London, England
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $18,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $25,000 USD
🏠Cost of living: $1,500 - $2,000 per month
🌎Percentage of international students: 54.3%

London has an incredible international presence, thriving economy, emblematic architecture, extensive history of royalty, and quality of schools that attracts foreign visitors from each corner of the globe. Whether or not you are a student, London can satiate any traveler’s desire for exciting experiences in the UK’s capital.

And with these qualities, it's no wonder that London has some of the best universities in England. University College London (UCL) - commonly referred to as London’s Global University - is also consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world. UCL’s campus lies in the heart of the bustling capital, making it an extremely competitive yet very desirable institution to study at.

With over 18,000 international students at any given time, UCL can offer a vast range of popular courses to study, including but not limited to medicine, psychology, and biological sciences.

5. Liverpool University

Best for affordable cost of living

📍Location: Liverpool, England
💰Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $13,000 to $18,000 USD
💸Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $25,000 USD
🏠Cost of living: $750 - $1,200 USD per month
🌎Percentage of international students: 22.4%

Liverpool is a city rife with football stadiums, green spaces, unique accents, and indie bars where the Beatles used to perform. With nearby transportation links to Manchester, small coastal towns, and northern Wales, Liverpool is a popular choice for international students who want to travel cheaply and locally during their studies.

International students can stretch their budget in this thriving liberal city. Student accommodation in Liverpool starts from as little as $390 USD per person per month, including bills in many cases. Discounted student bus passes are available for as little as $470 USD for the academic year, which works out at $1.90 USD per day! In addition to a low cost of living in general, student deals are frequent at bars and restaurants often offer discounts for university students.

The University of Liverpool is part of the Russell Group, which is a group of highly prestigious research universities that are on par with the American Ivy League. The University of Liverpool has over 100 partnerships globally, making it accessible for international students.

6. Loughborough University

Best for sports and fitness enthusiasts

📍Location: Loughborough, England
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $14,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $25,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1,000 - $1,200 USD per month
🌎Percentage of international students: 13.1%

Although less populous, Loughborough is a small town which can offer international students more intimacy than bigger cities. Studying in Loughborough will allow international students to become very familiar with each and every aspect of their student heavy community in this compact and idyllic town.

Loughborough University is not only recognised as a high ranking university but is the best in the world for sport-related subjects such as sport and exercise science, sports management, coaching and physical education, sport psychology, and more.

Many national sports governing bodies such as British Athletics, British Triathlon and British Weightlifting base themselves on Loughborough’s campus so you’ll be sure to have access to important industry links during your studies.

7. The University of Edinburgh

Best for history lovers

📍Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $10,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $22,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1,100 - $1,400 USD per month
🌎Percentage of international students: 33.4%

The hilly, medieval city of Edinburgh is not only the capital of Scotland, but it is one of the greenest and most historic places in the UK. As a UNESCO World Heritage City, Edinburgh offers 12th century architectural marvels, and a beautiful storybook aesthetic that makes it an ideal destination for history lovers.

The University of Edinburgh is consistently ranked among the top 50 best universities in the world, with the Quality Assurance Agency awarding it the highest rating possible for the quality of the student learning experience. When it comes to studying history, The University of Edinburgh ranks among the top 25 of all history departments in the world according to the QS World University Rankings.

8. Cardiff University

Best for quality of research

📍Location: Cardiff, Wales
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $10,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $17,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1,200 - $1,400 USD per month
🌎Percentage of international students: 12%

As an urban center packed with rugby fanatics and a thriving arts and music scene, Cardiff is a popular option for those wanting to experience Welsh culture.

To the north of the city are medieval castles, to the south is its waterfront, and at its heart is the Millenium Centre - Wales’ national arts center (and again, more castles). As a microcosm of Welsh culture which combines the medieval past with modern amenities, Cardiff caters to every student’s needs.

Cardiff University has established itself not only as a top global university but one which boasts of research excellence. Its world leading research departments make it especially desirable for students seeking unwavering innovation and education quality. Cardiff University caters to over 7,500 international students from around 140 countries who come to embrace Welsh culture every year.

9. University of St. Andrews

Best for modern languages

📍Location: St. Andrews, Scotland
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $18,000 USD
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $22,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $1,000 USD per month
🌎 Percentage of international students: 39.7%

St. Andrews is a peaceful seaside town located on the east coast of Scotland with a population of less than 20,000. With its cobblestone streets and ancient castles, St. Andrews can offer a change of pace and a more distinct British and Scottish experience for international students.

Despite being located in a relatively small town, St. Andrews University is long-standing, having been founded in 1413. This head start has allowed the university to establish itself as one of the top universities in the world, particularly when it comes to modern languages.

As a student at St. Andrews University, you will be able to choose from a wide variety of international languages. Its modern language department ranks among the top 100 universities in the world, and St Andrews has also ranked the best in the UK for languages such as Spanish in recent years, with other notable languages such as Arabic, Persian, Mandarin, and more.

10. Aberystwyth University

Best for student satisfaction

📍Location: Aberystwyth, Wales
💰 Average tuition for a semester of direct enrollment: $10,000 USD (housing may also be included for the first year)
💸 Average tuition for a semester through a third-party provider: $16,000 USD
🏠 Cost of living: $800 - $1100 USD per month
🌎 Percentage of international students: 18.9%

Located on the scenic Welsh coast, Aberystwyth is both a university and seaside town. Though it has a small population of around 15,000 people, 10,000 of them are university students. With a smaller town comes a greater sense of community involvement, and being located by the sea, spending time with friends on the beach never became so easy.

Aberystwyth University is not only a second home to around 2,000 international students, it holds one of the highest rates of student satisfaction in the UK. While the coastal air and the seaside lifestyle certainly have a positive influence on the mindset of many students, its excellence when it comes to student satisfaction is reinforced by its rankings according to the National Student Survey.

The National Student Survey asked final year undergraduates to score their university according to factors such as quality of teaching, academic support, assessment and feedback, organization and management, learning opportunities, student voice, and more.


How can I study abroad in the United Kingdom?

Before jumping into studying abroad in the UK, you’ll need to do a bit of planning and tick a few boxes.

  • Achieve the necessary grades: Firstly, you will need to achieve the grades required to study at your desired university. While the UK uses A-levels to assess student qualifications, the US equivalent is the high school diploma. Universities have different requirements according to their reputation and competitiveness, and some may offer you an unconditional place, whereas others will grant your place based on your final grades and GPA.
  • Apply for a student visa: To study abroad in the United Kingdom, you will need to obtain a student visa. The requirements to obtain a student visa include having English proficiency (if you’re a non-native speaker), being offered a place on a university course, proof of funds to pay for your course and to support yourself throughout your studies, and parental consent.
  • Take an English proficiency test: You may need to prove your English proficiency by passing a standardized language exam like the IELTS or TOEFL. This is for the university to understand whether your English level is sufficient to succeed on a particular course.
  • Check for partnerships: Be sure to check whether your home university has partnerships with universities in the UK. This can make the study abroad process much easier (and maybe cheaper, too!).

How much does it cost to study abroad in the United Kingdom?

International students can expect to pay around $14,130 to $39,770 USD (£11,400-£32,081 GBP) per year for tuition fees. Your cost will vary based on the university, cost of living in the city itself, and also whether you go through a program provider or direct enrollment.

Typically, direct enrollment is cheaper than going through a third party program because you are only paying for tuition and fees. However, going through a third party program provider can benefit international students by supporting them throughout the application and departure process and including things like housing, meals, and other amenities in the overall program fee.

To reduce this cost, there are many universities and study abroad providers that offer study abroad scholarships and grants to international students.

Tips for studying in the UK

There are many ways which you can maximize your experience of studying in the UK, whether you are there only for a semester or for the full duration of your studies! Here are some top tips for studying in the UK:

  • Search and apply for funding: There are a range of scholarships and grants available through universities, study abroad providers, government agencies, and more for international students studying abroad.
  • Make use of student discounts: In the UK, there are many ways you can cash in on student discounts, whether you are getting the bus, ordering from Amazon, listening to music on Spotify, or even grabbing a coffee! Use websites such as UNiDAYS or Student Beans to help you discover how you can save money.
  • Join a society: Joining a society (AKA student club) is a great way to not only keep yourself busy but to make new friends who share common interests. You can join societies ranging from topics like football, boxing, chess, or even Harry Potter! If your preferred society doesn’t exist, you can create it!
  • Get travel insurance: While health insurance is included when international students are paying for their university fees, you should also consider getting travel insurance. This will cover you in the event of any travel disruptions, theft, and so on throughout your stay in the United Kingdom.
  • Grab a railcard: Getting around by train is a popular method of transportation in the United Kingdom. This will allow you to get to and from your campus as well as help you see everything that the UK has to offer! Getting a 18-25 or 26-30 railcard will get you far cheaper train fares while exploring everything from the Scottish highlands to the southern English coast.
  • Search for household items using online ad platforms: Moving to a new country means that you may need to invest in some household items and furniture to make your house a home. Using websites such as Gumtree, Craigslist, or Ebay will help you find the best deals on things like desks, bikes, kitchenware, and appliances.

Start your university experience in the United Kingdom!

Whether you’re looking for the crème de la crème when it comes to academic qualifications, student communities, nightlife, or idyllic British architecture and countryside, the United Kingdom draws international students for good reason. Regardless of where you choose to study, your employability and opportunities will grow by obtaining a high quality UK education – all while making memories with new friends during your immersive British experience!