The UK is the most popular destination for postgraduate study abroad in Europe - and the second most popular in the world. It's no suprise then, that British universities are regarded as being some of the best in the world.
But how do you choose the best university for your Masters in the UK?
One method is to consult international ranking tables. These can tell you which UK universities are the most internationally respected and renowned.
On this page we've looked at the top UK universities in the three most important world rankings - allowing you to make an easy comparison of the top institutions overall.
Of course, the best UK university for your Masters degree won't always be the one that places highest in these global rankings.
Postgraduate study depends on levels of academic specialism and expertise that are hard to reflect in broad tables. That's why we've also included rankings for different postgraduate subject areas - allowing you to find our which UK universities excel in the specific fields you want to study with your Masters.
The following table gives the 50 top universities in the UK, overall, according to global university rankings. It can show you which British universities are amongst the best in the world - and help you compare institutions on an international level.
Each ranking system uses its own methodology, with different factors having more or less influence on a university's result.
For more information on using international rankings as a postgraduate, see our guide.
|University||THE Ranking (2015)||QS Ranking (2015)||Shanghai Ranking (2015)|
|University of Oxford||2||6||10|
|University of Cambridge||4||3||5|
|Imperial College London||8||8||23|
|University College London||14||7||18|
|London School of Economics and Political Science||23||35||101-150|
|University of Edinburgh||24||21||47|
|King's College London||27||19||55|
|University of Manchester||56||33||41|
|University of Bristol||69||37||66|
|University of Glasgow||76||62||101-150|
|University of Warwick||80||48||92|
|University of St Andrews||86||68||301-400|
|University of Exeter||93||161||151-200|
|University of Sheffield||97||80||101-150|
|Queen Mary University of London||98||109||151-200|
|University of Southampton||110||81||101-150|
|University of Birmingham||119||76||101-150|
|Royal Holloway, University of London||129||231||-|
|University of Leeds||133||87||101-150|
|University of Sussex||140||187||151-200|
|University of Nottingham||143||70||101-150|
|University of East Anglia||149||239||201-300|
|University of Liverpool||157||151||101-150|
|University of Reading||164||156||301-400|
|University of Leicester||167||235||201-300|
|University of Aberdeen||172||137||201-300|
|University of Dundee||185||261||201-300|
|St George's University of London||196||-||-|
|Queen's University Belfast||200||182||301-400|
|Birkbeck, University of London||200||290||-|
|Royal Veterinary College||201-250||-||-|
|University of Bath||251-300||159||401-500|
|University of Surrey||251-300||247||401-500|
|University of Essex||301-350||303||401-500|
|University of Kent||301-350||360||-|
|University of Stirling||351-400||384||-|
|Brunel University London||401-500||331||401-500|
|City University London||401-500||301||-|
|University of Hull||401-500||-||-|
|Information in this table is based on the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.|
Pretty good! With 17 universities in the top 100 of the QS ranking, 15 in the top 100 of the THE ranking and 9 in the top 100 of the Shanghai (ARWU) ranking, the UK has more top-ranked universities than any other European country.
In fact, the only country to beat the UK in global university league tables is the USA.
Unlike the USA, however, all of the UK's top universities are publically funded. Their place in global rankings reflects substantial ongoing investment in higher education.
International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.
Of course, these are global rankings, not postgraduate rankings. This means they reflect the broad performance and reputation of universities, rather than their specific expertise in the areas you might be considering for a Masters.
There isn't currently a global ranking of universities for postgraduate study. But there are ways to look more closely at the factors that matter most to Masters students. . .
Academic specialism is vital to postgraduate study. As a Masters student you'll be working at a much more advanced level. This means that you'll need access to the best facilities and the expertise of instructors who are leaders in their field.
One way to check this is to see how well a university does in rankings for your subject. Universities at the top of these leagues will be the best at producing high quality research and attracting top academics. This will be reflected in the quality of their postgraduate courses.
The following table lists the top UK universities in six broad subject areas. It's based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject. This lists the best 100 universities in different academic fields, around the world.
|University||Ranking by subject|
|Physical Sciences||Engineering & Technology||Life Sciences||Social Sciences||Arts & Humanities||Medicine & Health|
|University of Cambridge||6||4||11||2||6||3|
|University of Oxford||8||6||4||1||4||1|
|Imperial College London||16||9||-||6||-||5|
|University of Edinburgh||23||63||30||19||16||12|
|University College London||27||38||16||12||5||4|
|University of Manchester||42||35||34||53||40||60|
|University of Warwick||64||-||50||-||30||-|
|University of Glasgow||70||-||-||77||58||47|
|University of Bristol||81||69||87||48||68||86|
|Royal Holloway, University of London||81||-||-||88||59||-|
|University of Southampton||-||75||-||-||-||-|
|University of Exeter||-||94||81||82||71||-|
|London School of Economics and Political Science||-||-||12||-||-||-|
|King's College London||-||-||20||34||15||8|
|University of St Andrews||-||-||46||74||50||-|
|University of Sussex||-||-||65||-||-||-|
|University of Sheffield||-||-||69||-||54||-|
|University of Leeds||-||-||79||52||-||-|
|University of Essex||-||-||85||-||-||-|
|University of Reading||-||-||-||67||95||-|
|University of East Anglia||-||-||-||70||-||-|
|University of Aberdeen||-||-||-||84||-||-|
|University of Dundee||-||-||-||85||-||90|
|Birkbeck, University of London||-||-||-||-||52||-|
|Queen Mary University of London||-||-||-||-||53||75|
|University of Birmingham||-||-||-||-||88||94|
|University of Nottingham||-||-||-||-||-||94|
|St George's University of London||-||-||-||-||-||94|
|Information in this table is based on the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject. This ranks the top 100 global universities in six core academic fields.|
With 30 different universities in the top 100 across six separate disciplines, the UK possesses plenty of the expertise that supports postgraduate study.
Six of these institutions also rank in the top 100 for every single subject-area - a very impressive achievement. Others are more specialised, demonstrating their focus on specific areas.
You can use these rankings to find the best UK universities for postgraduate study in your subject.
Or you can use them to see how well UK universities do in your subject area as a whole. For example, knowing that 19 of the UK's universities are in the top 100 for Arts and Humanities can be useful even if the Masters you specifically want to study isn't offered by one of them. The achievements of top UK universities can reflect the quality of postgraduate courses in that subject across the country.
Rankings are a great way to find your way around a country's universities and narrow your search. But the most important factor in choosing a Masters in the UK will be the content of the course itself. That's why our course listings include so much information about different programmes. Why not take a look?
The global rankings discussed above are great if you want to see which UK universities are amongst the best in the world. But there are also several rankings that look specifically at universities within the UK.
Most are published by existing media organisations including the Telegraph, Times, Sunday Times and Guardian newspapers.
Most of these rankings aren't postgraduate specific. They include criteria such as a student ratios, satisfaction and completion rates that are important, but may not reflect the specific experiences of Masters students.
The exception is the Guardian which publishes postgraduate subject tables.
Has the impressive performance of UK universities in global rankings convinced you to study a Masters there? If so, we've got lots more advice about postgraduate study in the UK, including information on visas, living costs and language tests.
Last updated - 22/03/2016