Sign up to our newsletter today
We've been helping students find the right postgraduate course for over a decade.
The UK is the most popular destination for postgraduate study abroad in Europe - and the second most popular in the world. It's no surprise then, that British universities are regarded as being some of the best, internationally.
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.
The following table gives the 50 top universities in the UK, 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 2021||QS 2021||ARWU 2020|
|University of Oxford||1||5||9|
|University of Cambridge||6||7||3|
|Imperial College London||11||8||25|
|London School of Economics and Political Science||27||49||151-200|
|University of Edinburgh||30||20||42|
|King's College London||35||=31||47|
|University of Manchester||=51||=27||36|
|University of Warwick||77||62||101-150|
|University of Bristol||91||58||64|
|University of Glasgow||=92||=77||151-200|
|University of Birmingham||=107||87||101-150|
|Queen Mary University of London||110||=114||201-300|
|University of Sheffield||=121||=93||101-150|
|University of Southampton||=127||90||101-150|
|University of York||=133||=150||201-300|
|University of Nottingham||=158||99||101-150|
|University of Leeds||=160||91||101-150|
|University of Sussex||=160||=246||151-200|
|University of Liverpool||163||=181||101-150|
|University of Leicester||=170||=242||301-400|
|University of Exeter||=174||164||151-200|
|University of Aberdeen||=178||207||201-300|
|University of East Anglia||=200||=333||201-300|
|Queen's University Belfast||=200||209||401-500|
|University of Bath||201-250||=173||301-400|
|University of Dundee||201-250||319||301-400|
|University of Reading||201-250||205||201-300|
|St George's, University of London||201-250||-||501-600|
|University of St Andrews||201-250||96||301-400|
|Brighton and Sussex Medical School||251-300||-||-|
|University of Surrey||251-300||=267||301-400|
|Anglia Ruskin University||301-350||-||-|
|University of Essex||301-350||=411||501-600|
|University of Kent||301-350||=380||501-600|
|Royal Holloway, University of London||301-350||=308||701-800|
|University of Stirling||301-350||=485||901-1000|
|Birkbeck, University of London||351-400||=344||901-1000|
|Brunel University London||351-400||=368||501-600|
|City, University of London||351-400||=350||701-800|
|Information in this table is based on the latest 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 18 universities in the top 100 of the QS ranking, 11 in the top 100 of the THE ranking and eight 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 publicly 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. Times Higher Education produces a series of international league tables based on subject expertise, and it’s worth taking a look at their World University Rankings by Subject.
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.
Many are published by 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.
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 08/09/2020