Which universities in England are the best for international students?
Does the thought of having a degree from a British university—or a study abroad experience there—make you giddy with excitement? Do you have an empty page in your passport itching with a need for that crown adorned, highly sought-after English student visa?
You're not alone. Nearly half a million students from the world over race to England to study abroad annually. And why not? England offers comfortable living, good quality education, and an English-language learning environment/medium of instruction. Whether you lack the foreign-language gene or are aiming to improve your English language skills, England will be a good fit for you.
Further, despite what us Americans think, we are not the best at everything. In fact, we’re not the best at most things. Not too long ago, the British ruled basically the entire world, and they set up some unparalleled academic environments to continue on the British legacy of being...well...the best. Don't study in the boring U.S. when you can take your education abroad, enroll in one of these top schools in England, and become just as educated and worldly as our British neighbors.
Why study at universities in England?
Going to college in England can only help you. Even if you’re only studying abroad in England for a summer or semester, enrolling in one of it’s many fantastic schools will definitely enhance your education, change up your world views, and give you a huge respect for its centuries of powerful rule. We've spent a ton of time talking the benefits of studying abroad (spoiler—they're numerous) and even know that international experience can add some serious credibility to your resume (ultimately helping your career).
Study at colleges in England to really take your education outside of the classroom, and to get in touch with your royal side, too! Here are the top colleges in England worth considering, as well as a handful of recommended programs to help you get there. Pour a cuppa and stay awhile!
Top colleges in England for study abroad
Righty-o, step just here to learn which universities in England make American study abroad students (and their GPAs) swoon.
When talking best universities in England, there is no list that doesn’t have Oxford at the top. As the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the second-oldest continuously-operating on the globe, Oxford seriously sets the bar. Beyond sweet perks like having access to the oldest university museum or largest academic library system in the UK, Oxford also offers an incredibly diverse student body population with one third of students coming from outside of the UK.
A big part of the international push is that Oxford is home to the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest and most prestigious international scholarships, which has brought grad students from all over the world to Oxford for over a century. Talk a deep-rooted love of study abroad!
Pros: Ummm Harry Potter was filmed here. Enough said. Come study at Hogwarts for real.
Cons: Oxford is comprised of 38 self-governing colleges, so picking a course of action is going to be tough! Each is responsible for its own admissions, academic focus, and internal structure/activities, which is seriously impressive and also slightly overwhelming. The good thing is you’ll never feel limited here!
Recommended study abroad programs at Oxford:
- IES Abroad - Oxford Direct Enrollment
- Arcadia Study Abroad - University of Oxford
- IFSA-Butler - Oxford University
Located right in the center of London’s Bloomsbury neighborhood and the first university to be founded in the city, University College London is regarded as one of the top universities in the world. A leading science institution well-known for being the alma mater of one of the co-discoverers of DNA (casual), UCL offers just anything and everything for its massive student body population.
Pros: Known as London’s “Global University”, one third of UCL’s student body come from outside of the UK. This mentality of welcoming foreigners is not new, as UCL was the first university in England to be entirely secular and admit students regardless of religious affiliation, as well as being the first to admit female students.
Cons: With almost 40,000 students, UCL is big. So big, in fact, that it ranks as the third largest university in the UK. Some students really thrive in a bustling academic environment, while others prefer a more intimate setting to learn. Make sure you’re taking into consideration the type of classroom and study environment that works best for you before making a school selection!
Recommended study abroad programs at University College London
- IFSA Butler - University College London
- CIEE - Arts & Sciences at UCL
- Arcadia University - University College London
No list British universities would be complete without also including Cambridge! Founded in 1209, Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the fourth longest continuously-operating in the world. Ranked as the second best university on the globe and constantly in casual battle with Oxford, it should come as no surprise that Cambridge was only founded when Oxford scholars had a dispute with the local townspeople and created their own university nearby. Guess we should be glad they didn’t get along, as we got another top uni out of the drama!
Pros: Cambridge is another highly-diverse university, with more than 20,000 total students and 8,000 international students representing over 120 countries. Around 50% of their graduate students are from outside of the UK, so those looking to pursue a Master’s Degree abroad should definitely consider studying here!
Cons: You’ll be studying at the university with the most subjects to rank in the top 10 in the world. Bummer, right?
Recommended study abroad programs at University of Cambridge
- IFSA-Butler - King's Colleges
- Arcadia University - Pembroke King’s at University of Cambridge
- Reach Cambridge - University of Cambridge Summer School
Founded in 1785 and dating back to the creation of the London Hospital Medical College, Queen Mary University is a top five-ranking university in London. A member of the Russell Group of British research universities, Queen Mary is a huge center for global healthcare research. Located on the northeastern side of London, the campus is centered around a palace and many other historic buildings that Queen Victoria herself laid the foundation stones for. Hard to beat studying at a legitimate queen’s university!
Pros: With over 17,000 students hailing from 162 countries, it’s definitely safe to say that Queen Mary is an international university. Beyond the high caliber of academic offerings, what attracts a lot of international students to Queen Mary over other London universities is its uniquely self-contained campus, which gives students a real community feel in the big city. Perfect for students looking to make a real home abroad!
Cons: Queen Mary used to be primarily known for its medical studies, health sciences, and hospital administration focus. In recent years, though, it has significantly expanded to also offer world-class education in basically any field. Don’t let the healthcare focus deter you from enrolling in this top university!
Recommended study abroad programs at Queen Mary
Located just down the road from the famed Canterbury Cathedral lies one of Britain’s most esteemed universities. With almost 20,000 students, the University of Kent at Canterbury (UKC) is the 21st best university in the UK and home to international centers of research. Only a little over an hour outside of London by train, the rural campus is the best of both worlds for those who want access to the big city but don’t necessarily want to live in the big city!
Pros: UKC is known as “The UK’s European University” due to its extensive ties with continental European academia, and having a student body population from 158 different countries and 41% coming from outside of the UK. If you want to study abroad within your study abroad program (yes, that’s a thing), head to one of their postgraduate centers in Athens, Rome, Brussels, or Paris. This is what we call study abroad inception!
Cons: The University of Kent was founded in 1965 and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, making it the most modern university on our list. While attending a newer university is a highlight for some students, most American students really look forward to having the opportunity to enroll in a historic school...especially given how new everything is in America when compared to Europe! Something knowing you’re walking the same halls as royals, leaders, scientists, and academics throughout history really does it for most, but if you’re not a huge history buff, then going to a more modern university shouldn’t be a problem!
Recommended study abroad programs at University of Kent
- IFSA-Butler - University of Kent
Fancy being in the heart of London but not far from green spaces such as Hyde or Regent’s Park? Head to the University of Westminster! A public university stemming from the Royal Polytechnic Institution (the first polytechnic institution in the UK!), Westminster operates four campuses in London and offers world-class research centers, particularly in the field of communication and media research. Nothing better than being in the center of Facebook research!
Pros: With 20,000 students and more than 300 international programs, the University of Westminster is certainly an international school. Their programs include full degrees, semester or summer study abroad, student exchanges, postgraduate study abroad, and even internship placements abroad, so head here if you’re really looking to boost your international game!
Cons: Despite the name, classes at the University of Westminster don’t occur inside Westminster Abbey. Bummer, we know. We’d all love to study amongst the remains of Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens, but unfortunately this is reserved for a tour of the Abbey!
Recommended study abroad programs at University of Westminster
- API - University of Westminster
- CIEE - Arts & Sciences at Westminster
- CISabroad - University of Westminster
- IFSA-Butler - University of Westminster
Not to be outdone, the London School of Economics and Political Science (usually shortened to just LSE because what a mouthful) was founded in 1895 and is a top ten university in the UK. Located in the historic area of Clare Market in central London, LSE is famous for producing notable alumni among many different fields, and has educated the most billionaires in the world. Yes, you heard us right. Apparently, LSE graduates earn more money than those of any other university in the UK, so if you’re looking to make some serious pounds - and no, we don’t mean the freshman 15 - then this is the spot to study!
Pros: As if (maybe) becoming a billionaire wasn’t enough to sign you up, LSE also has the highest percentage of international students of all UK universities at 70%. Over 160 countries are represented in their student body, meaning they have more reps than the UN and a combined 100 different languages spoken here. Now are you ready to enroll?
Cons: Despite its name, LSE does not just focus on economics. The school is comprised of 25 academic departments and institutes across a range of studies. In fact, LSE is ranked second in the world for social sciences behind Harvard. Don’t let the name deter you from considering this outstanding university!
Recommended study abroad programs at London School of Economics
- API - London School of Economics
- IFSA-Butler - London School of Economics
- Arcadia University - London School of Economics
Next steps to attend a college in England
After you’ve identified some potential schools or regions you want to study in, it’s time to narrow down! Be sure to reach out to program alumni, read tons of program and provider reviews, and even get in touch with some current students at these universities using social media!
- GoAbroad Online Advisors
- MyGoAbroad free tool
- Check out the GoAbroad Scholarships Directory for help with funding
- 10 reasons you can’t miss out on studying abroad in London
- 10 unexpected joys of studying abroad in England
- How to look British while studying abroad in England
If these don’t do it for you, be sure to read all of our articles attending a university in England and studying abroad in general!
Who knew finding colleges in England for international students could be so easy?
(Spoiler: we did!!) The British have always been world leaders, so it should come as no surprise that many of the top universities on the globe happen to be in the tiny country of England. Pick any one of these amazing colleges in England, pack your Wellies, and get ready for the British Invasion of a lifetime!