9 Top Universities in the UK Not Named Oxford or Cambridge

02/05/201719 minute read
9 Top Universities in the UK Not Named Oxford or Cambridge

So you mightn't have secured the grades required to gain admission into the world-renowned, iconic UK universities, Cambridge and Oxford.

Yeah, that's a shame... they're the best universities in the UK.

But you may have actually dodged a bullet!

Attending one of those "prestigious" universities can be extremely taxing.

The long hours.

The intense study.

The competitiveness.

The expectations placed on you.

It can all be a bit much and lead you towards hating what you're studying!

Besides, getting an education as good as Oxford and Cambridge is not even a challenge – particularly in the UK, which is so abundantly full of quality universities.

You don't have to look any further than the shores of the beautiful British Isle to discover some of the world's best schools.

Whether it's learning from Nobel laureates at the The University of Manchester, studying global policy at University College London, or even just studying part-time and partying full-time at University of Leeds, there are plenty of quality college options in the UK.

London itself has recently become one of the largest epicentres of tech innovation and development in Europe. This is no doubt due to the number of top universities located within the city's parameters.

So don't think that just because it's not Oxbridge it can't be world class. There are a number of universities you can still gain access to in the UK and receive an equally great education.

For your benefit, we've compiled a list of nine of the best to choose from.

Study in the UK

The great thing is, no matter which university you choose, there's no need to stress about securing a job post-graduation because each campus on our list is located in the top 100 universities worldwide for graduate employability!

In fact, most are in the top 50!

Have a read below and suss out how to get into UK universities beyond Cambridge and Oxford:

1. Imperial College London (ICL)

Uk 8

Based in South Kensington, London, ICL is not only one of the best universities in the UK, but it's one of the best colleges in the world!

According to the QS World University Rankings 2018, it comes in at number eight.

As far as its academics go, ICL is a one-of-a-kind institution as it focuses solely on science, engineering, medicine and business - four "future proofed" fields for you graduates!

While they only focus on a few key areas, they make sure they do them well and they're leading the way on many fronts.

Take for example, this inspired research to improve patient care in hospitals and health care facilities around the world.

That's the kind of research that makes you want to get up in the morning and head to class!

When you gain admission into Imperial College you gain access to a community of world class researchers, one that will serve you well in building networks and unlocking potential career pathways.

There's just one problem...

Admission can be tricky.

ICL Admissions


Given ICL is located in the top ten universities worldwide, it's also highly selective and competitive – comparable to the Oxbridge unis, in fact.

In order to gain admission, depending on the course, you will be required to demonstrate a pretty flawless academic record.

You should be aiming for AAA at A level (or any international equivalent), which is difficult but absolutely achievable for most driven students!

Don't stress, though, because there are plenty of other colleges on this list with lower score requirements.

Master’s degree:

ICL's absolute minimum requirement for entry into a master's degree is that you hold a UK Lower Second Class Honours degree.

The majority of courses, however, have much higher requirements and usually demand a minimum of a UK Upper Second Class Honours.

PhD, MD (Res) or EngD research program:

To gain admission into any of these programs, the college expects you to hold or achieve a master's degree, in addition to a bachelor's degree at UK Upper Second Class Honours level.

Basically, ICL is tough to get into but for good reason:

They're all about the cutting edge, breaking new ground, and addressing global challenges through the practical application of research.

If you have the option, why would you want to study anywhere else?


Local student: £9,250

International student: £28,650

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 8

Graduate employability: 20

Student enrolment:

Total: 16,090

International students: 8,746

Crimson Students are 3x more likely to gain admission to ICL.

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

2. University College London (UCL)

Uk 7

UCL is one of the world’s top multidisciplinary universities, with an international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching.

This is obvious simply by looking at the fact that they've had 29 Nobel laureates – that's at least one every decade since the establishment of the prize in 1901... hella impressive, yo!

UCL offers teaching excellence in subjects from medicine to languages, law to engineering, and history to astrophysics.

UCL differentiates itself from other UK universities by encouraging students to undertake interdisciplinary study.

Generally speaking, studying in the UK provides an in depth look at a specific subject; the broader interdisciplinary approach is more characteristic of US universities.

This is certainly not the case at UCL as they encourage students to explore various pathways before diving in head first!

As the name suggests, UCL is located in a central London location and gives students access to one of the world's best cities with an abundance of culture, nightlife, and global connectivity.

It's hard to fault the place to be honest!


Local student: £4,915–£14,370

International student: £19,010–£25,890

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 7

Graduate employability: 24

Student enrolment:

Total: 31,080

International students: 14,854

Crimson Students are 3x more likely to gain admission to UCL.

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

3. King’s College London

Uk 6

Oh man, the list just keeps on going!

How could you not study in the UK!?

King's College London is yet another top university in the world, placing in the top 25 according to QS World University Rankings.

To add to its repertoire of achievements, it's also one of the oldest education institutions in England. Which is, like, totally old because England is ancient.

Much more than just being an old college, King's also has a pretty decent reputation for cutting-edge research, too. In fact, 84% of research at King’s in 2014 was considered to be "world leading" or "internationally excellent".

Imagine if people thought of you as a world leading and internationally excellent researcher.

Boy, that would be nice!

And to think all you have to do is enrol at King's.

Easy, right? Well, kinda.

Being a top university, the expectation is that you achieve a high level of expectation no matter what curriculum you sit – GCSE, A levels, IB, etc. – in order to gain admission into a King's undergraduate degree.

Though difficult, it's still not as demanding as some other high quality UK schools.

Who needs Cambridge and Oxford? Am I right?

Like any university, King's has a reputation for a few particular subjects:

If you're interested in humanities, the sciences (including psychiatry, medicine, nursing and dentistry), or social sciences and law, then King's is the place for you!

Cool facts:

King's has played a role in major advances in modern life, including the discovery of the structure of DNA.

Just think about that – the structure of DNA! Now that's impressive.

And for something a bit more relatable for you millennials out there, King's spearheaded the research that led to the development of radio, television, and mobile phones.

Yeah, that's right.

The development of that thing in your hand that literally everyone now has.

That little electronic device that keeps you connected to everyone and everything in the world at every waking second of your life.

Your mobile phone.

Yep, King's College research influenced its creation!


Local student: £9,250

International student: £26,750

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: =24

Graduate employability: 51-60

Student enrolment:

Total: 23,780

International students: 9,451

Crimson Students are 3x more likely to gain admission to Kings.

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

4. University of Manchester

Uk 5

Oh man, I bet you thought we were done.

Nup, the list continues. In fact, we're not even halfway through!

There are just so many dang good options in the UK!

The University of Manchester offers over 1,000 undergraduate courses, including world renowned bachelor’s degrees in history, English, politics, international relations, and social anthropology.

The usual undergraduate entry requirements are AAB in the International Baccalaureate (IB) – or international equivalent – which is more than achievable for most students!

So just as an added bonus, it isn't too competitive and it's still elite!

Manchester's renowned status is proven by the fact they have produced 25 Nobel prize winners among their current and former staff and students... Twenty-five.

Huge numbers!

They also have a history of world firsts and groundbreaking discoveries.

Plus, if you gain admission, you get to study in Manchester – a city rich with music, culture, and sport in abundance!

Let's take music for example:


The Stone Roses,

The Smiths,

Take That,

...They've all come out of Manchester.

Well maybe scrap Take That because we don't want to turn you off (even if it did launch Robbie Williams' career!), but Manchester is hotbed of live music and nightlife – it's almost the perfect student city!

And then there's the sport, namely soccer (or football for the locals). Both Manchester City and Manchester United compete out of local stadiums on any given weekend during the season, so there's no excuse for you to ever feel bored.

If you're interested in being a nurse, Manchester's nursing degree is ranked equal fourth in the world.

If you're considering development studies (whatever that is?), Manchester is ranked ninth in the world!


If you're not interested in either of those degrees, The University of Manchester has one of the UK's widest range of courses so there's bound to be something that tickles your fancy!


Local student: £9,250

International student: £13,995-£38,000

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 34

Graduate employability: 35

Student enrolment:

Total: 36,670

International students: 13,514

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

5. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

Uk 4

While LSE offers mostly postgraduate degrees, they do offer high school leavers with the opportunity to study the social sciences at undergraduate level.

If you maintain strong grades, your LSE undergraduate degree could lead into a postgrad degree.

LSE's central London campus makes it a desirable location for students and staff the world over and LSE has one of the highest proportion of international students in the UK.

What's more, the central location not only makes the campus accessible via the tube and also makes the London nightlife, markets, and cultural hubs accessible to all students.

A highly desirable feature of any London college.

If you're interested in studying social science, this is definitely the UK college for you!

Currently, LSE's Social Science and Management course is ranked second in the world!

Additionally, its Media and Communication degree is ranked number three in the world and LSE is considered the number one university to prepare students for a career in journalism.

So if this is the direction you want to head in, make sure LSE is on your radar!


Local student: £9,250

International student: £19,152

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 35

Graduate employability: 61-70

Student enrolment:

Total: 36,670

International students: 13,514

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

6. University of Bristol

Uk 3

Obviously University of Bristol is located in Bristol (makes sense, right?).

Bristol is known for its rich history as an historic port town which played a role in "founding the new world".

However, in more recent times, Bristol has been known for its kick-ass university and student life!

Well, maybe that's not entirely true.

The town is still an historic port town, but the university is historically kick-ass, too.

In fact,

When you combine the fact that The Sunday Times voted Bristol as the number one place to live in the UK with the fact that University of Bristol graduates are among the highest paid in the UK, there's really no reason to consider anywhere else!

University of Bristol has also had 13 Nobel Prize Winners linked to the uni, including its current Chancellor, Sir Paul Nurse... Oh, and he's knighted, so you know he must be a pretty big deal!

Anyway, besides all the glitz and glamour of Bristol life, you can choose from over 200 undergraduate courses across six faculties:

  • Arts (including Humanities)
  • Biomedical Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Health Sciences
  • Science
  • Social Sciences and Law

Additionally, Bristol offers postgraduate degrees and many courses offer the option of a combined master’s. Not a bad gig.

You're also guaranteed accommodation in your first year on campus, removing the stress of finding a place to stay, or worse, searching for a housemate.

One major benefit of studying at Bristol, besides having access to its state-of-the-art facilities, is that you'll also have a personal tutor to support your learning!

It's almost guaranteed that you'll fall hog wild, madly in love with Bristol if you choose to study here.

It's a big enough city to offer plenty of night life, fun and excitement, but it's also got all the best qualities of a small country-like town!

That's it, where can I sign up?!


Local student: £9,250

International student: £15,800-£35,400

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 44

Graduate employability: 39

Student enrolment:

Total: 20,630

International students: 5,099

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

7. The University of Edinburgh

Garrghh, Bewtifool Edinburghhhh (said in Scottish accent).

A city of colliding worlds.

The old and the new.

The past and the future.

While the history of the city might lead you to believe that this university endorses a traditional approach to education, in actuality it's far from it. The University of Edinburgh is at the forefront of future-proofing and preparing students for a career in a changing world!

Additionally, you get to study surrounded by beautiful Scotland scenery, including castles and mountains. I'm sure you'll feel right at home in this cultural and historical hub of a city that loves partying, dancing and... haggis!

Mmmmm, haggis. Sheep's pluck (lungs, hearts, liver) mixed with oatmeal and seasoning, shoved in a sheep's stomach and boiled up...

All jokes aside, Edinburgh is one the most visually striking and recognisable cities in the world, despite its interesting "delicacies".

At The University of Edinburgh, you can choose from over 300 taught courses, 135 research areas, and more than 60 online programs across 20 schools.

Ranked 50th in the world for graduate employability, a qualification from The University of Edinburgh will present you with a great opportunity to kickstart your career!

Despite the hard-to-decipher Scottish drawl, linguistics is the university's highest ranked degree, currently placing in the top five worldwide!


Local student: £1,820-£9,250

International student: £16,200-£30,200

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: =23

Graduate employability: 50

Student enrolment:

Total: 28,040

International students: 10,551

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

8. University of Warwick

Uk 2

Ranked 57th in the world and 10th in the UK, University of Warwick leads us into the final two schools on our list of top universities in the UK that aren't Cambridge or Oxford (because who needs them anyway?).

English Language and Literature is the top ranked course here and University of Warwick is also home to the Warwick Arts Centre, the largest of its kind in the UK... outside of London.

For postgraduates,

You'll be pleased to know that Warwick places in the top 20 universities for employer reputation, and according to a report by High Fliers Research, Warwick graduates are the most targeted by the UK’s top graduate employers!

So secure a degree here and you should be saweeeeeet to land a good gig!

As for the location of the university, it's not in London city, but it's located in the heart of England, so you get the real UK experience!

If you do want to get into London, it's about a two hour journey, so you might want to make a day of it!


Local student: approx £9,000

International student: £17,460-£41,110

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 57

Graduate employability: 81-90

Student enrolment:

Total: 19,855

International students: 7,703

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

9. University of Leeds

Uk 1

While University of Leeds is far from the highest ranked university in the world, it's certainly located in one of the best student cities in the world!

Essentially the whole town is based around the university and the social scene and nightlife is made for a student's budget.

From one pound pints on Wednesday night to five pound pub meals on Thursdays!

You'll definitely be hard-pressed to find a better social campus in the UK, especially as an international student.

In saying that, the academics at Leeds aren't disposable and they still offer some high quality degrees.

While Leeds is ranked just outside the top 100 universities worldwide, it places in the top 60 colleges for graduate employability.

If you have an interest in Earth and marine sciences, Leeds is for you, as this is their top ranked degree at equal 18th in the world.

Leeds also has reputable courses in geography (24th), anatomy and physiology (31st), and English Language and Literature (40th)

The best news?

Admission is more than achievable for most students.

For all courses, applicants must have a minimum acceptable level of literacy and numeracy (which varies from course to course).

Typically, the minimum requirement for admission into an undergraduate degree at University of Leeds is a pass in a combination of five subjects in GCSE/GCE A level examinations or equivalent.

A pass? You can totally do that!

Obviously, standards do vary depending on the course you choose and can be competitive for the more renowned degrees such as Earth and marine sciences.


Local student: £9,250

International student: £15,500-£16,450

QS World University Rankings:

Overall: 101

Graduate employability: 51-60

Student enrolment:

Total: 29,645

International students: 7,534

To find out your chances of gaining admission try our UK University Admissions Calculator.

Final Thoughts:

Whether you haven't quite achieved the outrageous standard of grades to gain admission, or you don't buy into the imposed pressure and prestige of the Oxbridge colleges, there are plenty of other options for you in the UK!

And despite common misconception, the standard of education outside of Oxbridge remains world class!

As always, however, there are plenty of other factors you need to consider beyond the quality of education when selecting a university to attend.

Location, lifestyle, graduate opportunities, and cost are just a some of the important features that need to be investigated before selecting which college you're going to apply for.

Luckily for you, most of this info can be found above!

So if you've had a read and you're ready to take the next step and look into applying, have a squiz at some of our other blogs or dive into our full-blown eBook with every last sliver of detail about applying to UK colleges, How to Study in the UK: Demystifying the Process.

Whatever your next move is, good luck!

I'm sure you'll achieve great things in the UK, my friend.