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The Top 6 UK Universities

Updated on September 28, 2010

Every year when the rankings for the top UK universities come out there is an outbreak of discussion, debate, and often outrage about where the various institutions have ranked. Usually nobody is happy and everybody seems to have their own opinion!

It seems to me that part of the problem lies in everybody having their own criteria on which to judge the different universities. The quality and value of an education at any given university is of course entirely dependent on the characteristics and needs of the individual student. An undergraduate who might reach top honours at one university might struggle and be unhappy at another, completely regardless of the universities’ ranking, or which is considered the ‘top university’ in the UK.

Furthermore, one prospective student might consider the academic ranking of a potential university to be of paramount importance, whilst another might make their selection based on entirely different criteria, being more interested in the social life they are likely to experience in a given university city, or the funding available to help them through the course at other UK universities.

So I have spoken to as many friends as possible from a hugely varied range of UK universities and also carefully studied the University league tables as well as lots of other studies which have been done to compare universities across a whole broad range of different criteria.

Here are my picks for the best 6 UK universities, dependent on what you might specifically be looking for! (Of course I don’t claim that this is any way a definitive or exhaustive list, it is more of a bit of fun to let you know my opinions and see what yours are! I’d love to hear your comments about what you think and how much you enjoyed your own university experience!)

1. Top University for Student Satisfaction: St Andrews

As far as I’m concerned there is no better indication of University success than student satisfaction polls. Regardless of league tables and academic results, it’s what the students say that really reveals the truth.

In an exhaustive recent poll by the complete university guide, St Andrews University in Scotland topped the student satisfaction rankings, with an incredible 93% of students happy with the level of teaching they had received during their course.

Add this to the university’s reputation as an extremely warm and community-focused institution and we have a winner!

2. Top All Round University: Durham

Durham recently won the National Student Housing Survey for best student living experience and reportedly offers a fantastic living environment, with students raving about the quality of the halls.

Sharing the collegiate system for which Oxford and Cambridge Universities are famous, Durham provides a close, community atmosphere, whilst students report that its position as the prominent focal point for the local area promotes a “strong sense of student identity” .

Its frequent top 10 finishes in best UK universities rankings such as the Times university guide also confirm its academic excellence, making this a strong contender for the all-round UK University of choice.

3. Top University for Student to Staff Ratio: UCL

With 8.9 students per staff member UCL came top of this year’s university ranking for student/staff ratio, confirming the university’s reputation for intense attention to its students and top class tutorials.

A friend of mine who attended the university tells me the close attention of staff to each individual student makes for a heightened and challenging intellectual atmosphere, where every student is expected and encouraged to contribute to discussion and debate and nobody gets left in the shadows!

Of course being located in London is another huge advantage for those who are interested in social life and cultural pursuits!

4. Top University for graduate employment: Imperial College London

Very understandably in these economically uncertain times many people told me their primary concern when looking at universities was just to be sure of a good job when they left!


According to independent research undertaken by the complete university guide for 2011, Imperial College London is the top UK University for graduate employment; with 86% of students successfully in work 6 months after graduation.

5. Top University for sport: Loughborough

Loughborough University is definitely the first institution everybody mentioned when I asked about sporting excellence. It isn’t just the fact that they constantly seem to whip all the other Uni’s into submission in their matches, but apparently their research and academic approach to sport that really sets it apart.

Facilities and some of the foremost researchers and laboratories in the UK mean that Loughborough is an excellent centre for sports science and academic study of sport as well as playing it and scoring the goals yourself!

6. Top University for student social experience: Manchester

The self-proclaimed “most popular British university”, Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK. Its size, combined with the fact that it is situated in a city that is also home to several other universities, make Manchester the UK capital for student social activity and nightlife.

Every Manchester student I spoke to said it was absolutely fantastic for social life and nightlife, with an entire city full of students and always a huge number of totally diverse and varied social and cultural activities to choose from!

So there you have it: my top 6 picks for UK Universities. Let me know yours and I hope you find this helpful!

What's Your Top UK University?

Which do you think is the best University in the UK?

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      dalgleeshe 5 years ago

      I think durham university has higher satisfaction ratings than any of the universities on this list including st. andrews. My ranking for best experience (academics, drama, sport, music and social life) would be durham, oxford, st. andrews, cambridge, ucl, exeter...

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      nevada 6 years ago

      a very good assessment. Durham is indeed the best all round university in the UK.