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Top UK Universities and Courses for International Students by Affordability, Popularity, & Rankings

Shishant Kumar Shishant Kumar
Study Abroad Expert

Pursuing higher education in the UK is a lucrative prospect for many international students. UK universities bring plenty of opportunities with their global outreach and high educational standards. Known for its basic and applied research in the STEM fields, UK also offers degree courses for a shorter duration, making it cheaper and more feasible for international students.

To study in the UK, an international student must choose a course and university well in advance. Factors such as ranking, popularity, expenses, etc., of the university/course plays an important role.

The average salary for UK graduates is nearly £ 23,000. Students can also work part-time during their studies for up to 20 hours a week. The minimum wage for students above 21 is £ 6.7 per hour.

China, Hong Kong, India, and Malaysia are some countries from which more than 50% of the UK’s international student population is derived. With the UK allowing a 2 year stay-back post study to international students from 2021, the percentage is only going to go up.

UK is the second most preferred destination among international students after the US. Almost 20 % of the student population in the UK comprises of International Students.

International students who want to study in the UK have more than 200 universities and colleges that offer more than a thousand unique courses for its students to choose from.

Top Universities in the UK

As per the QS World University Rankings 2020, 4 out of the top 10 universities in the world are from the United Kingdom and a total of 17 in the top 100. London, the capital city of England alone is home to 4 universities in the top 50 of the world.

Name of the UniversityQS World RankingLocation
University of Oxford4Oxford, England
University of Cambridge7Cambridge, England
University College London8London, England
Imperial College London9London, England
The University of Edinburgh20Scotland
The University of Manchester27Manchester, England
King’s College London33London, England
London School of Economics and Political Science44London, England
University of Bristol49Bristol, England
The University of Warwick62Coventry, England
University of Glasgow67Scotland
Durham University78Durham, England
University of Sheffield78England
University of Birmingham81England
University of Leeds93Yorkshire, England
University of Southampton97England
University of St Andrews100Scotland

Top UK Universities with Cheapest Tuition Fees for International Students

Studying in the UK can be quite expensive, International students need around 12,000 GBP as living cost for a year, that too if they are not studying in London.

To help international students with a budget and who are looking for more affordable options, here are the top 10 cheapest UK universities for International Students, based on the Reddin survey conducted by The Complete University Guide.

UniversityAnnual Tuition Fees for International Students
Coventry University9000-12,600 GBP approx
Royal Agricultural University10,000 GBP approx
University of Suffolk10,800 GBP approx
University of Cumbria10,500 GBP approx
The University of the West of Scotland10,600 GBP approx
University of Sunderland10,500 GBP approx
Ravensbourne University London10,800-13,500 GBP approx
Buckinghamshire New University11,000 GBP approx
Plymouth Marjon University
University of Wales Trinity Saint David

These fees are still high, but International students can avail of various scholarships, bursaries, and financial aid available to study in the UK.

UK Universities with the most International Students

The United Kingdom is home to more than 4.5 lakh International Students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Based on the statistics available at the HESA website for the year 2017-2018, the total number of international students studying in the UK was 458,490, out of which 17,990 were enrolled in the University College London alone.

Here is the list of top ten universities/colleges with the most International students

InstitutionTotal number of international students (2017-18)
University College London17,990
The University of Manchester13,750
The University of Edinburgh12,025
Coventry University11,285
King’s College London11,175
Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine9,560
University of the Arts, London9,175
The University of Warwick8,990
The University of Sheffield8,965
The University of Glasgow8,815

Courses in the UK for International Students

The United Kingdom and its universities are renowned for top-class education, high-quality teaching and research, and academic training. UK universities offer academic excellence and quality with thousands of courses available for international students and help them become an expert in the field of study. Courses done in the UK are accredited all over the world.

International students can choose from a variety of different undergraduate and graduate courses, and can also combine their courses to make a degree program that suits their needs and interests.

Courses in the UK for International students in higher education qualifications include:

  • Foundation degrees
  • Diplomas
  • Bachelor degrees
  • Post-graduate degrees
  • Doctorate degrees

Given below are some of the top courses offered at the various universities and colleges in the UK for the International students:

Agricultural SciencesArts and HumanitiesBiology and Biochemistry
ChemistryClinical MedicineComputer Science
Economics and BusinessEngineeringEnvironment/Ecology
GeosciencesImmunologyMaterials Science
MathematicsMicrobiologyMolecular biology and Genetics
Neuroscience and BehaviourPharmacology and ToxicologyPhysics
Plant and Animal SciencePsychiatry/PsychologySocial Sciences and Public Health
Space ScienceManagementLaw

Popular UK Courses among International Students

  1. Business and Management

Business and Management courses in the UK are the most popular among international students. As of 2017-18, around 1.2 lakhs international students were enrolled in the business and management courses offered by the universities and colleges in the UK.

Most of the B&M programs in the UK offer placements with globally recognized companies. Top Universities in the UK for Business and Management courses:

Name of the UniversityLocation
University of OxfordOxford, England
University of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, Scotland
University of WarwickCoventry, England
  1. Engineering and Technology

Engineering and technology courses are the second most sought in the UK by international students. UK Engineering and Technology schools are amongst the best in the world. Their study programs are highly research-based aiming to equip students to understand the basic core of the subject and also help them in developing advanced application knowledge. Top 3 universities in the UK for Engineering and Technology.

Name of the UniversityLocation
University of BristolBristol, England
University of CambridgeCambridge, England
Imperial College LondonLondon, England
  1. Social Studies

Universities in the Uk offers a diverse range of subjects included within social studies, as it also includes economics and politics, alongside courses that lead to a professional qualification in social work. Around 42 international students are currently enrolled in various social studies courses offered in the UK.

Name of the UniversityLocation
University of OxfordOxford, England
University of GlasgowGlasgow, Scotland
University of LeedsYorkshire, England
  1. Law

Universities in the UK are among the oldest universities that offer law courses, due to this long and rich tradition, UK law degrees have become very popular and highly competitive for international students.

Name of the UniversityLocation
University of OxfordOxford, England
University of CambridgeCambridge, England
University of DundeeDundee, Scotland
  1. Economics

The United Kingdom is one of the leading and oldest economic centers in the world, students from all over the world are interested to study Economics from the leading economy capital of the world. Studying Economics in the UK also provides International students to have practical experience through various internships and work classes. Top Universities in the UK for Economics.

Name of the InstituteLocation
University of OxfordOxford, England
University of CambridgeCambridge, England
University College LondonLondon, England
  1. Computer Science

Around 20 thousand International students are currently studying Computer Science courses in the UK. UK universities have been instrumental in the development of computing and continue to conduct research for the world’s top companies. Studying Computer Science in the UK gives International students the core skills required to develop their careers in the booming field of Computer Science. These three universities are most sought by International students for Computer Science courses in the UK.

Name of the InstituteLocation
University of CambridgeCambridge, England
University of St. AndrewsSt. Andrews, Scotland
University of OxfordOxford, England

How To Choose the Best UK University as an International Student?

Explore the UK universities rankings

  • Learn in detail about the universities individually.
  • Compare the rankings of the universities by each other by using Times Higher Education World University Rankings and subject rankings.
  • Compare the universities by considering the rankings of the best courses to study at university

Research funding opportunities

  • Learn about the eligibility criteria for various scholarships in the UK.
  • Research about the application deadlines in advance.
  • Find scholarships based on your intended course of study from the British Council’s Education UK website.

Choose a location

  • Select a university by considering the location of living, living costs, culture, weather, etc.
  • Nottingham is one of the most affordable cities in the UK with student-friendly cafes.
  • In London, International students will experience the hustle-bustle of the huge metropolis but will have to pay high rents.
  • Live in Brighton, Bournemouth or Cardiff or Southampton if you wish to live by the sea.

Contact and visit universities

Learn about student life

  • Universities in the UK cater to all types of extracurricular activities for international students.
  • Societies and recreational activities can be last but not the least option to decide the best one out of the shortlisted universities to study in the UK.

Preparation for Tests and Application

  • Prepare for standardized tests like GMAT, GRE, UKCAT, TOEFL or IELTS.
  • Register before the test dates, and crack the exam.
  • Prepare documents including reference letter, SOP and essays.
  • Apply before the deadline.

After the student has decided on the course and the university they want to study in, he/she is advised to start applying to the universities in the UK at least a year before.

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