Universities and colleges
Most UK higher education courses are taught by universities, but plenty are also taught at colleges, specialist art institutions, business schools and agricultural colleges.
Choosing a reputable university or college
The UK has a well-deserved reputation worldwide for providing high quality and well-respected higher education. When you are choosing a course, make sure it is with a reputable university or college that has met strict standards set by the UK government and education sector.
There are 160 universities and colleges in the UK that are permitted to award a wide variety of degrees to suit most educational aspirations. All have degree-awarding powers recognised by the UK authorities (UK and Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies). These are known as ‘recognised bodies’. See all institutions which are recognised by the UK authorities as having UK degree-awarding powers.
There are also over 700 colleges and other institutions which do not have degree-awarding powers but provide complete courses leading to recognised UK degrees. These are known as ‘listed bodies’. Courses at these institutions are validated by institutions which have degree-awarding powers. See institutions offering courses leading to a degree from a recognised body.
Please see www.gov.uk/recognised-uk-degrees for more details.
These recognised and listed universities and colleges must undergo regular inspections to ensure the standard of their teaching, facilities, academic education and student care is high.
Finding the ‘top’ universities and colleges
Many international students ask us to recommend the best UK universities and colleges. The UK government does not have a ranking system for its higher education universities and colleges. There are a number of independent ranking systems. These can be useful, but bear in mind that they only tell part of the story.
We recommend that you consult a range of different sources, to find a university or college that is right for you. For example, you may want to investigate how the institution performs in terms of:
- Student satisfaction
- Career prospects
- Student care
- Teaching standards, etc.
The following websites should help to give you a better idea of what each university and college has to offer you:
Unistats allows you to search for and compare information on university and college courses across the UK. You can use Unistats to find out what previous students thought about the course you're interested in, the likely costs, and the kind of jobs or further study that students went on to after graduating. Find out more about Unistats here.
QAA conducts reviews of all recognised and listed UK higher education institutions, evaluating the quality of their teaching, facilities and academic education. Have a look at their website to find out how each institution performed.
The Research Excellence Framework evaluates UK universities and colleges in terms of the quality of their academic research. Visit their website for reports on each institution that took part in the assessment.
Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to study in the UK (find out if you need a visa here). If you do need a visa, you must study at a school, college or university that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration.
- For the Tier 4 (General) student visa and the Tier 4 (Child) student visa, you must study at a school, college or university that is a Tier 4 licensed sponsor.
- For the Short-term study visa, your school, college or university must meet the criteria specified on this page.