UK research opportunities

The Eden Project, Cornwall, an ecological park with the world's largest indoor rainforest

A long tradition of innovation, combined with a modern, trail-blazing spirit, makes the UK an ideal place to study. Did you know...

  • UK universities and research institutions have produced 107 Nobel Prize winners (Nobel Media AB)

  • UK research papers make up 20% of the world’s research papers with over 1,000 citations, surpassing the US in average research impact. The UK spends 4% of the world’s total expenditure on scientific research and development, with 6% of the world’s researchers (Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch).

  • Researchers in the UK gain more citations and usage per article, and write more articles individually, than anywhere else in the world (BIS, 2011).

  • The UK invests heavily in international collaboration – between 10 and 20% of the UK’s total science budget (including social sciences and humanities) goes to international research collaboration. 40% of research council grants have an international component, and over 50% of UK PhD students are international students (Universities UK 2008).

  • UK universities are investing more than ever – in the higher education sector, the amount of money spent on research and development has increased by 86% in the last 20 years (NAO, R&D funding for science and technology 2013).

  • The UK ranks second in the world for university-industry collaboration, after Switzerland and ahead of the US (BIS, Annual Innovation Report 2012). Students are often given the opportunity to gain experience in the workplace, and to learn from industry professionals.

  • UK university ‘spin-offs’ are among the most active and profitable in the world (HEFCE, 2011-12) – these are businesses that branch out from universities, using innovations developed there.

Discovery and invention in the UK

The UK government gives a lot of funding to research across the arts, sciences, engineering and technology. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, for example, invests more than £850 million a year in a wide range of projects, and the Science and Technology Facilities Council gives around £500 million to research each year. The Arts Council England has ambitious plans to invest in arts and culture between 2015 and 2018, including £70 million in grants per year.

The UK's many Nobel Prize winners include Sir Alexander Fleming for the discovery of penicillin and Francis Crick for the discovery of the ‘double helix’ structure of DNA. In 2013, University of Edinburgh professor Peter Higgs received the Nobel Prize for Physics, and the three Chemistry prize winners – Michael Levitt, Martin Karplus and Arieh Warshel – also spent part of their early careers in the UK.

The UK has been called a nation of inventors, and a recent public vote on British innovations highlighted its impact on modern technology – from Alan Turing’s ‘universal machine’ to Tim Berners-Lee’s creation of the World Wide Web. Looking forward, inventions that will shape our future include ionic liquid chemistry (believed to hold the key to ‘green’ chemistry) and a 3D printing technique that can be used on human cells.

With this intellectual heritage, new students in the UK are given the opportunity to learn from the brightest minds in their fields, but also to be creative, challenge accepted thinking, and reach their own conclusions.

Finding opportunities

To search for courses or scholarships at UK schools, colleges and universities, use the Search tool at the top of this page. To find out about research opportunities in the UK, visit EuraxessUK.