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Top 20 UK Universities for PhD Study in 2021

The United Kingdom has a world-famous higher education system and a large range of degree programmes, making it a very popular destination to study in. So, it’s no surprise that British universities are some of the highest ranking in the world.

But how do you choose the best university to study your PhD at?

It’s not always as straightforward as you might think but you can start by looking at the rankings. These tell you which UK universities are the most internationally respected and renowned.


Top 20 UK Universities in 2021
University THE 2021 QS 2021 ARWU 2020
University of Oxford 1 5 9
University of Cambridge 6 7 3
Imperial College London 11 8 25
UCL 16 10 16
London School of Economics and Political Science 27 49 151-200
University of Edinburgh 30 20 42
King's College London 35 =31 47
University of Manchester =51 =27 36
University of Warwick 77 62 101-150
University of Bristol 91 58 64
University of Glasgow =92 =77 151-200
University of Birmingham =107 87 101-150
Queen Mary University of London 110 =114 201-300
University of Sheffield =121 =93 101-150
University of Southampton =127 90 101-150
University of York =133 =150 201-300
Lancaster University =136 =135 301-400
Durham University =149 86 201-300
University of Nottingham =158 99 101-150
University of Leeds =160 91 101-150
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

So, how good are the top universities in the UK for PhD study?

The short answer is: very good! With 11 universities in the top 100 THE ranking, the UK has more top-ranked universities than any other European country.

In fact, the only other country to beat the UK globally is the USA. But, unlike the USA, all the UK’s top universities are publicly funded, reflecting their substantial investment in higher education.

Here we’ve given a brief introduction to university rankings. For a more detailed overview of how the system works and how to get the best out of it, check our guide to PhD rankings.

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Last updated - 27/04/2020

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