Choosing a University in the UK: The Complete Guide For 2024

Embarking on the journey of choosing a university in the UK is an exciting yet crucial step in your academic path. This guide is designed to provide you with valuable insights and practical advice to navigate the decision-making process effectively. From exploring university rankings to understanding funding options, from assessing campus locations to engaging with student life, we’ll help you make an informed choice that aligns with your academic aspirations and personal preferences.

How to Choose A UK University

Table of Contents

Choosing a University using Rankings

No matter how much you already know about university alternatives in the UK, university rankings such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and subject rankings can help you learn even more about individual universities and how they compare to one another.

The interactive rankings tables allow you to select institutions by nation, so if you type “UK,” you’ll get the rankings of all UK universities in the top 1,000. You can view additional information about a university by clicking on its profile, but you can also sort only UK institutions by a performance score such as teaching or innovation, or a “key statistic” such as student gender ratio or staff-to-student ratio.

For a quick comparison, see our post on the best universities in the UK

Assuming you wish to study engineering and expect to gain some industry experience during or after your degree programme. You might be interested in learning which UK institution is best for innovation, i.e. which generates the most money from collaboration with the industry.

Choosing a University through Research Funding Opportunities

You can save universities that interest you by adding them to a personal list while sorting by various characteristics. You can make a list of the “best universities in the UK for innovation” and the “best universities in Northern England,” for example, and utilise both in your selection.

Numerous universities provide scholarships to international students, although the qualifications differ. If money is an issue, it is important to investigate scholarships and application deadlines well in advance.

The British Council’s Education UK website offers a resource and search engine to assist you in locating scholarships based on your planned study degree and home region.

Choosing a University by Location

There is no shortage of eye-catching institutions and places full of character, from St Andrews on Scotland’s magnificent east coast to Oxford’s dreaming spires. However, picking a university also entails deciding where to live, so all of the criteria you would consider when relocating to a new place are equally relevant.

Living prices, culture, weather, and a variety of other factors that differ by location are all important considerations. Do you want to be in London, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the massive metropolis, but paying some of the country’s highest rents? Or do you want to live in Nottingham, one of the most affordable cities in the UK, with plenty of student-friendly cafes but significantly less job chances than the capital? Maybe you’d want to be near the sea, in Brighton, Bournemouth, Southampton, or Cardiff. 

When it comes to selecting a place that meets your needs and tastes, there is no right or wrong answer. Some students chose Scotland because the tuition fees are lower; others prefer Northern Ireland because they are interested in Celtic history and culture. Consider your priorities, conduct research, and then try to visit to get a better sense of student life.

What Sports and Societies are Available in the University

Whether you’re a die-hard football fan or a poker enthusiast, look for societies and clubs at your university to see if there’s something for you. All institutions provide dozens (or hundreds) of extracurricular activities, which should be investigated as well. University life is more than just studying!

Learn more about Student Accommodation

If you are entering university, you will most likely be leaving your family for the first time. As a result, it is critical that your living situation be pleasant and welcoming, something you can call “home.” Be prepared to learn how to cook, how to run a washing machine, and how to do the dishes. Therefore, don’t leave out the accommodation aspect when choosing a university. 

Contact and Visit Universities

When you have a shortlist of no more than ten alternatives, contact the colleges and universities to learn more. You can obtain contact information for universities by using our university directory or by clicking on a university in a rankings table. More information about courses, fees, funding, and student life can be obtained at the university.

Although it is not always possible, attending a university open day is the best thing to do at this time. After all of your exhaustive research and sorting of institutions based on your preferences, nothing beats seeing it in person and meeting existing students and staff to determine whether you want to live and study there.

Even if you are unable to visit a university, the admissions contact may be able to connect you with current students so you may learn firsthand what it is like.

Attending University Open Days

Prior to the open day

  • Conduct your research: Before applying, choose four or five universities to visit. Take into account elements such as location (city or town), campus selection, and distance from home. If necessary, seek help from professors, parents, or people with university experience. Align your possible final test results with the entry requirements of institutions, striving for a balance of demanding and reasonable possibilities.
  • Figure out how to get there: It may appear straightforward, but with so many other things to consider, commuting to university is one of the last things you want to have to worry about. Examine train schedules, parking alternatives, and total travel time.
  • Make a schedule for your day: Most universities have lectures and Q&A sessions. Make a list of the ones you intend to attend, as well as their locations. Attend a few of these classes to obtain an understanding of the academic side. Don’t forget to take advantage of the campus tour while it’s available.
  • Take notes during the open day: Snap notes on interesting topics you hear at the sessions, and if you think it will help, snap pictures of the school and surrounding region. You’re likely to attend more than one open day, so you’ll need a way to keep track of them all.
  • Talk to people: This is essential. Engage with both students and instructors, asking as many questions as you can. Inquire with instructors about course specifics and students about campus life. Investigate the course format, study abroad possibilities, module selection, local food recommendations, and student nightlife. Remember that people frequently laud their own university, so focus on the issues that are most important to you in order to make an informed decision.

Following the open day

    • Review: It’s time to make a decision after seeing all of the universities. Some may find it easier to make this decision if particular universities stood out, whilst others may struggle if they liked all of the options. Make a list of what is most important to you in a university and prioritise it, then offer preference to those who meet those requirements.
    • Contact: If you have a burning question while examining your notes, don’t be afraid to contact the institution again. Contact the admissions office, and they should be able to assist you.
    • Think about if you want to return to the institution: Following your selection of colleges and acceptance of an offer, you may be invited to a course-specific post-offer open day. It’s a wonderful opportunity to delve into the specifics of your selected degree and gain a better sense of your future academic path.

Discover more about Student Life

Whether you’re a budding actor, a chess champion, a green-fingered gardener, or a wine connoisseur, UK colleges cater for a wide range of hobbies and enthusiasts, so you’ll have no trouble finding extracurricular activities wherever you wind up.

If everything else fails and two universities are equal on all points, the societies and leisure activities in the vicinity may be the decisive factor for you. Durham might help you start a comedy career, Manchester might provide you your first chance to do music gigs in local bars, and Cambridge (or Oxford) might see you compete in The Boat Race in a few years.

How to choose a university in the UK
Exploring the Pathways: Navigating the Decision-Making Process to Choose the Perfect University in the UK


Choosing a university in the UK involves researching rankings, funding opportunities, locations, and visiting campuses during open days. Engaging with students and faculty, taking notes, and prioritising preferences are key steps. When deciding, consider what matters most to you and explore extracurricular offerings. Make your choice based on a holistic evaluation to ensure a fulfilling university experience that aligns with your goals and interests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing a university should be based on your academic interests, location preferences, and budget. Research different universities and their programmes to find the best fit for you.

Most universities in the UK are very welcoming to international students and actually have a higher acceptance rate for international students than domestic ones.

Universities in the UK have the best academic standards in the world. Four out of the top 10 universities in the world are from the UK (QS World Ranking 2023) . When studying in the UK, you will find that practical and utility-based knowledge is preferred over textbook learning.

Yes, international students can work part-time during term time and full-time during holidays. However, there are restrictions, so be sure to check the visa regulations.

Get involved in clubs, societies, and extracurricular activities. Explore the culture, make friends, and use university resources to support your academic journey.

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