United Kingdom
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Interactive map of UK Universities

Click on the picture to go to the interactive map.

Types of institutions

There are two major kinds of degree-awarding institutions offering higher education in the UK:

  • Universities—traditionally regarded as the centers of academic learning and offer a wide variety of courses.
  • Colleges and Institutions of Higher Education—generally smaller than universities and may concentrate on specific fields of study such as education, art or music.


  • Oxford and Cambridge—have a unique status and different entrance system than all other schools. A student can apply to Oxford or Cambridge but not both; this is usually referred to as an Oxbridge application. The UCAS application plus supplemental forms and submissions must be completed before October 15(September for Cambridge applicants wanting to interview in Asia).
  • Red Brick universities—sometimes called ‘civic’ universities. These were mainly built in the late 19thcentury and include schools such as Bristol, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield and Manchester. Entrance is very competitive and the degree programs tend to be less flexible than the newer universities.
  • “New” universities"—built in the 1960’s such as York, Sussex, Essex, East Anglia. These vary in competitiveness. Programs at these schools tend to be more flexible and often interdisciplinary.
  • New universities, former “Polytechnics”—these schools were granted university status in 1992. They tend to have strong industrial or commercial links and often offer more applied and vocational courses using the sandwich program. They offer science, technology, design and business oriented courses. Many have strong job placement records with industry. Tend to be less competitive for admissions and have a wider variety of students enrolling in their programs.
  • “Technology” universities—also founded in the 1960’s such as Brunel and Aston. These schools offer very highly regarded degrees in pre-professional fields. Admissions may be very competitive.
  • Scottish universities—usually offer four-year programs that tend to be broader based than other UK courses. Edinburgh and St. Andrews are very competitive.

Undergraduate courses

Undergraduate degrees usually take three years to complete although some institutions offer special four-year programs for students whose high school qualifications do not meet university requirements. In these cases, some universities may require an applicant to complete a “foundation year” before enrolling in the full degree program. Professional courses such as medicine, dentistry and architecture may take up to seven years to complete.

Admission requirements

Admission requirements to colleges/universities in Great Britain are often selective. In the U.K., each institution sets its own standards for admission and individually reviews the applicants. Some are more rigid while others are more flexible. Most universities will list requirements based on tariff points, the GCE, AS or A level exam results but accept other types of assessment (IB diploma). Some schools in the UK are now expecting students to take and score well on the SAT/Subject Tests if the student is attending an American high school in the United States (or ISB). Students must consult the university to determine admissions requirements. The best way to find out about a particular school is to visit their website and to write to their admissions office directly.

UK applications

In applying to the UK, it is best to identify the course of study first, then the university. The UCAS website allows for searches which will produce universities offering the selected course of study. Career