Universities in the UK

Universities in the UK


The whole of Europe was in the deepest Middle Ages, when in 1096 the University of Oxford emerged from several colleges in England. The University of Cambridge and other world-famous universities followed just a few decades later. Academic training was initially reserved for the richest citizens only.

At the beginning of the 19th century, universities in England sought to make education accessible to all. Organizations such as the Workers Education Association (WEA) were and are in some cases still responsible for setting topics in research and teaching.

This basic idea was continued in the 20th century in the course of two major educational expansions and new universities were founded. In the 1960s and early 1990s, many modern colleges were granted university status.

The title “University”

Since 2005, the use of the official name University or University College has been available to all universities that award state-recognized Bachelor and Master courses. Previously, only those institutions could call themselves universities at which a doctorate or habilitation was possible.

The venerable universities and university colleges also operate under the Royal Charter of the Privy Council. These universities were granted university status by the royal head.

Universities in Great Britain at a glance

As in many other areas, tradition is paramount in the university landscape in Great Britain. To learn more about United Kingdom and Europe, please visit handbagpicks. Of the around 130 British universities and university colleges, a distinction is still made between traditional and modern universities, although both types of universities have the same study system and a comparable quality of teaching.

The universities in Great Britain are named differently according to the respective founding waves:

Universities with a long tradition

The so-called ” Ancient Universities ” in Great Britain are still associated with a high level of prestige to this day. The three oldest universities in the country, which were founded in the Middle Ages: the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the Scottish St. Andrews University are world-renowned.

To date, these elite universities can be found in national ranking lists, such as the Guardian University Guide, and in worldwide university rankings at the top.

The City Universities or Red Brick Universities

The large ” City Universities ” or ” Red Brick Universities ” were founded in the industrial strongholds at the turn of the century. They received their university status during the First World War. These colleges are also among the most prestigious universities in England and are members of the Russell Group.

These universities are particularly focused on the natural sciences or have colleges in the engineering sciences.

Modern universities

The change in educational policy in Britain in the second half of the 20th century responded to strong demands for academics. By a government resolution, many universities that had previously been providing vocational training were given university status.

Some of these modern universities therefore have a more practical curriculum and greater flexibility with regard to admission.

New Universities or Plate Glass Universities

In the 1960s, many ” New Universities ” or ” Plate Glass Universities ” emerged as campus universities with lots of space and green spaces.

The new large-scale universities should make it possible for all qualified Britons to study at university. The term ” plate glass ” refers to the structural design of the universities and distinguishes the new universities from the traditional red brick universities.


Around a third of all students are enrolled at Polytechnics. The polytechnics was awarded in the 1990s at the University status. At the technical level, the polytechnics hardly differ from the time-honored universities and red brick universities.

Even today, the universities can no longer be distinguished by name. For this reason, the New Universities are a good alternative to traditional universities – especially with regard to the chances of admission.

University colleges

The University Colleges also have a university status and can officially recognized titles give. For this reason, they are by no means to be equated with the college type of university. Just like the universities, the university colleges are divided into time-honored and modern institutions.

The venerable university colleges were often the founding elements of the universities. In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, they continued to develop as independent universities. The University College London is therefore one of the oldest institutes at the University of London.

The modern university colleges have been able to bear this title since 2005 if they are allowed to award state-recognized bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They differ from universities in the size of the facility, which means that they are usually geared towards a limited number of students.

Private versus state diversity

The majority of the universities are state, but still managed autonomously. There are currently only three private universities with university status:

  • Regent’s University London
  • University of Buckingham
  • IFS University College

These private universities also have state-recognized undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In the private sector, however, there are a large number of colleges and other higher education institutions.

Universities in the UK