In the UK, there are around 150 universities, plus hundreds of smaller colleges to choose from.  So how to find the right university?  Start with these 6 simple steps.

1.  Take a moment …

…to think about why you want to go to university and what you want to achieve.

Sit down with a pen and paper and write down your thoughts.   Don’t do this in a rush.  Take the time to think about not only the subject that you want to study, but also what you want to get out of your experience at university.

Also look at your qualifications, both academic and English (if you’re not at a native speaker’s level).  This too will help you look for the right university.

If you’re not sure what to study yet, make sure to read our post on how to choose a subject to study at university.

Here are some examples:
  • I want to go to university because…
  • I want to study abroad because…
  • I choose the UK because…
  • I want to study this subject because…
  • In the future (after my studies), I want to….
  • My academic grades are …, my English language level is….
  • At university, I want to get involved in different activities in my free time (for example sports)
  • I like/don’t like living in big cities
  • University location is/is not important to me
  • I will pay for my studies with…

2. Decide What to Look For

Now, think about what your ideal university needs to offer.

Make a list of the things you’ll be looking for when deciding which university to apply to. Don’t make your list too long or too short – Six to eight points should be enough.

Some things may matter more to you than others.  You could give ‘stars’ to your different criteria, like this:

for something you would like, but, if the university doesn’t have it, you would still apply there.

for something you would really like.  If the university doesn’t have it, you might still apply there, but you will prefer universities that do offer it.

for something that’s very important to you.  If the university doesn’t have it, you won’t apply there.

Here are some examples:
  • The degree the university offers must be recognised in my country to work in the field of…. ***
  • The total cost, including fees and living, should not be higher than … ***
  • There should be an active student community and a lot of opportunities to do sports & other activities in my free time ***
  • There should be English language support before and after the start of my course **
  • The university should be in or near a big city *
  • The university should offer on-campus student housing **
  • The university should have a good ranking **
  • The university should offer international scholarships *

3. Start Your Search Online

Now that you know what you’re looking for, the question of how to find the right university will be easier.

Start your search by looking online for courses to get an idea of what is on offer.   If you’ve read our post on how to choose a subject to study, you will be familiar with these two websites:

If location is very important to you,  use this interactive map to search for universities:

If you want to know what students say about a course or if you want to compare courses, use this website. However, before you do, make sure you follow the advice on how to use the website:

4. Prepare a List of Universities

As you search online, start compiling a list of universities that offer the things that you wrote down in step 2.  For each of the universities, write down their name and website address.

Start by looking for your ‘most important’ requirements first. This way you can decide whether or not to include a university in your list. For example, if a university does not offer the right degree, you know that you won’t apply there, so there is no point in looking at other information.

How many universities you include in your list is up to you, but it’s a good idea to aim for about 10 – 15.  In the end, you will only apply to five universities at most.  However, it’s best not to limit yourself too much at the beginning.

5. Give Points to the Universities

Using your list from step 2, now check how the universities fit what you’re looking for.

You might find it helpful to give each university points for each area you’re looking at.  Try this:

3 Points = Fits very well

2 Points = Fits, but it’s not perfect

1 Point = Doesn’t fit at all

Here are some examples:
The degree the university offers must be recognised in my country to work in the field of…. ***

University score: 1 point

Your reason:  The university doesn’t offer the degree that you need.

There should be an active student community and a lot of opportunity to do sports & other activities in my free time ***

University score: 3 points

Your reason: The Students Union is pretty active and there are hundreds of activities to choose from.  The university has fantastic sports facilities.

There should be English language support before and after the start of my course **

University score: 3 points

Your reason: There is a lot of English language support available.

The university should be in or near a big city *

University score: 3 points

Your reason: The university is located in a big city.

The university should offer on-campus housing **

University score: 1 point

Your reason: The university doesn’t offer any student housing, but they offer advice on renting privately.

The university should have a a good ranking **

University score: 3 points

Your reason: The university ranks very highly in league tables.

The university should offer international scholarships *

University score: 1 point

Your reason: The university only has  a very limited number of international scholarships.

In this example, the university fits many of your requirements.  However, it doesn’t at all meet one of your most important criteria: the type of degree that you need.  We should have stopped and not looked at any other criteria.  We just kept going to show you some examples.

6.  Get More Information

Once you have your list of universities that you’re interested in applying to, it’s time to find out more about each of them:

  • Visit the university website again. This time, browse everything. Really become familiar with what the university is like.
  • Download the university’s prospectus.
  • Follow the university on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.  Post any questions you might have.
  • If your question is more specific, email the Admissions Office or the International Office.
  • Check on the university’s website if any of their staff are attending an education fair near your town.
  • If the university has a representative office in your country/city, get in touch. The contact information will be given on the university’s website (usually in the section for international students)
  • If you are in the UK or are planning to visit the UK soon, contact the university in advance and book an appointment.

Summary

Finding the right university is the first step to ensure that you have a great time studying abroad.

With so many universities in the UK to choose from, we’re confident you’ll find a place that’s suitable for you – But it will take some time and work.

Make a plan for what you’re going to search for and where, and take things step by step.  Make notes as you go along and write down which of the universities meet your own requirements best.

Remember, UK universities visit many countries around the world to meet with and advise students.  In addition, you can get help from the British Council, or a university’s representative office if they have one in your country.

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