An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in London

An Introduction to Colleges & Universities in London

By Jessica Ponden
Contributing Writer -
December 1, 2005
London, UK

London is a city steeped in history. Teatime puns aside, England's capital is renowned for its centuries-old institutions, organizations and traditions. At the same time, it is also a hotbed for innovative new businesses and is the driving force of the United Kingdom's economy, with a quarter of a million businesses located in the metro area, according to Visit London. There are also more than 200 attractions with no admission charge in London. From the Tower of London to Buckingham Palace, even visitors get the royal treatment.

These are just some of the reasons why about 73,000 foreign students study in London, according to London Higher, an organization for colleges and universities in London. Overall, more than 350,000 students are enrolled in London's over 40 institutions of higher education. More than 40,000 plus shops and 3,800 pubs round out the city's offerings.

Sure, the weather isn't great. With a climate known as “temperate maritime,” London has a reputation for it's cloudy, rainy days. But more than seven million people call the city home; and that number is expected to grow to eight million by 2020, according to information from the London Development Agency.

Going to School in London

The University of London is a federation of 20 colleges, so overall enrollment is rather large. More than 125,000 students attend classes at one of the system's colleges, and another 34,000 are distance learners. With its extensive network of schools, the University of London is able to offer more than 4,500 courses each year.

Below is a list of colleges and universities in the London area (those in the University of London system are denoted with an asterisk).

As Europe's largest investment-banking center, London attracts many students interested in studying business and finance. There are, however, plenty of other areas of study. For example, the University of Westminster, has a wide variety of programs available to students. The social science, humanities and languages programs are Westminster's most popular, with more than 4,000 undergraduates enrolled this year. The business school has the second highest enrollment, followed by the media, arts and design school.

The School of Computing Science is increasingly popular at Middlesex University, as is the business school.

In addition there is an unusually large number of specialty schools in the area for those interested in focusing on dance, music, art, nursing, pharmacy, etc.

No matter what the school or program, something students in London can all benefit from is the National Union of Students membership card, which provides discounts on a variety of cultural events, travel and more.

Financial Aid

College Student in London, England

Obtaining financial assistance to attend school overseas requires a few more steps than the ordinary application process. It is imperative that funding is arranged before going abroad. In many cases, federal aid can still be secured, so students are encouraged to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form (FAFSA). The British government also offers some awards to international students through the British Council. Students should also apply for these before leaving for the United Kingdom. Note that students will not be granted a visa to enter the country if they cannot prove they have enough money to support themselves during their time of study.

More information is available by contacting the Council for International Education or the British Council. The Department for Education and Skills also offers comprehensive instructions for international students.

Information on specific scholarships can also be requested from an individual's school of choice. Students should be aware that no financial assistance is available from the University of London; but, rather, awards are given by each of the different universities in the system. It is necessary to contact the specific college for details.

Students interested in the University of Westminster may benefit from the school's scholarship program, which is believed to be the largest of its kind in the UK. The scholarship department was recently given the London Times Higher Award for Outstanding Support for Overseas Students.

"Westminster has one of the most diverse student bodies in the country, with representatives of 150 nations currently studying here,” said Vice-Chancellor Dr. Geoffrey Copland. “This award demonstrates our continuing commitment to these students and the development of countries across the world.”

More good news: UK degrees often take only three years, which can add up to some financial savings. Degree courses are shorter in the United Kingdom because they are more intensive.

Employment in London

London continues to strike a successful balance between tradition and progress. The area is known internationally as a center for finance and related business services including law and accounting, according to the Corporation of London. This is in addition to its rich culture, which has long sustained the London tourism industry.

With so much going on, it's little surprise the region's workforce has soared to 9 million. And many college students choose to stay in the area to work after graduation. In fact, nearly half of all University of London graduates stay in the capital. Many take advantage of The Career Group, the institution's career placement organization.

A survey recently conducted by the London Development Agency and Business Link for London highlighted the importance “of having a skilled workforce and the importance of investing in training and other support London's people need to play a full part in their city's economy and benefit from its prosperity,” London's Mayor Ken Livingstone said.

Tempering the rosy employment outlook is the city's relatively high unemployment rate. At 6.7 percent in greater London, the rate is above the UK average of 4.7 percent, according to a labor force survey. Fortunately, employment is expected to grow by an average of 1.4 percent a year for the next three years, a study by Oxford Economic Forecasting indicates.

The city also strives to attract residents and businesses from overseas. Much of the anticipated population growth, in fact, is expected to be fueled by international immigration, the OEF study shows. “London is the ultimate place to do business. It offers international companies the best possible opportunity for business success …” said Michael Charlton, chief executive of Think London, an agency that helps international businesses locate or expand in London.


Choosing to attend school in London can be rewarding for students. The city has a large selection of prestigious schools, its culture's diversity lends to the learning experience, and the city's growing economy brings opportunities for internships related to a student's major. In addition, an advanced education can be obtained more quickly than by attending a college or university in the United States which then help students who are concerned about the end costs associated with obtaining a college-level degree.