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3 best universities in the UK for a PhD in 2023

best universities in uk for phd
Pursuing a PhD is a huge commitment and can be an intense journey. Source: Roslan Rahman/AFP

The best universities in UK for PhD are often ranked for their research quality across a broad range of subject areas and find themselves among the top 100 in global rankings

Some of these universities include the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Imperial College London – all internationally respected and renowned for their prestige and standard of research. 

Compared to the US where the total length of a full-time PhD is usually four to six years, it only takes between three to four years to complete your PhD in the UK. 

But pursuing it is a huge commitment. Time will be scarce and you will find yourself writing in abundance to meet the deadlines that come with it. 

With these challenges in mind, it’s important that you choose the best universities in UK for PhD programmes. You should also be mindful of pacing yourself on this journey.

These are the three best universities in UK for PhD and why you should choose them:

best universities in uk for phd

Getting this advanced degree is a long and tough journey. It’s important that you choose the right programme at the best universities in UK for PhD studies. Source: Narinder Nanu/AFP

1. King’s College London

Notably among one of the best universities in UK for PhD studies, King’s College London is ranked third amongst multi-faculty universities for research impact under REF 2021.

Twelve Nobel Prize winners are associated with King’s, including Maurice Wilkins who discovered the structure of DNA, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who fought South Africa’s apartheid regime.

Postgraduate programmes offered at KCL take on interdisciplinary approaches and world-class teaching with the use of digital tools in the humanities.

These include PhD and MPhil, Professional doctorates, MD (Res), MPhilStud, Joint/Dual PhD. 

Some of these programmes are flexible, allowing students to choose between a part-time option, a full-time option and even distance/e-learning option. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying for postgraduate studies at King’s College London. 

2. University of Manchester

The University of Manchester is part of the prestigious Russell Group of universities and is ranked 28th on QS World University Rankings 2023.

It conducts research across an extensive range of subject areas, from Arab World Studies to Coatings and Ceramics to Physics and Astronomy.

As a postgraduate researcher, you will be a part of the Manchester Doctoral College (MDC) – a cross-collaboration to improve research experience across the institution. 

MDC has established flagship funding opportunities, such as the President’s Doctoral Scholarship award scheme, to support the next generation of leaders in research.

Search here for the full list of doctorate programmes.

3. University of Bristol

Another university that’s a Russell Group member is the University of Bristol.

Its research continues to make strides since the uni’s founding in 1876, tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues like infection and immunity, human rights, climate change, and more.

The university also currently has 40 Fellows of the Royal Society and 13 of the British Academy – a remarkable achievement for a relatively small institution. 

Postgraduate programmes here include the traditional PhD, professional doctorates (EdD, EngD, DEdPsych, MD, DDS) and international dual PhD

Another standout feature is the uni has one of the largest concentrations of funded Doctoral Training Partnerships and Centres in the UK.

These often offer full scholarships for three to four years, and many operate in collaboration with other universities or global companies, providing access to a wealth of resources.

Looking for tips on how to better prepare yourself for your PhD journey? Read here for everything you need to know to get into the best universities in UK for PhD studies.