The 5 most popular cities for international students in the UK

By Sean Campbell• Last updated: Nov 1, 2023
The 5 most popular cities for international students in the UK
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The UK welcomes over 500,000 international students every year, making it one of the most popular places on earth to study abroad. 

In fact, foreign students make up over 20% of the entire student population in the UK, so if you do wind up there, you’ll have an easier time settling in and finding your own people as well as learning about a new culture. Speaking of which, check out our handy article on How to Navigate British Culture!

But of all the major university cities in the UK, which are the most popular with international students? Here, we take a look at the top 5 (well, 10 actually), and bring to your attention a couple of universities worth checking out. 

Once you’re done reading this article, check out Edvoy’s explorer page on studying abroad in the UK, and see what tickles your fancy. 

Oh, and once you’ve decided where you want to study, here’s another gift for you: A step-by-step guide to applying for a UK student visa

Okay, let’s get into it. 

The 5 most popular cities for international students in the UK

1. London

Surprise, surprise… It was never in any doubt that London would be the most popular UK city for international students. It’s one of the world’s most famous, diverse, and lively cities, with quite literally something for anyone. In fact, well over 20% of all the UK’s international students are based in London, with approximately 125,000 of them in total!

Beyond the appealing lifestyle in London, there’s also an array of world-class universities. I’m talking about the Royal Holloway University of London, Goldsmiths, London Met, London South Bank, and the London School of Business & Finance

International students in London are pretty spoiled for choice!

2. Edinburgh

A trip north to Scotland brings us squarely to Edinburgh, one of the UK’s best-loved cities, and home to around 70,000 international students. Edinburgh is deservedly famed for its beautiful architecture and charm, its small(ish) size, as well as its live music, comedy and arts scene. 

The University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University are two of the most popular Edinburgh universities for international students.

3. Manchester

Due to the popularity of its two major football teams, Man Utd and Man City, there’s barely a person on earth who isn’t somewhat familiar with Manchester. That’s without even mentioning the number of famous musicians and bands from the city -- Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses (Give ‘em a listen if you haven’t heard of them!). 

It’s a real hotspot for international students too, which is no surprise considering that there are 20 universities within one hour of the Greater Manchester area -- the most popular of which are Manchester Met and The University of Manchester. 

In such a big place though, it’s good to know where the best spots to live are, so check out our guide to The 5 most popular areas for student accommodation in Manchester

4. Glasgow

Home to the celebrated trio of the University of Glasgow, The University of Strathclyde, and Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow is easily one of the most charismatic cities in the UK, never mind in Scotland. 

The city is a student-friendly hotbed of activity, with a thriving nightlife and music scene, and arts and culture to match nearby Edinburgh. Indeed you’ll find the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet and National Theatre all in Glasgow!

5. Liverpool

Just an hour up the road from Manchester you’ll find the other giant of the Northwest of England;  the city of Liverpool. The two cities are (friendly) rivals in many ways, but especially in football and music. Liverpool is home to Liverpool FC and Everton FC of course, while it’s also the birthplace of The Beatles -- arguably the most popular band of all time!

It’s also home to around 50,000 international students, many of whom study at either the University of Liverpool or Liverpool John Moores University

But what’s it like to live in Liverpool as a student? By all accounts it’s great! It’s got the nightlife, it’s got the culture and arts, it’s got the history, it’s kind of got it all really...

Looking to study in UK?
Explore top universities and get free expert guidance with Edvoy

6. And the rest…

Making it into the “Top 5 Most Popular List” isn’t all that matters when it comes to finding the right city to study in while in the UK! With that in mind, let’s give a mention the some the rest of the UK’s best-loved cities for international students:

Oh, and before we finish, if you’re a student from India, we’ve also written this article just for you, on the 5 Best Student Cities in the UK for Indian Students. Give it a look, and see what similarities there are with this rundown!

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Sean is a freelance writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.

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