University College London | Photo by Steve Cadman

Where to Study for a PhD: London

As well as being one of the most metropolitan municipalities in the world, London has more world-class universities than any other city globally.

From central-based campuses to more suburban surroundings, specialist centres of study to multidisciplinary institutions, if you’re looking to learn in the UK’s capital you will find a range of options as vibrant and varied as the city itself.

Here is a selection of some of the best places to be a PhD student in London:

UCL (University College London)

An academic powerhouse, UCL is the leading London university and 7th best higher education establishment in the world (QS World University Rankings 2015). Enviably located on a beautiful site in Bloomsbury – a stone’s throw from the British Library, Oxford Street and Soho – UCL offers a broad spectrum of subjects and boasts a large postgraduate population (around 52%). Known as ‘London’s Global University’, UCL provides a very cosmopolitan and international environment with around 40% of students coming from outside the UK. A further claim to fame is that its South Cloisters house the skeleton of Jeremy Bentham – British philosopher and spiritual father of the University of London – dressed in his own clothes and surmounted with a wax head.


Consistently ranked amongst the world’s best universities – coming in at 8th in the 2015 QS World University Rankings – Imperial has a global reputation for research in science and engineering, as well as a prestigious business school and one of the UK’s largest medical faculties. Its main campus is in smart South Kensington, with Harrods, Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall, not to mention some of London’s main museums, on its doorstep. With a student body from over 123 countries, and around 46% of students and 32% of staff from outside the UK, Imperial has a truly global appeal.

King’s College London

Claiming to be “the most central university in London”, four of the five King’s College campuses are situated along the River Thames, close to iconic landmarks such as Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square and Big Ben. With around 26,000 students – 40% of whom are postgraduates – King’s is one of the largest and oldest of the University of London colleges. Recently ranked 19th in the QS World University Rankings 2015, this research-led redbrick with a strong reputation for courses in the humanities, law and the sciences is a popular choice for international students, who comprise around one in five of the student body.

LSE (London School of Economics and Politics)

LSE is London’s only specialist social sciences school, with world-leading departments in international relations, politics, sociology, law and accounting. Placing 23rd in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-16, LSE students speak over 150 languages on campus, reflecting its wide global reach. Situated centrally in the historical Chancery Lane area – famed for its legal associations – LSE is a uniquely cosmopolitan university in the heart of this celebrated capital city.

Queen Mary, University of London

Queen Mary is the ‘cool cousin’ of the University of London collegiate system. Set along the Regent’s Canal in Mile End, the main campus is close to many of the recently regenerated parts of East London, including the curry houses of Brick Lane, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, the art galleries of Whitechapel, and the nightlife of Shoreditch. This is not to the detriment of academic rigour, either. Ranking 109th in the world this year, Queen Mary is one of the UK’s leading research-focused higher education institutions, offering a wide range of multi-disciplinary subjects, including medicine and dentistry at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry. There are 151 nationalities represented within the student body, and Queen Mary graduates are consistently in the top 10 for graduate starting salaries in the UK.

Royal Holloway, University of London

Boasting one of the most beautiful campuses in the UK – recently used for filming of the popular TV drama, Downton Abbey – Royal Holloway offers all the benefits of London life with the added bonus of being located in the suburban town of Egham, less than an hour from the capital’s centre. Offering courses in a broad range of subjects, with a particular strength in the humanities and arts, Royal Holloway has climbed 44 places in the university league tables to rank 231st in the world this year.

Your PhD Supervisor is an elite network of academics who support students with their doctorate studies, from the initial application through to the final viva. Working with us will enhance your PhD experience, ensuring you make the most of your higher level studies and the opportunities beyond.

Photo: Steve Cadman