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5 Types of UK universities

Did you know there are 5 types of universities in the UK some are dating back to the year 1096? Explore them here!

The United Kingdom (UK) has always been known for its education system all over the world. Given the number of high-ranking universities it has to offer along with an amazing quality of life and exposure, the UK attracts large numbers of international students every year. That’s why it’s a challenging task to make that perfect choice when choosing among 130 universities in the UK (Consisting of both millennia-old to modern universities that offer great diversity). We can say that there is a university for everyone in the UK.

So, what are the types of universities in UK?

If you want to study in the UK, you should know that there are 5 types of universities in the UK. We will be exploring them all in this article.

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1- Ancient universities

These are the universities that are dated back to medieval and renaissance times from c. 1096 to 1582 and continue to exist till today! These universities often have lecture rooms and corridors in buildings that are hundreds of years old. Due to their historical nature, they still offer tutorials in addition to the lectures to help students connect with faculty in smaller, separate groups.

Examples of ancient universities & year of foundation are displayed below for you:

Member universities

Year of foundation

University of Oxford 1096
University of Cambridge 1209
University of St Andrews 1413
University of Glasgow 1451
University of Aberdeen 1495
University of Edinburgh 1582
University of Dublin (in Ireland) 1592

2- The Red brick or civic universities

These universities were established in the 19th century during World War I in major industrial cities to respond to the growing demand for university-level study in subject areas like science, design, technology, and engineering. These non-collegiate institutions admitted students regardless of religion or background and focused on teaching “real-world” skills to them.

Till today, the most attractive quality of these universities lies in their location, and these are built in the middle of the cities on undefined campuses (sometimes with public roads running through them). All six red brick universities are also a part of the Russell Group and are quite preferred by international students.

What are the six red brick universities?

The below table shows the six red brick universities and the year each university got its status:

Member universities

University status granted on

University of Birmingham 1900
University of Bristol 1909
University of Leeds 1904
University of Liverpool 1903
University of Manchester 2004*
University of Sheffield 1905

*Formed by the closure of Victoria University and University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology

3- Plate glass universities or 1960s universities

These universities were formed between 1963 and 1992 based on the recommendation of the Robbins Report on Higher Education (1963) and as a part of education reforms to increase the number of universities in the UK. These universities were enlightened enough to take new initiatives in areas of syllabus, examination, administration, teaching methods, and discipline. These are popularly known as Plate Glass group because of their architectural style and as most of them are built on designated green-field sites like the self-contained US-style campuses.

Member universities

University status granted on/ formed on

Aston University 1966
University of East Anglia 1963
University of Essex 1964-65
University of Kent 1965
Lancaster University 1964
University of Sussex 1961
University of Warwick 1965
University of York 1963

4- New universities or Polytechnic and metropolitan universities

These universities have evolved from Polytechnics, Further Education Colleges, Teacher Training Colleges, University Colleges and other higher education institutions as part of the education reforms between the 1980s and 1990s. Although they have recently received their university status, their education roots are old. These universities are growing rapidly and competing with other older institutions in terms of new facilities and a modern outlook.

Some of the new universities along with their area of specialization are:

Member universities

Facilities and specialty

Arden university Specialize in distance and online learning. Primarily focus on Business Studies and related fields
Cardiff Metropolitan University Most popular courses include Tourism Management and Food Technology
University of Chichester Most known for the Media Studies, Production courses and Music Composition courses
Plymouth Marjon University The university departments of Education, Creative Arts, Health Sciences and Sport are well-reputed
University College Birmingham At an undergraduate level, Tourism, Events and Hospitality Management courses are popular

5- Russell Group universities

The Russell Group is a group of the top 24 British research universities, which are often compared to the U.S. Ivy league institutions. The group enjoys the reputation of receiving two- thirds of all research grant funding from the government and its member universities are often regarded as the ‘best’ in the UK.

Also, the portfolio includes some of the ancient universities, 19th-century universities and few of the well-renowned civic universities, such as:

  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • Cardiff University
  • Durham University


Check out the full list of Russell Group Universities and how to apply there.

What’s the best type of university in UK that you should choose?

While deciding on the right university, match the university offerings with your needs and wants. Each type of these UK universities will have a unique characteristic. For instance, ancient universities require above average grades which might be overwhelming for students who aren’t prepared for an intense workload. Similarly, Russell Group universities focus on social wellbeing, research and offering outstanding courses, whereas new universities are the perfect hotspot for establishing a professional and personal network whilst exploring your interests.

One of the free services of IDP Turkey is to offer the most accurate universities and departments in the country you want, with expert advisors, taking into account your course averages, budget, dreams, and many other variables. If you want to benefit from these and many more free services of IDP Turkey and make an appointment with expert consultants, you can fill out the form. Or you can use WhatsApp, Online Chat, or Virtual Counseling services.

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