Top 10 oldest universities in England


Historic buildings in the style of Harry Potter, libraries with mosaic windows, an atmosphere permeated with academicism – the unique look of the oldest English universities impresses even those who happened to be at the university by accident. What is it like to study in a place where higher education was born about a thousand years ago?


It is not only modern schoolchildren who dream of getting a higher education in England. British universities have been attracting students from all over the world for centuries. The most prestigious of them, of course, Oxford and Cambridge. But high places in the rankings and high-quality education are far from all that English universities can be proud of. In the context of the history of each university, perhaps, one can study the history of the country. After all, the very first university in the United Kingdom was founded almost a thousand years ago! And that was the University of Oxford.

With you, today we are talking about the oldest universities in the UK!

Top 10 oldest universities in the UK

Let’s look at the chronology of the emergence of British universities. So, the very first university is Oxford. The University of Oxford was founded in 1096! Following this, her main competitor was founded – the University of Cambridge, founded in 1209.

Probably, there was no peak demand for higher education in medieval England, because the next universities did not appear until several centuries later – in the 15th century. These were Saint Andrews (1410), the University of Glasgow (1451) and the University of Aberdeen (1495).

The 16th century was marked by the founding of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland (1582). In the following centuries, the British were too busy with wars and did not think about education. But the 19th century gave the inhabitants of Foggy Albion as many as four universities – the University of Manchester (1824), University College London (1826), Durham University (1832) and Aberystwyth University (1872).

Our ranking of the oldest universities, therefore, looks like this:

  • 10th place – Aberystwyth University;
  • 9th place – Durham University;
  • 8th place – University College London;
  • 7th place – University of Manchester;
  • 6th place – Edinburgh University;
  • 5th place – University of Aberdeen;
  • 4th place – University of Glasgow;
  • 3rd place – St. Andrews;
  • 2nd place – University of Cambridge;
  • 1st place – Oxford University.

Eternal values. Campuses with centuries of history

It’s no secret that the British are very protective of their heritage. Academic traditions are a matter of special pride for the people of the United Kingdom. When you get to the campus of an old university, you involuntarily feel the spirit of history, remember famous graduates and think about the great discoveries made within the walls that have survived to this day.

The campuses of British universities have preserved many artifacts, contact with which inspires even the most pragmatic students.

So, walking around Cambridge, you can easily stumble upon an apple tree, sitting under which Newton discovered the law of universal gravitation.

You can sigh about bad grades on the old bridge built in 1831. The Bridge of Sighs connects the two campuses of St. John’s University College. Plenty to grieve about poor academic performance and not only everyone can.

The Bodleian Library of Oxford has still not abandoned the 16th century oath, according to which only those who not only guarantee careful treatment of books, but also promise to refrain from kindling fires in the library, receive admission to the collections!

On the campus of St Andrews University, where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and Prince William studied, students in red robes attract attention. The tradition of wearing these capes has a long history. Once a wardrobe staple, the robe is now a must-have for students applying to St Andrews. No wonder, because the photo in this outfit against the backdrop of a green lawn is guaranteed to collect thousands of likes!

Interesting Facts

Since we were not too lazy to rank the oldest educational institutions, we will try to remember the entire list. And the easiest way to do this is with the help of interesting facts about each university. So imagine:

– The most popular fantasy books – The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and Alice in Wonderland – were written by Oxford graduates;

– The University of Cambridge has more than 100 libraries. The stock of the central library has about 8 million volumes. Any book printed in England or Ireland may be requested by the library from the publisher;

– St Andrews is known for its unusual tradition. Every freshman immediately starts a family. This is not about getting married, but about finding so-called “academic parents”, 3-4 year students who help the newcomer to socialize, take him to pubs and show him the best haunts;

– Semyon Efimovich Desnitsky studied at the University of Glasgow (1764), who later became a professor at Moscow State University and is considered the forefather of Russian jurisprudence;

– The nominal head of the University of Aberdeen is Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, member of the British royal family, wife of Prince Charles of Wales;

– At the University of Edinburgh in 1996, perhaps the most famous sheep of our time, Dolly the sheep, was cloned;

– The first computer was invented at Manchester University in 1948, it was called Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine, SSEM. The weight of the electronic device was 27 tons;

– University College London is a university that, since its foundation, has provided equal rights to study for all students, regardless of their race, gender and religion. Let me remind you that UCL was founded in 1826;

– Part of the architectural complex of Durham University is Durham Castle, one of the oldest buildings in Great Britain, built in 1072. It is under the protection of UNESCO;

– Aberystwyth University is the first university in Wales, founded by the efforts of patriots, primarily Hugh Owen, who organized the fundraising for the creation of the first Welsh college with the status of a university. The university stands on the coast of the Irish Sea, at the foot of the Cumbrian Mountains, in one of the most picturesque places in the UK.


Remembering everything, of course, will not work. But, I admit that an interesting fact about a particular university can lead to thoughts about where to go to study after school!

History and modernity

An amazing ability to keep traditions and at the same time be very modern is a well-known quality inherent in the British academic institutions. British universities are excellent at showing this in practice. Remaining strongholds of academic excellence, preserving historic campuses and following ancient traditions, English universities occupy a leading position in equipping the most advanced equipment. Universities add modern multifunctional buildings to their architectural ensembles and harmoniously combine cutting-edge achievements with centuries-old heritage. The oldest universities in England are a special atmosphere, a unique academic culture and a kind of chic. A world where not only the English language is the gateway, but also ambition, perseverance, diligence and curiosity.

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