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The Importance of Subject Rankings for Studying in UK Universities: A Look at Popular Subjects for Higher Education in the UK

The UK has several of the oldest and most renowned universities in the world, attracting numerous students from all over the globe. With a rich academic tradition, UK universities offer a wide range of subjects, from sciences, engineering, and business to humanities and arts, allowing students to choose based on their interests and career plans. This article will focus on subject selection at UK universities, highlighting popular subjects for higher education in the UK, and top-ranked subjects at UK universities. The latest data and analysis will be provided to help students make informed decisions when selecting subjects at UK universities.

girl with glasses looking at laptop and biting yellow pencil

Source: Unsplash

Popular Subjects for UK Higher Education in Recent Years  


UK universities offer various subjects for students to choose from. Here are some popular subjects for Hong Kong students studying in the UK:  


  • Business and Management Studies: UK is one of the world's leading business powers, and Business and Management Studies cover a wide range of fields such as economics, finance, accounting/financial management, marketing/brand management, human resource management/organisational behaviour, operations management, logistics/supply chain, data analytics, and business strategy, making it a popular choice for international students.  


  • Engineering: Engineering includes several branches such as civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, etc., making it a good choice for students who are creative and enjoy solving practical problems. Studying engineering in the UK has the advantages of abundant academic resources, diverse courses, practical and application-oriented, and better career prospects and employment opportunities.  

  • Computer Science: With the continuous development of technology, computer science has been gaining popularity in UK universities, attracting a large number of students to study. Studying computer science in the UK has the advantages of abundant academic resources, diverse courses, practical and application-oriented, and better career prospects and employment opportunities. 
Coding on screen

Source: Unsplash

  • Law: The legal system in the UK has a worldwide impact, with a profound legal system, diverse course choices, practical and application-oriented, professional qualification exams, and career prospects.  

  • Social Sciences: Social sciences are attractive to students interested in human society and behaviour, and the UK has a deep academic tradition in this area. The scope of sociology research includes the ethics of "small groups" of people, family structure, gender construction, and social issues at the "large community" level, such as wealth disparity, consumption patterns, immigration and social structures, and the development of popular culture. This type of research will expand to different areas as human society progresses, such as the internet and social development, analysis of criminal social status and criminal psychology, gender discrimination, and racism.  

  • Biological Sciences: Biological sciences include biomedical and biotechnology fields, and the UK’s biological sciences have a high reputation worldwide. From the discovery of DNA structure to the development of cell culture techniques, UK scientists have made many significant breakthroughs. The UK has over 500 biotech companies.  


  • Arts and Design: The arts and design professions in the UK are world-renowned. As a country with rich historical and cultural resources and a profound humanistic tradition, the UK's perfect combination of classical and modern artistic atmosphere and exquisite cultural heritage attracts many students with artistic talents to study. 
Woman drawing on wall

Source: Unsplash

Subject Rankings in UK Universities  


Many subjects are popular among students who wish to study in the UK, with science, engineering, and medicine being particularly favoured. According to the 2020 Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, international students tend to enrol in business and administrative studies, engineering and technology, and social studies the most. International students make up 37.1% of business and administrative management students and 31.9% of engineering and technology students.  


The demand for talents in cutting-edge fields such as artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, and computer systems engineering is rapidly increasing in the UK. Popular foundational subjects include physics and computer science. Additionally, UK universities have well-established medical schools that offer excellent environments for training medical professionals. The UK's rich cultural heritage and artistic atmosphere also attract many international students to study creative arts and design.  


According to the 2023 QS World University Rankings, some top UK universities rank highly in different subjects:  



  • University of Oxford: Oxford is ranked high in multiple subjects, including Arts and Humanities (ranked 1st), Engineering and Technology (ranked 2nd), Social Sciences and Management (ranked 1st), Natural Sciences (ranked 2nd), and Life Sciences and Medicine (ranked 1st).  


  • University of Cambridge: Cambridge also performs well in multiple subjects, including Arts and Humanities (ranked 2nd), Engineering and Technology (ranked 1st), Social Sciences and Management (ranked 3rd), Natural Sciences (ranked 1st), and Life Sciences and Medicine (ranked 2nd).
University of Cambridge

Source: Unsplash

  • Imperial College London: Imperial College London has a high reputation in Engineering and Technology (ranked 3rd globally) and Natural Sciences (ranked 3rd), and is also competitive in Life Sciences and Medicine (ranked 4th).  

  • University of Edinburgh: Edinburgh performs well in Arts and Humanities (ranked 3rd), Engineering and Technology (ranked 6th), Social Sciences (ranked 10th), Life Sciences and Medicine (ranked 6th), and Natural Sciences (ranked 5th).  


  • University of Manchester: Manchester has a high reputation in Natural Sciences (ranked 6th), Life Sciences and Medicine (ranked 2nd), Engineering and Technology (ranked 4th), and Arts and Humanities (ranked 8th), and performs well in Social Sciences (ranked 6th).  

  • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE): LSE excels in Social Sciences and Management, ranked 2nd globally, and is also highly ranked in various economics and political science disciplines.  


  • University of Bristol: Bristol is competitive in Natural Sciences (ranked 7th) and performs well in Arts and Humanities and Life Sciences.
University of Bristol

Source: University of Bristol

It is important to note that these rankings only reflect the performance of a specific school in a particular subject and cannot fully reflect the overall level of the school. Therefore, students should consider their interests and career aspirations and refer to various factors such as the teaching quality, research level, and graduate employment prospects of the universities when choosing suitable subjects.  


In summary, selecting the most suitable subjects at UK universities is crucial for students. We encourage students to research and compare different popular subjects for higher education in the UK and consider the subject rankings of UK universities to choose the subjects that match their interests and career aspirations. Doing so can enhance their potential and prepare them for future success.





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