The UK is home to some of the most famous universities in the world, as well as some as the oldest. But which universities in the UK are the biggest according to student numbers? Taking our data from HESA, we’ve listed the most popular universities students flock to in the UK – or those with the biggest capacity. Take a look and see whether your university is up there!

20. University of Hertfordshire

university of hertfordshire
Source: University of Hertfordshire

With a total of 31, 940 student enrolments, the University of Hertfordshire kick starts the list of the 20 biggest universities in the UK. It’s popular with students wanting to study online, as well as in courses related to Technology. The University of Hertfordshire also has an acceptance rate of around 70%, so it’s not the most difficult to get into comparatively.

19. The University of Exeter

University of Exeter is one of the biggest universities in theUK
Source: University of Exeter

With 32,465 student enrolments, the University of Exeter is the 19th biggest overall. It’s part of the prestigious Russell Group uni collection, but it’s also a fairly easy one to get into. It reportedly has an acceptance rate of 80%, which no doubt contributes to such high student numbers.

18. University of Northumbria at Newcastle

University of Northumbria
Source: University of Northumbria

Just a handful (well 105) more students than the University of Exeter, the North Eastern uni comes out higher on our list of the biggest universities in the UK. It has 32,570 student enrolments, who opt for the polytechnic uni in city over the Russell Group. In fact, compared with Newcastle University, Northumbria has 5,290 more students!

17. Cardiff University

Cardiff University
Source: Cardiff University

The biggest Welsh university in the UK is Cardiff University – the only one making it on to our list! With 33, 985 students, Cardiff has a large student population compared to others unis in the UK. It’s in the top 5 for research, which no doubt draws in those wanted a career in research or academia. Furthermore, Cardiff is a well-known student city with a great nightlife. So it makes sense it’s one of the biggest unis around.

16. Sheffield Hallam University

Sheffield Hallam University
Source: Sheffield Hallam University

Another polytechnic that beats its Russell Group rival when it comes to numbers, Sheffield Hallam has more students than the University of Sheffield. Sheffield Hallam is one of the biggest universities in the UK, with 34, 535 students enrolled. However, the University of Sheffield is still the 22nd biggest, with 30 860 students, so there’s not too much difference. Sheffield is another popular UK city for students, which explains why it attracts so many each year.

15. Ulster University

Ulster University one of the biggest universities in the UK
Source: Ulster University

Ulster University is one of the largest universities in the UK due to its comprehensive range of courses, state-of-the-art facilities, and its dedication to research. With four campuses across Northern Ireland, the university offers more than 250 undergraduate and postgraduate programs across a variety of disciplines, including art and design, business, computing, engineering, health sciences, and law. With only 15 more enrolments the Sheffield Hallam for the academic year 21/22, Ulster comes in 15th place.

14. Anglia Ruskin University

Anglia Ruskin University
Source: ARU

The university has two main campuses located in Cambridge and Chelmsford, and offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in fields such as art and design, business, law, health sciences, and technology. It’s arguably much easier to get into than Cambridge University, which may be why it sees higher enrolment rates. The number of students tops 35,000 (35,195 in fact).

13. Manchester Metropolitan University

Source: MMU

While polytechnics have been doing pretty well on our list, MMU actually has less then Manchester University. Both universities are among the biggest in the UK, showing just how popular Manchester is for students from around the world. The latest stats on MMU show it has 36, 980 student enrolments, which is 9,430 less than the Russell Group Uni of Manchester. We’ll let you do the maths to see how many enrolled at Manchester University, or you could keep scrolling.

12. University of the West of England

biggest universities in the uk
Source: The Student Union at UWE

Located in the vibrant and dynamic city of Bristol, UWE Bristol offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across a variety of fields, including business, engineering, health sciences, law, and the creative arts. The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is one of the largest and most well-regarded universities in the UK, with a strong reputation for its focus on practical learning. It has 37,170 students, who help to create a vibrant and exciting student culture in the city.

11. The University of Leeds

University of Leeds
Source: University of Leeds

37, 190 students choose to attend the University of Leeds for a number of reasons. Firstly, the university has an excellent academic reputation, consistently ranking as one of the top universities in the UK. This is due to the high quality of teaching and research across a range of fields, providing students with an education that is both rigorous and challenging. Secondly, the university offers a wide range of courses, allowing students to study subjects that match their interests and career goals. With just 20 more student enrolments than UWE, Leeds Uni is one of the 20 biggest universities in the UK.

10. University of Nottingham

Nottingham uni
Source: University of Nottingham

Similar to Leeds and UWE, the University of Nottingham caters to just over 37,000 (37, 260) students. This makes it one of the biggest universities in the UK, as well as being one of the best. In 2022, it ranked as 19th in the UK, according to the Guardian rankings. You can read more about why the University of Nottingham is good in our guide.

9. The University of Birmingham

University of Birmingham biggest univeristies in the UK
Source: University of Birmingham

Just under 38,000 – 37,990 in fact – university students study in the UK’s second biggest city. Birmingham is a vibrant and diverse city, with a rich cultural heritage and a thriving arts and music scene. Students can explore a variety of museums, galleries, and theatres, as well as enjoy a range of music festivals and events throughout the year. It’s also a major hub for business and industry, making it an ideal location for students who are interested in careers in fields such as finance, engineering, and technology.

8. Coventry University


Next on the list of biggest universities in the UK is Coventry University. It’s the 8th biggest overall, with 38, 190 students enrolling. It’s a is a modern and innovative institution located in Coventry, West Midlands, UK. Coventry uni is a single-campus uni, but despite this, it remains one of the most populated. In comparison, Oxford Uni is dotted across different colleges, but doesn’t rank on our list.

7. The University of Edinburgh

Source: Christina Watkins, Pexels

The Scottish capital is home to the 7th biggest university, with 41,250 enrolled students. The University of Edinburgh is world famous, having been a study hub for the likes of Gordon Brown, Arthur Conan Doyle and other memorable alumni. It’s a prestigious university, and is the 5th best for reputation in the UK.

6. Nottingham Trent University

nottingham trent university
Source: Nottingham Trent University

Nottingham is doing pretty well on this list, with so many students heading to both unis. At Trent, 41, 465 students enrolled, making it the bigger uni in the city by student numbers. Both are world-class however, and Trent prides itself in having 97% of its students in employment within 6 months of graduating. So the 40k plus of students heading there should feel quite secure about job prospects!

5. King’s College London

King's College London biology
Source: King’s College London

Located in the heart of London, King’s College is a well-known university in the capital. It caters to 41,490 students, making it the 5th biggest of the UK’s universities. It’s particularly attractive to students wanting to study in sciences, health, humanities and law, where the uni has won awards for it’s departments. Although it has s one of the UK’s largest student populations, it’s not the biggest in London – keep reading.

4. The University of Glasgow

university of glasgow is one of the biggest universities in the UK
Source: University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the UK, and is currently the fourth biggest university in terms of student population. Founded in 1451, the university has a long and illustrious history, with a strong reputation for academic excellence and research. The university is home to over 42,980 students from all over the world, studying a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across four faculties, including humanities, social sciences, science and engineering, and medical, veterinary and life sciences

3. The University of Manchester

Source: Unsplash

If you were wondering which Manchester uni to go to based on which is biggest or has the most students, it would have to be the University of Manchester. With 46,410 enrolled students, it has more people studying than rival polytechnic MMU. However, both unis are located pretty much next door to each other. So you’re bound to be mates with students from either university just from hanging around.

2. UCL

Source: UCL

In second place of the biggest universities in the UK is University College London (UCL). In fact, it’s the biggest on-campus university, with 46, 830 students enrolling in 2021/2022. If you love the buzz of the crowded city and want to see it in lecture halls, then UCL might be for you.

1. Open University

Open University is the biggest university in the UK by student enrolments
Source: Open University

The university dedicated to distance learning, Open University has a huge 151,840 students enrolling per year. Thats over three times the amount of the second biggest uni in the UK. Whoever came up with the idea to start Open University was a genius, as distance learning is proven to be popular!