With the global push towards skill-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, the demand for degrees in the sciences has never been higher.
Biology is a particularly attractive option to students as it opens up options for highly lucrative careers in medicine, biotech, etc. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best science universities in the UK and the world, with a special focus on biological (life) sciences.
Top Life Sciences Universities in UK
To kick off, let’s take a look at top-rated universities for science education within UK. The strength of individual science departments, including biology, might vary from university to university, but for the most part, you, as a student, will do your career a world of good by landing a place at any of these universities.
• University of Cambridge: No surprises here. As one of the oldest universities in the world (1209), this venerable British institution is the premier science university in the country, jostling for the top spot with rival Oxford. Cambridge has produced 90 Nobel laureates. Notable alumni include Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Francis Bacon, and Stephen Hawking, among a host of others.
• University of Oxford: The oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford ranks no.3 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and is among the most venerated of British institutions. Notable alumni include Erwin Schrodinger, Edwin Hubble, Roger Penrose, Tim Berners-Lee, and a host of writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien, V.S. Naipaul, and Oscar Wilde.
• University College London (UCL): The largest constituent of the University of London, this urban university boasts not only a location in the heart of London, but also a long list of notable alumni, extremely talented faculty, and a long tradition of excellence in the life sciences. Alexander Graham Bell, Mahatma Gandhi, Robert Browning, etc. are some former UCL graduates. UCL also ranks no. 4 in the QS World University Rankings, and no. 19 in Times Higher Education rankings.
• University of Edinburgh: Established in 1583, University of Edinburgh is among the oldest universities in UK, and certainly the oldest in Edinburgh. UoE was instrumental in making Edinburgh the centre of scientific pursuit in the Age of Enlightenment (with the nickname “Athens of the North”), attracting talent like Charles Darwin, David Hume, Sir Walter Scott, Adam Smith, and James Maxwell. It ranks no. 17 in QS World Rankings, and no. 21 in Times Higher Education rankings.
• University of Glasgow: This ancient Scottish university has been home to Scottish intellectuals, artists and scientists since its very inception in 1451. It ranks 44 globally in Times Higher Education rankings and has produced graduates like Adam Smith, James Watt and Lord Kelvin.
Top Biological Sciences Universities Outside UK
Students willing to move out of the UK to pursue higher education have a number of options to choose from. The US, obviously, dominates this list, though there you’ll find as good, if not better, universities in Canada, Europe, and Asia/Pacific as well. Language can be an issue, however, so consider that before booking a spot at Peking University!
Some of the top biological sciences universities across the world are:
• Harvard University (USA): An obvious entrant, ranking no. 1 in almost every major global ranking with an alumni list that reads like the Who’s Who of the world’s political, artistic, and scientific establishments.
• Stanford University (USA): Often called the “Harvard of the West Coast”, Stanford, located in California, USA, is known for its engineering and science courses. The university has produced a host of Silicon Valley technologists, including William Hewlett and David Packard of HP, Sandra Lerner of Cisco, Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft, Nvidia founder Jen-Hsun Huang, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Tesla founder Elon Musk, and Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo.
• California Institute of Technology (USA): Caltech is the West Coast equivalent of MIT, boasting as strong a reputation in its mathematics, engineering and science courses, and an equally impressive alumni list. Although Caltech is best known for its engineering programs, it does exceptional faculty in the life sciences.
• Johns Hopkins University (USA): JHU is best known for its programs in biological sciences, medicine, nursing and public health. It boasts a strong research tradition in these fields and an alumni list that includes 36 Nobel Prize winners. JHU is perhaps best known for the attached hospital, the Johns Hopkins Hospital, often ranked the top hospital in the world.
• ETH Zurich (Switzerland): ETH Zurich, or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is Europe’s top technology and science university outside the UK. Founded in 1854, it specializes in technology and science programs and includes 21 Nobel Prize winners in its alumni. It is ranked no. 15 in the Times Higher Education rankings.
Biological sciences is an exciting field with a number of career options. Choose your university carefully though, since it may very well decide your future for the next several years!