How to compare top London universities (UCL, KCL, Imperial, LSE) with Ivy League schools

I am a high school student in Hong Kong and now deciding which country to attend undergraduate course, US or UK. In the UK, although Oxbridge is very prestigious across the world, top London universities - like UCL, King’s College, Imperial, LSE - are also ranked in quite high place in world university rankings. Currently, I am studying IB to get a passport to the UK universities, but I am now interested in US universities, too.

Of course, I understand many prestigious schools outside the northeast part of America, just as UK has some reputative schools outside the England.

Please let me know rough comparison between Ivy League school and top London universities in terms of prestige, job-hunting prospectus (if possible, in US, UK, and other parts of the world), and graduates’ reputation.

BTW, I want to study social science disciplines, especially Politics and International Relations.

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Imperial won’t work for you - it only does STEM subjects.

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Thank you very much for replying.
As you mentioned, I understand Imperial doesn’t have social science courses, so it is not real option for mem. But I simply included Imperial in order to compare whole top London universities with Ivy League schools.

I’m looking forward to hearing back from you :smiley:

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For study in International Relations / Politics, consider the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

LSE has a strong reputation in the English speaking world.

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Trying to make a straight hierarchical list is pointless- and not meaningful to you.

Just as a little reality check: If your priority is name value. and you only want “Ivy” you may not have the choice as to which country you study in, even if you are predicted a 45. Acceptance rates at the “Ivy League” schools are in the very very low single digits for international students, and applications are evaluated on a holistic basis. On the other hand a high IB prediction will get you most of the way into any of the UK unis (except Oxbridge, which have aptitude tests for most subjects, and require interviews).

For name recognition (in the full awareness that this is the sort of parlor game for which there is no one ‘right’ answer)::

In the US, US > UK > RoW. In the UK, UK + Harvard > US + a handful of major international unis > RoW. For the RoW it is Harvard + Oxford + their top local unis > a subset of the names you have already listed (varies by where in the world) + UC-B / UCLA > Random top-tier unis that the person has heard of > everybody else

For job hunting it will matter where you have the legal right to work: the US will expect you to get gone pretty fast after you finish your undergrad. The UK used to have a pathway to staying, but in the wonderful world of Brexit all bets are off.

For Politics / IR you will need a Masters. The top tier of US masters programs will expect ~3 years of work experience, and they are typically 2 years. The UK programs are typically 1 year and they are not as fussy about work experience.

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You ask for comparison in terms of prestige, job-hunting prospectus (if possible, in US, UK, and other parts of the world) and graduates’ reputation. I think @collegemom3717 has given you a good overview how these work in the US and in the UK.

In summary, if you want to work in a high prestige job in the US, you will have better prospects attending a top US university. Similar local-attendance logic for UK.

In other parts of the world, there is a hierarchy of prestige and graduate reputation, which shapes job-hunting prospects and can differ in different parts of the world or country you go to.

The combination of all the different rankings will tell you what I summarised here:

Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford
> Princeton, Yale
> Columbia, Imperial, Cornell, UPenn, UCL
>> Brown
>>>> Dartmouth

But as I only see rankings as strong indicators one should use as guidance, not use as the holy grail answer, my personal observations is that these are the general groupings across the world:

Global Tier 1: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford

Global Tier 2: Columbia, UPenn, LSE, Imperial, UCL

Global Tier 3: Cornell, Brown, Dartmouth, KCL

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Thank you for reply.

I guess St Andrew’s is small-scale university like Dartmouth in the States.
I think this university is prestigious domestically, but has less int’l reputation.
This is less attracting for international students like me…

It got a lot harder in the current climate but getting from a student visa, to a short-term employment visa, and then to the green card has been one of the common ways to get residence in the US, and I’d think it will come back - in the long run, it’s in the national interest to keep the best and brightest here.

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An international student with newly minted social science UG degree is going to have a very very very hard time getting a work visa- and that was true even before the recent restrictions. A few STEM fields have better prospects, but it’s still a very long shot.

They could always spend the four years finding an American to marry…

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@Kawada: University of St. Andrews in Scotland has a great reputation internationally.

Approximately 30% of the students are from Scotland, 30% from the United Kingdom, and 40% from the rest of the world.

The University of St. Andrews (approximately 7,300 undergraduate students) has a much greater number of undergraduate students than does Dartmouth (about 4,400 undergraduates)College in the US.

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So what was your eventual choice, Kawada?

I’m interested and very surprised at people mentioning KCL in the top ranks of universities. For undergrad admissions outside of law and maybe some particular social science courses its a good university but hardly super competitive. I’d struggle to think it would hold more status in the UK than UCB, UCLA, any ivy, big name US state schools for example.

I’m not really sure how to compare between the US and Europe in political science or IR. A lot of political science has moved in pretty quantitative ways over the years, but probably not IR. Some of the schools like Harvard and Georgetown have lots of visiting dignitaries passing through. For IR, I would think Tufts (Fletcher School) and Johns Hopkins (SAIS?) ought to be higher on the list but I don’t know how they do for undergraduate majors. I think Stanford could also be on the list (conservative bent but folks like Condi Rice and the late George Schulz made a home there).

Here is a list I found: The Best International Relations Schools in the World – Foreign Policy.

I hope it is helpful.

UK (Oxbridge postgraduate; LSE/Imperial/UCL undergrad) perspective on KCL:

KCL has a better reputation outside the UK than inside the country. Think it’s the combination of a prestigious sounding name, being in a prime London location, and having some interesting alumni. This means that the quality of many international undergraduates is excellent, and lots get into the above five Golden Triangle unis (or top US unis) for postgraduate study. However, the domestic student body is quite poor - anyone with A*AA at A-level will get into UCL for all but the most difficult subjects, and you’d be mad to take KCL over UCL (yet alone LSE/Imperial/Oxford/Cambridge).

With the exception of a few subjects where it thrives - law, medicine, war studies, and IR (but still behind LSE and Oxbridge), KCL struggles to make it into the top ten universities in the UK. General list prestige/research/employment-wise would be:
Tier 1: Oxford, Cambridge
Tier 2: Imperial (STEM), LSE (social sciences), UCL (multi-faculty, although most people choose the former two London universities over UCL)
Tier 3: Edinburgh, Warwick, Durham, St Andrews (could argue St Andrews should be tier below)
Tier 4: KCL, Bristol, Manchester, and a few others

Broadly, I’d say it’s comparable but slightly less prestigious to somewhere like Georgetown (strong international relations/policy reputation and good name abroad despite not doing brilliantly domestically). Tufts might be the right comparison prestige-wise on an international scale. Definitely not equivalent to lower Ivies as some have said on this thread.