Strongest programs at UCL, KCL, and Edinburgh?

American high school student looking at a possible UCAS application this June, as well as other international prospects. The Oxbridge application seems too time-consuming, so I’m looking to apply to UCL, KCL, ICL, LSE, and Edinburgh. I already know that ICL is excellent for Sciences and LSE for, well, you know. I’m interested in the field of computer science but I’m not bound to that field. I’m confident in making the entry requirements for most of these universities, although ICL will be the toughest.

Can anyone state what the strongest programs are at each of UCL, KCL, and Edinburgh? I want to get a feel for the strengths of these schools. In which fields do each of these schools have the strongest presences?

Odd method to pick a college.

If you are not “bound” to any particular field then you probably shouldn’t apply to the UK. More importantly, you have to write a single UCAS personal statement addressing the specific subject you want to study (and have a reference that supports that) which will go to all schools. So you need to pick a subject then select schools that offer a matching course of study, not the other way round. If you posed your question above to a UK student then it would be regarded as laughably naive.

Yes, got it. Cut me some slack, I’m not familiar with the system.

@Eeyore123 Right. Ease of application is a factor for me, as I’m applying to lots of US universities and honestly don’t think I’m a likely admit for Oxbridge. I’d rather use up my five spots on the other universities, at which I have a significantly better chance. My view on this may change, in which case I’ll take the Oxford MAT and see how I do.

@Twoin18 So let me revise my question, then. What are the relative strengths of UCL, KCL, and Edinburgh in the field of computer science? Given what you said about the personal statement, I’ll probably apply CS to these three, as I have the most experience with, and interest in, this field.

I would say (Cambridge > Oxford > Imperial >) Edinburgh >= UCL > KCL but @collegemom3717 may want to offer some opinions and/or alternatives. 4 years vs 3 years makes a difference to some, as does the higher cost of London vs other places.

Americans also like St Andrews, we know a student who is enjoying the CS program there.

Thanks for the ranking. I don’t think that I’ll want alternatives, as my parents will most likely only let me apply to the 5 highest ranked UK universities after Oxbridge. The UCAS allows for applying to five courses, right? So I can exhaust my application limit by applying for, say, three at Edinburgh and two at ICL?

Your observation about St Andrews is true; one of the students from my high school went there for her undergrad.

Again, your PS is the same for all 5 applications. Applying for multiple different courses with different content (whether at the same or different institutions) means it is much harder to justify why you should be admitted to any one course.

Not really different courses, very similar ones. For example, I might apply BSc CS, BSc Artificial Intelligence, and BSc CS and Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh. Same goes for ICL (integrated MEng Computing and integrated MSc Math and CS).

That’s still problematic. You are expected to know what you want to study. Think about how statements like “I am fascinated by AI” will look to the professor considering your application for math and CS or how “I am interested in the mathematical underpinnings of CS” will look to a professor in AI.

The UCAS applications are assessed by academics specializing in the subject itself not by general admissions staff as would be the case in the US. You have to convince the professor that he or she should want to teach you. A generic application is not the way to do that.

Thanks for the input. Would you say that Edinburgh’s degrees in CS/AI and Software-Engineering/AI are similar enough? I’d apply for the MEng in CS/AI at ICL as well, but it’s much more competitive than the one in straight Computing. (20% offer rate vs 30% offer rate).

Which brings up another concern of mine. Do “offer rates” in the UK have the same significance as acceptance rates in the US? Or are they less predictive of success (maybe because all applicants are self-selecting)? i.e. given that I mention AI/ML in my PS, is it worth it to apply for Computing because Computing has a higher acceptance rate, or will I have a better chance of admission with Computing and AI due to my more pertinent PS?

I would normally think of CS as more theoretical and SE as more practical, and would emphasize one or the other in a PS. But you should look at the course descriptions, all of the details on content should be online.

Offer rates do correlate with popularity and difficulty of admission though other factors are at play, for example a student paying overseas fees will be viewed more favorably at many universities (other than the very top ones). It will be harder to get into a course with a 20% offer rate than a 30% offer rate at the same university, but not straightforward to compare across universities because of self selection and the need for both firm and insurance offers.

But if your PS is written for the 20% course, you might be rejected for the 30% course because you aren’t showing why you want that specific course. So U.K. students typically opt for a diversity of universities (with various levels of selectivity to get a more challenging firm offer and a nearly certain insurance offer - remember their offers are all conditional on A level grades) and rarely choose a diversity of courses at one university.

Ok, so the best strategy is to apply for the same course across different universities. Duly noted.

Just one more question. By senior year, I’ll have met or exceeded all requirements for the CS courses at these universities – except having scored a 5 in AP Calculus BC, which I plan to take and on which any conditional offer I get will likely hinge. Can universities give offers conditional on other AP tests as well, or will I be in the clear if I score a 5 on Calc BC?

They can make offers conditional on whatever they want. If they make it conditional on Calc BC its quite plausible that other relevant subjects might be included too, as they don’t want you slacking off senior year (UK students doing A levels certainly can’t). But they won’t make a STEM course offer conditional on (say) an English Lit AP score.

Conversely if they want you to come, its quite likely you’ll get an unconditional offer (especially from a lower ranking university like KCL), without needing a specific Calc BC score, because they know that US students are much more likely to turn down conditional offers (or worse, firm the offer and then not show up, because they’ve got excited about their US alternative before the AP test results come out).

Cool. Appreciate the advice!

Sorry to be late to the party, but @Twoin18 has it pretty well covered!

As to which unis, Oxford/Cambridge/Imperial are clearly at the top, and of the ones you have suggested UCL >> KCL- but I would insert Edi > Glasgow-Warwick-St As-Durham > UCL

On which courses, your actual interests are the key, and for that you have to actually do a little leg work, and read the course descriptions. Having the same name does not mean that the courses are homogenous.

In the UK, the prestige classes are:

Tier 1: Oxford and Cambridge

Tier 2: LSE, Imperial and UCL

Tier 3: KCL and Edinburgh

Tier 4: Bristol, Durham, St Andrews, Warwick, Manchester and Nottingham

Apart from UCL, KCL and Edinburgh all being strong in Medicine and Biosciences.

UCL’s other strongest programmes are Computer Science, Economics, Law and Architecture.

KCL’s other strongest programmes are War Studies, History, Law and Philosophy.

Edinburgh’s other strongest programmes are Physics, Linguistics, Veterinary Sciences and Sociology.

UCL is an excellent university for Computer Science. It is one of the best in the UK, but you might be focusing mostly on application in mechanics and finance, apart from the core computer science basics.

Edinburgh is very good for Computer Science. It is the largest for it and might provide you with the broadest range of areas to explore, apart from the core computer science basics.

KCL is quite good for Computer Science. More likely to find more focus on AI and Robotics, apart from the core computer science basics.

Which program is harder to get into?
Which program is better for recognition?

Manchester IR