Top 10 UK Sports Science Universities

This article aims to give you a look at some of the top sport science universities and what they offer. With so many great UK universities available, it can be difficult to know where to start looking. This list uses the 2022 complete university guides’ top 10 sport science subject leagues, to rank and outline each university. You can use this list as a stepping stone to continue your own research into the universities that interest you. 

10. Newcastle University 

The first University on our list, and proud redbrick and Russel group institution, is the University of Newcastle. The university is known for its research excellence and has been awarded a number of awards including; 5 QS stars for student employability (2021) and Educate North Awards 2020: Winner of University of the Year, Students’ Union of the Year, and Employer Engagement Award.  

The university has invested £32 million into creating brand new facilities aimed at giving you the best possible sports and exercise science experience. These facilities include:  

  • Environmental chamber  
  • Gait track  
  • Biomechanical laboratories  
  • Physiology laboratory   
  • High-performance suite  
  • Nutrition kitchen  
  • Blood preparation and analysis lab  

As well as these excellent teaching facilities, the university also includes facilities for your recreational sporting needs. The university has an eight-court sports hall, four squash courts, a strength and conditioning gym, a spin studio, and a gym.  

The university offers students exciting experiences to learn in other parts of the world, whilst also offering valuable work experience. Newcastle’s offers students a chance to learn abroad for a year, where you will be able to progress your learning, as well as be able to experience new cultures and opportunities.   

A great way for you to gain first-hand work experience is to complete a year in the industry. Newcastle offers this and will help to guide and support you through this process. This is an excellent opportunity for you to get a head start on your dream career. 

9. University of Edinburgh 

Edinburgh is one of the oldest UK institutions and currently has more than 43,000 students learning and enjoying all that the city has to offer. The university has a strong history with 19 members of staff and alumni being awarded the Nobel prize. In modern times it continues to excel, and in sport is ranked as one of the top 5 sporting universities in the UK, according to BUCS (British University and Colleges Sport 2018/2019).  

The sport and exercise undergraduate courses on offer are applied sport science and sport management. Applied sports science focuses on developing your understanding of physiology, biomechanics, psychology, and skill acquisition. Sports management focuses on increasing student awareness in the world of sports business and giving you the tools to be successful in this industry.  

The university offers some excellent sporting facilities including:  

  • Pleasance sports complex and Gym (weigh, cardio, and conditioning spaces)  
  • 60-station satellite gym  
  • Bouldering and climbing facility  
  • Martial arts area  
  • 25-meter swimming pool  
  • Seven squash courts  
  • Dance and fitness studio  
  • Cricket, rugby, lacrosse, and football pitches  
  • River – water sports  

Edinburgh has strong coaching, facilities, and services for athletes involved in:  

  • Rowing  
  • Swimming  
  • Hockey  
  • Women’s fencing  
  • Orienteering   
  • Rugby  
  • Women’s basketball   

If you are a performance athlete, the university has a range of opportunities to help with your studies including; elite sports accommodation for first years, academic support and mentoring, lifestyle/nutritional advice and access to the world-renowned FASIC sport and exercise medicine clinic. 

8.  University of Birmingham 

In 1946, Birmingham become the first UK university to offer a degree in sport and exercise science. The department of sport and exercise sciences specialises in its research, with the focus being put on the workings of a healthy body and the way in which exercise promotes health and wellbeing. The department has even been recognised and awarded by the REF (Research Excellence Framework 2014), with 90% of the research being classed as world-leading or internationally recognised.  

The department offers undergraduate degrees in sport, exercise, and health sciences, and Sport and coaching science. These are the two main courses offered and both have different emphasis within the field of sport and exercise sciences. If you have a passion for golf, you will be excited to hear that the university offers an applied golf management studies degree, aimed at offering membership to the PGA (professional golf association) and giving you the tools to lead development in the golfing industry. A three-year physiotherapy degree is also offered to students looking to become high-level physiotherapists.  

The university has invested a whopping £55 million into creating an outstanding sport and fitness club, consisting of:  

  • 50-meter swimming pool  
  • Multi-sport area  
  • Dojo  
  • Glass backed squash courts  
  • 10-meter climbing wall  
  • Activity studios  
  • Gym with nearly 200 pieces of equipment  
  • Tennis / basketball / netball / volleyball courts  
  • Hockey / rugby / football / american football pitch  

The university uses its facilities to cater to complete beginners, whilst giving amazing support to athletes trying to reach the heights of professional sports. It’s safe to say that Birmingham has spared no expense in its desire to be a successful sporting university. Perhaps that is why UB sport consistently finishes in the top three of BUCS, where their teams, and maybe soon to be yours, compete against 165 UK institutions. 

7. University of Strathclyde 

Next on our list is Strathclyde. The university is ranked number seven for sports science institutions in the UK, however, it has received number one rankings for subjects such as; finance, social policy, oral sciences, media studies, pharmacology, and medical technology. Along with its excellent courses and learning opportunities, the university has also welcomed high-level speakers such as former president, Barack Obama. It might just be that if you choose Strathclyde, you bump into a former world leader on your way to morning lectures.  

Perhaps where the sports science course a Strathclyde differs from that of other universities, is the mandatory placement you will undertake as part of the sport and physical activity course. This is an excellent chance for you to gain work experience, with the support of the university behind you. Alternately, you may be interested in Strathclyde’s other sports course – sports engineering, which also includes placement options, including the opportunity to go abroad. In both courses, you will be able to choose from a range of classes to enroll in alongside the mandatory classes the university thinks all of its sport science students should take.  

The university aims to have spent an incredible £1 billion by 2023 on improving its facilities. £31 million of this has already been invested into Strathclyde sport. Included in the sporting facilities are:  

  • Swimming pool  
  • Sauna  
  • Steam room  
  • Fitness suite  
  • Dance studio  
  • Badminton and squash courts  
  • Two sports halls  
  • Gym  
  • Cricket pitch  
  • Natural grass football and rugby pitches  

Alongside the university’s excellent facilities, such as the human performance and body composition laboratories, there are opportunities to make use of other institutions’ facilities abroad. The university has strong links with universities in Europe, Australia, Canada, North America, New Zealand, and Singapore. 

6. University of Exeter 

Another outstanding Russel group university, that has also been awarded a Gold TEF award (Teaching Excellence Framework), is Exeter. The university puts a strong emphasis on research being a key part of its makeup and has even been awarded the Queen’s anniversary prize for research into treatment for cancer and diabetes. The university is made up of 25,000 students, spanning from across 130 countries, making it a truly diverse and inclusive environment for you to develop your knowledge.  

The university offers a range of courses in sports sciences including; Exercise and sport science, human biosciences, nutrition, psychology, and medical sciences. All programs are aimed at developing students’ understanding of what creates elite performance, as well as punctuating the importance of exercise for maintained and improved health.  

Exeter has a huge list of facilities available to its athletes and students. £20 million has been invested into the development of these facilities, making them some of the best available in the southwest. Included are:  

  • All-weather pitches  
  • Boathouse  
  • Cricket center  
  • Golf center  
  • Indoor and outdoor pool  
  • Performance analysis suite  
  • Squash courts  
  • Sports hall  
  • Tennis center  
  • Gym   
  • Basketball/ tennis/ volleyball/ netball courts  
  • Grass American football pitch  
  • River and lake water sports area  
  • Equestrian facility  
  • Athletics track  
  • Climbing and bouldering walls  
  • Martial arts areas  

Looking at this long list of attributes for Exeter’s sporting home, it’s no surprise that they rank number 5 in BUCS and have a strong professional background with athletes such as Monika Mikkola, Sam Skinner, and Sophie Woon all graduating from the university. 

5. Durham University 

Durham University is known for offering education to students on a wide spectrum of topics (200 undergraduate courses and 190 postgraduate courses). Whilst having an excellent choice of subjects is ideal, where Durham shines is that of its 25 departments, 19 have made it into the top 100. The university consists of 4 faculties; arts, business, social sciences, and engineering. Along with its outstanding educational opportunities, Durham also boasts some famous sporting alumni, including England cricket legend and founder of the Ruth Strauss Foundation, Andrew Strauss.  

Durham offers three sports science courses. The first is a sport, exercise, and physical activity. This program looks at how sports performance can be improved but also considers issues such as inequality and promoting social justice in a sports setting. The second is sport and exercise sciences. This takes on a more traditional scientific approach to studying sports science and looks at topics within physiology, psychology, physical activity, and nutrition. Finally, and perhaps most impressive, Durham offers a foundation sport and exercise course for students from underrepresented backgrounds. This is for students that may have been failed by the education system as a result of disadvantage or disruption but still show the ability to be successful in higher education.  

Facilities at Durham include:  

  • Fencing salle  
  • Squash courts  
  • Dance and fitness studio  
  • Gym – free weights area / machines / cardio  
  • Martial arts area  
  • Climbing wall  
  • Indoor tennis courts  
  • Basketball / netball / volleyball courts  
  • Cricket pitches  
  • Hockey pitches  
  • Grass and artificial football and rugby pitches  
  • Lacrosse pitches  

Durham is one of the most impressive universities in terms of student sports teams and has been ranked number 1 by BUCS since 2013. It’s not just only students in sports teams involved either, currently 75% of students at Durham are involved in sport and physical activity. 

4. Loughborough University 

For many, when they think of Loughborough, they think of sport. This is evidenced most recently with 35 Loughborough-involved individuals claiming medals at the most recent 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic games. Not only does the university focus on sports but also takes pride in researching issues that affect people’s day-to-day lives and trying to come up with innovative solutions. This impressive research and sporting excellence, all takes place on Loughborough’s huge 44-acre campus, meaning you can be in lectures, to on the pitch in less than ten minutes.  

Loughborough offers a staggering 16 related sport undergraduate courses, ranging from sports management to geography and sport science. Whatever you’re looking to study in the sports science field, Loughborough likely has something for you.  

Loughborough is the home of some of the best sporting facilities in the country and is made up of:  

  • 50-meter swimming pool  
  • Bouldering facility  
  • Martial arts area  
  • Indoor tennis courts  
  • Gyms  
  • Squash courts  
  • Athletics track  
  • 5-a-side courts  
  • Football / rugby / hockey / lacrosse / cricket pitches   
  • Gymnastics center  
  • Gold center  
  • Indoor running track  
  • Badminton center  
  • Throw Park  

It’s clear that Loughborough is one of the top sporting universities. Not only have they got an incredible depth of facilities and programs available but they also boast some incredible achievements. If the university was a country, they would have ranked 10th in the 2016 Paralympic games. Loughborough was the first university to break 6000 BUCS points. At the Rio Olympics, 12 of the 67 medals won by team GB were from the university’s athletes. 

3. University of Aberdeen 

Aberdeen is the UK’s 5th oldest university and, in its time, has been the producer of some truly world-changing technology and developments. The university has been responsible for the MRI scanner, creating colour photography, and the discovery of using insulin to treat diabetes. The campus is a mix of historical architecture, showcasing’s Aberdeen’s rich history, combined with modern buildings bringing it into the 21st century.  

The university offers three courses, two of which can be turned into MSci (integrated masters) degrees with a year in placement option. The first MSci course is sport and exercise science. This degree aims to develop students’ understanding of how the body reacts to exercise and the varying environmental conditions it is put under. The second MSci course is exercise and health science, focusing on examining the importance exercise has on an individual’s health. Finally, the university offers an applied sport science degree, looking to use lab and field-based learning to prepare you for a sport-related career.   

The university has some fantastic facilities including the Aberdeen sports village and aquatics center. The facilities consist of:  

  • 400 meter running track  
  • Sports hall   
  • Full-size indoor football pitch  
  • Hockey / football / rugby / lacrosse pitches  
  • Squash courts  
  • Indoor athletics area  
  • 50-meter pool  
  • Diving facility  
  • Dance and fitness studios  
  • Martial arts area  
  • Boathouse  
  • Water sports (river, lake, and sea)  

The university has over 50 sports clubs for you to choose from. This may lead to you competing in the Granite city challenge, where you will take on Aberdeen’s fierce rivals, Robert Gordon University. Aberdeen has also produced athletes that have taken part in the commonwealth games, paralympic games, and other internationally recognised tournaments. If you are less competitive, don’t worry, the university also hosts a range of non-competitive activities for those just looking to enjoy just being involved in sport. 

2. University of Bath 

Bath is another university known for its production of outstanding research. Perhaps most noticeably is its research into child poverty and vulnerable people, winning a 2011 Queen’s anniversary prize. Bath is one of England’s most attractive cities, featuring Georgian architecture and an array of historic monuments. It also has excellent links to other cities such as Bristol, a mere 10-minute train journey away. If you’re looking for a diverse and cultural city to study, Bath is a great option, with 15,000 students currently studying, of which 30% are internarial students.  

With Bath being known for its excellent sporting status in both academics and producing top athletes, it’s no surprise that the university offers 13 differing sports courses. As well as this, Bath offers work placements alongside all of its courses, which the university attributes to its above-average employment rates post-student life.  

Baths sporting facilities include:  

  • 50 metre pool  
  • Hydrotherapy pool  
  • Gym   
  • Indoor tennis courts  
  • Pentathlon hall  
  • Dance and fitness studio  
  • Squash courts  
  • Martial arts areas  
  • Athletics track  
  • Americal football / lacrosse/ football / rugby cricket pitches  
  • Tennis / basketball / volleyball courts  
  • Beach volleyball courts  

Bath places a lot of its time and resources into developing excellent facilities and sporting environments for students and athletes to participate in sport and exercise. Perhaps this is why their facilities were used by the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games to host multiple Olympic teams. Six students from the University of Bath also went on to medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

1. University of Glasgow 

And finally, the number one spot on the 2022 complete university guides top 10 sport science goes to Russel group university, Glasgow. The university is one of the first educational institutions to take the first step in making the world a better place, by committing to being carbon neutral by 2030.  

Glasgow offers its students seven different sport science courses. Four of these looks at sports science as a broader topic, whilst the other three go into the specifics of physiology, medicine, or nutrition – aimed more at students looking to focus their study in one of these areas. Where these courses differ compared to other universities, is in their duration, with most courses being 5 years long and involving an integrated master’s. 

The university has a variety of facilities including:  

  • Squash courts  
  • Gym  
  • Climbing walls  
  • Indoor tennis courts  
  • Football / rugby / hockey /cricket pitches  
  • Cycling velodrome facility  
  • Equestrian facility  
  • Athletics track and field  
  • Basketball / volleyball / netball courts  
  • Water sports (river, lake, and artificial facility)  

Glasgow has something for everyone, whether it be visiting one of its over 20 museums or partying in one of the 700 bars, pubs, and nightclubs. If you’re looking for a friendly, affordable, and award-winning research university, Glasgow is for you.    

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