Golden triangle (universities)

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locations of the university cities that make up the 'golden triangle'.

The golden triangle refers to the triangle formed by the university cities of Cambridge, London, and Oxford in the south east of England in the United Kingdom.[note 1] The triangle is occasionally referred to as the Loxbridge triangle,[7][8] a portmanteau of London and Oxbridge or, when limited to five members, the G5.[9][10][11][12]

The list of universities considered to be members of the golden triangle varies between sources, but typically comprises the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, King's College London, the London School of Economics and University College London.[13][note 2] Some sources omit either or both of King's College London[note 3] and the London School of Economics.[note 4] while occasionally other universities are included, e.g. the London Business School and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,[24] or all of the higher education institutions in the three cities.[25]


The universities typically considered members of the golden triangle possess some of the largest UK university financial endowments; endowment sizes range from UCL's £139 million (2019)[26] to Cambridge's £6.44 billion (including colleges).[27] Further, each university receives millions of pounds in research fundings and other grants from the UK government, criticised by leaders of some other universities as disproportionate and not in the best interests of the country as a whole.[28] In 2013/14, universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London received 46% of research funding in the UK, up from 42.6% a decade earlier.[29]

Institution Location Undergraduate enrollment (2019/20)[30] Graduate enrollment (2019/20)[30] Total enrollment (2019/20)[30] 2019 Endowment Academic staff (2018/19)[31] Motto Colours
University of Cambridge Cambridge,
12,860 8,475 21,340 £6.441 billion (including colleges) (as of 31 July 2018)


6,215 Hinc lucem et pocula sacra
(From this place, we gain enlightenment and precious knowledge)

Cambridge Blue[34]

Imperial College London London 10,475 8,925 19,400 £178.1 million[35] 4,390 Scientia imperii decus et tutamen
(Knowledge is the adornment and protection of the Empire)
King's College London London 19,370 13,740 33,110 £258.1 million[36] 5,220 Sancte et Sapienter
(With Holiness and Wisdom)

Blue & King's Red[37]

London School of Economics London 5,160 6,895 12,050 £155.0 million[38] 1,725 Rerum cognoscere causas
(To Know the Causes of Things)

Purple, black and gold[39]

University of Oxford Oxford,
15,270 10,640 25,910 £6.1 billion (including colleges) (as of 31 July 2018)[42] 6,905 Dominus Illuminatio Mea
(The Lord is my Light)

Oxford blue[43]

University College London London 19,715 21,380 41,095 £138.7 million[26] 7,700 Cuncti adsint meritaeque expectent praemia palmae
(Let all come who by merit deserve the most reward)

Research income[edit]

With the exception of the LSE, the five other institutions typically considered members of the golden triangle (sometimes referred to as the G5) have among the highest research incomes of all British universities, ranking in the top seven of British universities by research grant and contract income (along with Manchester and Edinburgh) and in the top six of English universities by Research England recurrent funding (along with Manchester). These five institutions all have significant fractions of their research grant and contract income from clinical medicine, varying (in 2021/22) from 41.7% (Cambridge) to 63.6% (King's College London), compared to an average across the UK of 34.4%. Overall, 50.9% of the 2020/21 research grant and contract income of the five institutions (50.0% if the LSE is included) came from clinical medicine research, and they accounted for 34.7% of all research grant and contract income of UK universities in 2020/21 (35.2% if the LSE is included).[44]

Following the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF), the golden triangle universities saw a fall in their share of Quality Research funding (recurring funding based on the REF results rather than grants or other sources) from Research England. Analysis by Times Higher Education showed that the share of funding going to the golden triangle (not including the LSE in this analysis) fell from 35.36 per cent in 2020/21 under the previous REF to 33.05 per cent in 2021/22, although the actual funding the institutions received increased due to an overall increase in funding levels and the five universities remained (with Manchester) the top six institutions by share of funding. The LSE saw a decrease in actual funding of 9.03 per cent, leading to a 0.28 percentage point fall in its share of funding to 0.85 per cent, placing it below the post-92 Northumbria University.[45]

In 2004, the G5 universities were accused of secretly coordinating bids for an increased share of any extra money made available in the government's summer 2004 spending review. The objective was to secure extra state funding above the £3,000 student top-up fees planned in England from 2006 to cover the full costs of home and European Union undergraduates on their courses. This has been attributed to the universities stating they are offering no cheap courses, and that they would have to reduce their intake of UK students without the additional income.[46]

The balance of funding between the 'golden triangle' and the rest of the UK has been questioned, and was specifically included in the terms of reference for an enquiry in 2018 by the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.[47] According to defenders of the level of funding going to the golden triangle institutions, "The apparent concentration of research in the golden triangle is little more than a reflection of the distribution of people in the UK".[48] Analysis of grant proposals to Research Councils UK between 2012–13 and 2016–17 has shown that golden triangle institutions do not have unusually high success rates (two are actually below the expected range), but that the northern universities of Durham, Lancaster and York do.[49] In February 2022, the UK Government announced as part of its "Levelling Up" White Paper that public investment outside of the south east would increase by 40% by 2030, despite warnings from leaders of research-intensive universities that this could reduce the importance of scientific excellence in funding decisions.[50]

Recurrent Quality Research funding from Research England for golden triangle universities (out of English universities, year 2022/23)[45]
Rank University QR funding (£m) QR funding share (%)
1 University of Oxford 164.2 8.32
2 University College London 159.2 8.06
3 University of Cambridge 141.5 7.78
4 Imperial College London 106.5 5.45
6 King's College London 81.2 4.11
31 London School of Economics 16.8 0.85
Research grant and contract income (excluding recurring Quality Research funding from funding councils) for golden triangle universities (out of British universities, year 2020/21)
Rank[44] University Research income (£m)[44] Research income in clinical medicine (£m)[44] Research income in clinical medicine as proportion of total research income[44] Research income as proportion of total income (%)[51]
1 University of Oxford 653.3 363.5 55.6 26.9
2 University of Cambridge 588.6 245.4 41.7 27.0
3 University College London 476.9 256.9 53.9 29.6
4 Imperial College London 363.0 169.8 46.8 33.6
7 King's College London 187.9 119.5 63.6 18.8
41 London School of Economics 34.9 0.0 0.0 8.8



Golden triangle universities generally do well on international rankings, which strongly reflect research performance. Some global rankings, such as those produced by Times Higher Education (THE) and QS, correct for the sizes of institutions in calculating their results but others, such as the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), make no such adjustment.[52][53]

University ARWU 2022 (Global)[54] QS 2023 (Global)[55] THE 2023 (Global)[56]
University of Cambridge 4 2 3=
Imperial College London 23 6= 10
King's College London 48 37 35
London School of Economics 101–150 56 37
University of Oxford 7 4 1
University College London 18 8 22


The Golden Triangle universities generally do well on British university league tables, with Cambridge and Oxford consistently in the top three, and Imperial, LSE and UCL ranked in the top ten by all compilers. King's College London, however, fails to make the top ten in any of the major rankings.

University Complete 2023 (National)[57] Guardian 2023 (National)[58] Times/Sunday Times 2023 (National)[59]
University of Cambridge 2 3 3
Imperial College London 5 5 5
King's College London 22 29 26
London School of Economics 3 4 4
University of Oxford 1 2 1
University College London 9 9 7

Student body[edit]

UCAS Admissions Statistics (2022)
Applications[60] Offer Rate (%)[61] Accepted[60] Average Entry Tariff (2020)[62]
Cambridge 22,995 21.8% 3,555 207
Imperial 28,620 30.1% 3,090 198
King's 70,090 39.3% 7,320 165
LSE 26,625 26.1% 2,150 193
Oxford 24,080 19.2% 3,300 201
UCL 74,775 29.5% 7,530 189


The golden triangle universities are highly selective, with entrance typically requiring strong performances in standardised exams as represented by the average scores of new entrants when converted to UCAS points. Five of the golden triangle universities were in the top ten by entry standards for 2020–21, with King's coming in joint 19th.[62] The universities also make up six of the eight British universities by lowest offer rates (the others being 3rd-placed St Andrews and 6th-placed Edinburgh). For the 2022 undergraduate admissions cycle, all of the universities reported offer rates, including conditional and unconditional offers, below 40%.[61]


Students from private education are over-represented at the six institutions. With the exception of King's, the remaining universities reported over 30% of their UK-domiciled student body in 2020-21 composed of private school students. This places the universities among the nine highest UK providers with more than 10,000 students for the proportion of private school students with Imperial in 5th at 32.4% (behind Durham, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Exeter) followed by UCL (32.4%), Oxford (31.4%), LSE (30.4%) and Cambridge (30.0%).[63] Nationally, around 6% of school-aged pupils attend education in the private sector, although this figure increases to as high as 18% for pupils aged 16-19.[64]

Among UK providers with more than 10,000 students, the LSE had the highest proportion of non-UK students in 2021-22 at 65.6% (followed by University of the Arts London), Imperial in 3rd at 52.7% and UCL in fourth at 51.6% (followed by St Andrews, Edinburgh and Hertfordshire) and King's in 8th at 41.3%. Totals as of 2021-22 for non-UK students broken down by level of study are:[65]

University UK students EU students Non-UK/EU students Non-UK (%) Undergraduates Research students Postgraduates (%) Total students
Cambridge 15,405 2,015 5,190 31.9% 13,645 4,410 39.6% 22,610
Imperial 10,150 2,720 8,600 52.7% 11,740 4,100 45.2% 21,470
King's 24,340 3,840 13,310 41.3% 23,225 2,945 44.0% 41,490
LSE 4,455 1,970 6,550 65.6% 5,575 550 57.0% 12,975
Oxford 18,030 2,415 6,845 33.9% 15,685 5,065 42.5% 27,290
UCL 22,685 4,400 19,745 51.6% 23,800 6,120 49.2% 46,830

Research in 2017 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies also indicates graduates from the LSE, Oxford and Imperial earn, on average, over £40,000 per year 5 years after graduation, making them the highest earners 5 years after graduation amongst British university graduates.[66]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Multiple sources state the golden triangle is formed around Oxford, Cambridge and London.[1][2][3][4][5][6]
  2. ^ Multiple sources confirm the membership, although some omit either King's or LSE, as noted under their entries.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23]
  3. ^ King's College London is not included by[8][15][16][19][20][22][23]
  4. ^ LSE is not included by[14][19][20][22]


  1. ^ "Oxbridge windfall". Times Higher Education. 4 August 1995. A large amount of the cash awarded to humanities postgraduates still goes to the "Golden Triangle" of Oxford, Cambridge and London, British Academy figures reveal.
  2. ^ Kershaw, Alison (4 October 2012). "UK universities slip in rankings". The Independent. Rankings editor Phil Baty said: "Outside the golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge, England's world-class universities face a collapse into global mediocrity.
  3. ^ Andrew Ward (25 June 2015). "Johnson floats £10bn biotech fund for London". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 11 December 2022. MedCity was launched last year to increase collaboration between Imperial College, King's College and University College London – the capital's three main science universities – and promote the broader 'golden triangle' between London, Cambridge and Oxford to investors.
  4. ^ Rebecca Marriage (11 March 2015). "UK confirmed as 'global education superpower' in international university rankings". ReLocate Global. The 'golden triangle' of Oxford, Cambridge and London strengthened its grip on UK higher education: As well as Cambridge and Oxford rising closer to the summit, University College London moved up from 25th to 17th, the London School of Economics rose two places to 22nd and King's College London jumped eight places from 43rd to 31st.
  5. ^ Mullins, Justin (23 April 2005). "England's golden triangle". New Scientist. Take a look at any of the various league tables ranking universities around the world ... Oxford and Cambridge are in the top handful, while London's University College and Imperial College sit comfortably in the top 25. ... London, Oxford and Cambridge are a 'golden triangle' of academic success.
  6. ^ Wiggins, Kaye (11 March 2015). "The World Reputation Rankings: UK's university 'golden triangle' strengthens grip". The "golden triangle" of Oxford, Cambridge and London has strengthened its grip on the UK's higher education system, according to the latest global reputation rankings from TES's sister title Times Higher Education.
  7. ^ Neuman, Michael (2018). "The Loxbridge Triangle: Integrating the East-West Arch into the London Mega-region". University of Cambridge.
  8. ^ a b Morgan, K. J. (2004). "The research assessment exercise in English universities, 2001". Higher Education. 48 (4): 461–482. doi:10.1023/B:HIGH.0000046717.11717.06. JSTOR 4151567. S2CID 145505001.
  9. ^ Murphy, Peter; Peters, Michael A.; Marginson, Simon (2010). Imagination: three models of imagination in the age of the knowledge economy. Peter Lang. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-4331-0529-6. Retrieved 28 June 2011.
  10. ^ Albornoz, Orlando (2006). La universidad latinoamericana entre Davos y Porto Alegre: error de origen, error de proceso. El Nacional. p. 86. ISBN 980-388-266-X. Retrieved 14 February 2012.
  11. ^ "President and Provost of UCL Visited SARI". Shanghai Advanced Research Institute. Archived from the original on 24 May 2021. Retrieved 3 December 2011.
  12. ^ Wang, Chu-jie (2019). "Analysis on the Improvement of Undergraduate Enrollment Under the Background of "double first-class" Construction - Based on the G5 College Enrollment System Comparison". Teacher Education Forum (in Chinese). 1: 93–97.
  13. ^ Mike Savage (5 November 2015). Social Class in the 21st Century. Penguin. p. 167. ISBN 9780141978925. Higher education researchers often talk about a 'Golden Triangle' of universities. The 'triangle' describes an imaginary three-sided shape with corners in Oxford, Cambridge and London. The exact composition of the London 'corner' can vary, but typically it includes the London School of Economics, King's College London, University College London and Imperial College London.
  14. ^ a b "Golden opportunities". Nature. 6 July 2005. No longer rivals, Oxford, Cambridge and London are now working towards a common goal – ensuring the 'golden triangle' becomes a global science hub. (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, King's and Imperial)
  15. ^ a b Zoe Corbyn (26 November 2009). "In research, small is just as beautiful". Times Higher Education. The findings reveal the full extent of the dominance of the golden triangle: papers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London, and the London School of Economics were cited far more often than the world average (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and LSE)
  16. ^ a b "'Golden triangle' to win funding riches". Times Higher Education. 11 February 2010. The other institutions in the Cambridge-Oxford-London 'golden triangle' – University College London, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics – will also receive big cash windfalls, as will the University of Manchester. (names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, Imperial and LSE)
  17. ^ Sean Coughlan (3 October 2013). "London top city in global university rankings". BBC News. The so-called 'golden triangle' of UK universities – Oxford, Cambridge and leading London institutions – is seen as a breakaway elite group, with these universities consolidating their international reputations. Imperial College, University College London, LSE and King's College London are all in the top 40. (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, King's, Imperial and LSE)
  18. ^ Miriam Frankel; Alison Goddard; Gretchen Ransow (18 December 2014). "Golden Triangle pulls ahead in REF shake-out: UCL and KCL ascend power rankings, Manchester and Leeds fall" (PDF). Research Fortnight. The top six universities in the so-called golden triangle—Oxford, UCL, Cambridge, Imperial, KCL and the London School of Economics and Political Science—have done particularly well in the Power Ratings. (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, King's, Imperial and LSE)
  19. ^ a b c Jha, Alok (3 June 2003). "Gold rush". The Guardian. The golden triangle of Oxford, Cambridge, University College London and Imperial College, show no sign of slowing down in their race away from the rest of the sector when it comes to research funding. (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial)
  20. ^ a b c OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation OECD Reviews of Regional Innovation, North of England, UK. OECD. 2008. p. 222. ISBN 9789264048942. The "Golden Triangle" of ... the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, Imperial College and University College of London ... (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial)
  21. ^ Grant, Malcolm (1 March 2005). "The future of the University of London: a discussion paper from the Provost of UCL" (PDF): 6. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help) (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, King's, Imperial and LSE)
  22. ^ a b c Clark, Paul (1 March 2002). "The golden triangle holds the secret". Times Higher Education. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the four institutions comprising the 'golden triangle' – Cambridge, Imperial College, Oxford and University College London – elect not to receive their block Higher Education Funding Council for England grant for teaching. (Names Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial)
  23. ^ a b Jonathan Adams (5 June 2017). "We need to rethink research funding for UK regions to prosper". The Guardian. "Currently, most R&D investment is concentrated in the south-east, London and the east, with the "golden triangle" universities of Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College and the LSE taking over a quarter of the pot.
  24. ^ "World Reputation Rankings 2014 results: UK's 'golden triangle' accounts for 8 of the country's 10 representatives in top 100". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  25. ^ Geographic breakdown of public research and innovation expenditure (PDF) (Report). Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. June 2015.
  26. ^ a b "Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2019" (PDF). University College London. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Accounts of the Colleges 2017-18" (PDF). Retrieved 11 June 2019.
  28. ^ Rebecca Attwood (16 February 2007). "South secures research cash". Times Higher Education.
  29. ^ "Golden triangle increases share of research funding".
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  35. ^ "Annual Report and Accounts 2018–19" (PDF). Imperial College London. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
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  37. ^ "Branding Essentials". Branding Essentials 10 August 2015. Archived from the original on 12 November 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
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  42. ^ Colleges £4.896 billion,[40] University (consolidated) £1.161 billion[41]
  43. ^ "The brand colour – Oxford blue". University of Oxford. Retrieved 16 August 2013.
  44. ^ a b c d e "Table 5 - Research grants and contracts - breakdown by source of income and HESA cost centre 2015/16 to 2020/21". Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  45. ^ a b Tom Williams (4 August 2022). "Post-92s gain research funding at expense of 'golden triangle'". Times Higher Education.
  46. ^ "Super elite in secret bid for cash boost". Times Higher Education. 6 February 2004. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
  47. ^ "Balance and effectiveness of research and innovation spending inquiry launched". House of Commons. 20 July 2018. Terms of Reference. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  48. ^ Sarah Chaytor and Graeme Reid (6 December 2018). "Cuts to the golden triangle could leave the UK in bad shape". Times Higher Education.
  49. ^ Alex Hulkes (27 September 2018). "Putting research in its place". ESRC.
  50. ^ Chris Havergal (2 February 2022). "UK regions promised research funding boost under 'levelling up'". Times Higher Education.
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  56. ^ "THE World University Rankings 2023". Times Higher Education. 2 September 2022. Retrieved 2 February 2023.
  57. ^ "Complete University Guide 2023". The Complete University Guide. 14 June 2022.
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