Most used words in website copy 2022: Top 50 UK universities

By Words On Brand's Will Campbell

Words naturally play an important role in how potential students and learners will judge your offer. They also say a lot about the brand image you want to portray and your overarching message to the wider world.

I have taken a look at the top 50 UK universities listed in the Times Higher Education rankings for 2022/23, and pulled the most frequently used words on their landing pages.

A snapshot of UK university copywriting

While the sample size is rather small to draw any robust data, I still wanted to get a snapshot of the copy and language choices made by the most competitive universities in the country. Which words are landing page users subjected to the most, how does this affect their experience and what does it say about copywriting in higher education?

I went into this exercise with no preconceptions about what the results would be. Would there be a trend towards sustainability, inclusivity or employability? Or would course content, academic achievement or student experience win the day?

See the full table here

Research leads the way while study misses out

While we can’t really be surprised that the most commonly used word is ‘research’, we have to wonder whether universities up and down the country aren’t missing a trick to differentiate themselves.

68% had ‘research’ as the most used word on their website while only 6% had ‘student’ or ‘study’ as their most used word.

Two universities had ‘world’ as their most frequently used word on their websites: The University of Bristol and Newcastle University. Recognition must go to the University of Bristol for using the word ‘virtual’ as much as it uses the words ‘world’ and ‘event’.  

To be fair to the other higher education institutions, research is a word which is going to pop up in all sorts of different places from headers, to news categories, staff profiles and content aimed at student and staff recruitment. My concern is this specific selling point is being over-prioritised at the expense of more targeted lead generation topics.

For example, job seekers applying for administrative roles are unlikely to feel passionate about the university’s position in research citation tables, in much the same way most high school leavers won’t care how much funding your academic staff brought in through research projects last year.

Research dominates further down the rankings too

What’s interesting is, the further outside the top ten we go, the more platitudes about research and academic prowess we see. Five of the first ten universities have ‘research’ as their most used website word compared to 8 out of the next 10. Then 14 of the next 20 universities after that.

Special mention: The University of Reading

If you want a rich mix of engaging copy however, look no further than the University of Reading.

University of Reading (198th overall in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings) has the most eclectic top 10 most frequently used words I assessed. Here we see regular occurrences of ‘history’, ‘engineering’, ‘international’ ‘climate’, ‘sciences’ and more:


The words we choose are interesting, but the words we overlook are even more telling. When I began looking into the most popular words used in website copy for UK higher education, I hoped to see a diverse lexicon with each most used word tending toward the unique selling point or central vision of its respective institution.

What I found instead was something much more homogenised. Something which shows the reluctance of many higher education marketing decision makers to take calculated copywriting risks for bigger rewards. 

An excellent opportunity to stand out

Universities up and down the country are in an excellent position to differentiate themselves simply by stepping off the beaten path and putting other (dare I say it more relatable) aspects of the student experience in the spotlight.

Start 2023 with a bang and get your website copy on track. Use our free website content audit template - no sign up or email registration needed.


To gather this data, I used a free-to-use tool designed to count the occurrences of all words on a given web page and calculate the frequency in which those words appear. The tool used is an Online Utilities tool created by Mladen Adamovic. Please check it out here

Please note: Words such as ‘a’, ‘and’, ‘of’ and so on, as well as the university name and location, were discounted from the results.

Get Words On Brand
Today is the perfect day to bring your digital strategy on brand.
Let's get going