South East England is one of the nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. It consists of the counties of BuckinghamshireEast SussexHampshire, the Isle of WightKentOxfordshireBerkshireSurrey and West Sussex. Major towns and cities in the regions include Brighton and HoveGuildfordPortsmouthMilton KeynesReadingOxfordSlough and Southampton.

South East England is the third largest region of England, with an area of 19,096 km2 (7,373 sq mi), and is also the most populous with a total population of over eight and a half million (2011). The region contains seven legally chartered citiesBrighton and HoveCanterburyChichesterOxfordPortsmouthSouthampton and Winchester. The region’s close proximity to London and connections to several national motorways have led to South East England becoming a prosperous economic hub with the largest economy of any region in the UK, after London. The region is home to Gatwick Airport, the UK’s second-busiest airport, and Heathrow Airport (the UK’s busiest airport) is located adjacent to the region’s boundary with Greater London. The coastline along the English Channel provides numerous ferry crossings to mainland Europe.

The region is known for its countryside, which includes the North Downs and the Chiltern Hills as well as two national parks: the New Forest and the South Downs. The River Thames flows through the region and its basin is known as the Thames Valley. It is also the location of a number of internationally known places of interest, such as HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, Thorpe Park and RHS Wisley in Surrey, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, Windsor Castle in Berkshire, Leeds Castle, the White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, Brighton Palace Pier, and Hammerwood Park in East Sussex, and Wakehurst Place in West Sussex. The region has many universities; the University of Oxford is the oldest in the English-speaking world, and ranked among the best in the world.

South East England is host to various sporting events, including the annual Henley Royal RegattaRoyal Ascot and The Derby, and sporting venues include Wentworth Golf Club and Brands Hatch. Some of the events of the 2012 Summer Olympics were held in the south east, including the rowing at Eton Dorney and part of the cycling road race in the Surrey Hills.

The largest city in the region is Brighton & Hove. The dominant influence on the region’s economy is neighbouring London. The highest point is Walbury Hill in Berkshire at 297 metres (974 ft).

Britain’s tallest native tree, according to The Tree Register in April 2015, is a 144-ft beech at Devil’s Dyke in Newtimber Woods in West Sussex.

Historical boundaries

Until 1999, there was a south east Standard Statistical Region, which also included the counties of Bedfordshire, Greater London, Essex and Hertfordshire. The former south east Civil Defence Region covered the same area as the current government office region.

Alternative definitions

In unofficial usage, the South East can refer to a varying area – sometimes only to London, Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, and Surrey; but sometimes to an area corresponding to the former Standard Statistical Region. The South East is also occasionally used as a synonym for the home counties.

List of largest cities and towns by population in South East England[8]
City/TownCeremonial CountyPopulation (2019)Conurbation (2011)
Brighton and HoveEast Sussex290,885474,485
Milton KeynesBuckinghamshire269,457229,941
PortsmouthHampshire214,905[n 1]
High WycombeBuckinghamshire125,257133,204
CrawleyWest Sussex112,409180,508
WorthingWest Sussex110,570[n 2]
EastbourneEast Sussex103,745118,219

Buckinghamshire, Medway and Kent, and Slough have an almost completely selective education system – not just a few grammar schools as other English areas may have – with secondary modern schools as the alternative. Kent has 33 grammar schools, Buckinghamshire 13, Medway 6 and Slough 4. The other areas are comprehensive. In the top thirty schools at A level, it is almost exclusively selective schools; one or two are sixth form colleges. However, the results for each county as a whole are not always directly related to the number of grammar schools, as Kent and Medway perform under average at A-level. The King’s School, Canterbury claims to be oldest in England – 597AD. Herschel Grammar School in Slough is the most oversubscribed school in England – 14 people per place, Langley Grammar School in Slough is next with 13 per place, then Burnham Grammar School.


See also: Rankings of universities in the United Kingdom, Golden triangle (universities), and SES (universities) The best known university in the region is the University of Oxford, famous for its ornate colleges and its rowing teams on the Thames. It was ranked the fourth best university in the world by the Times Higher Educational Supplement in 2013. Other well-known universities include: University of Brighton, Brighton and Eastbourne University of Buckingham, Buckingham Buckinghamshire New University, High Wycombe, Aylesbury, Uxbridge and Great Missenden Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, Medway towns and Tunbridge Wells University of Chichester, Chichester and Bognor Regis University of Kent, Canterbury The University of Law, Guildford (as well as 8 other UK campuses outside South East England) University of Reading, Reading, Henley-on-Thames The Open University, Milton Keynes Oxford Brookes University, Oxford University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Solent University, Southampton University of Southampton, Southampton University of Surrey, Guildford University of Sussex, Brighton University of Winchester, Winchester

The South East of England is a very prosperous area with the second largest regional economy in the UK (after London), valued at £177 billion in 2006. GDP per capita in 2007 was estimated at £22,624, compared with a UK average of £19,95air p6, making South East England the second richest region per capita, behind London. The South East England Development Agency is in Guildford, with another site in Chatham. The region’s Manufacturing Advisory Service is on the A30 in Hook, north Hampshire The UKTI service for the region is on Victory Park in Whiteley, off junction 9 of the M27, opposite the Solent Hotel.

The main road transport routes are along the M1 through Buckinghamshire; the M40 through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire; the M4 through Berkshire and Buckinghamshire; the M2 motorway/A2 and M20 through Kent; the M23 through Surrey and West Sussex; the M3 through Surrey and Hampshire. All these routes connect to the M25, which runs near to and occasionally through the region’s border with Greater London.

The A34 provides a north–south road link through Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. The east–west corridor through the south of the region is provided by the A27 and the M27.

The main intercontinental airport is Gatwick Airport, with regional airports at Kent International Airport (Ramsgate), Shoreham Airport and Southampton AirportHeathrow Airport is in Greater London but also serves (and is serviced by) the South East region.

The Great Western Main Line passes through Berkshire, Oxfordshire and southern Buckinghamshire. The South Eastern Main Line and High Speed 1 pass through Kent; the latter connects to the Channel Tunnel. The Brighton Main Line passes through Surrey and West Sussex. The North Downs Line runs from Berkshire then through Surrey to connect with Sussex and Kent. The West Coast Main Line passes through northern Buckinghamshire. The Chiltern Main Line is a major commuter line between Birmingham and London passing through central Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. The Port of Dover and the port at Folkestone have many ferry services to France and though none currently run to Belgium.


Companies in Berkshire essentially follow the M4 corridor. In Theale are Nvidia UK (components for smartphones) and Wolseley, the builders' and plumbers' merchants who own Bathstore and Plumb Center. SPP Pumps (owned by Kirloskar Group) is at the Arlington Business Park; on the same estate PepsiCo is next to the GWML railway. Porsche Cars Great Britain is in Calcot, Tilehurst, west of Reading near Theale Interchange. Harley-Davidson UK is in Pangbourne. Vodafone, and High and Mighty are based in Newbury; Bayer UK (Aspirin, Rennie and Alka-Seltzer) is to the west; National Instruments UK is to the east off the A4 on the Newbury Business Park, and Quantel was off the A4 and is now Snell (former Snell & Wilcox, previously in Lower Earley), an important video technology company, near Aricent UK.

The Atomic Weapons Establishment is in Aldermaston on the Hampshire boundary. The Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre and Xtrac Limited are at Thatcham. The Royal School of Military Survey is in Hermitage. East of the A34, north of the M4, at Compton since 1992 is the UK HQ of Baxter Healthcare, part of a global company which is working on a vaccine for H1N1, and next door is the Institute for Animal Health, which also researches H1N1.

Further east on the A404(M) is McGraw-Hill UK in Cox Green; other the side of the A404(M) at the Cox Green Interchange (9A), GSK makes Sensodyne, Corsodyl, Aquafresh, and Macleans; Volvo Cars UK are at Scandinavia House (in Marlow from 1986 to 2012) next to GSK; Nortel UK left in 2009. Sanofi Pasteur MSD UK (vaccines) is based next to the Maidenhead council offices. Initial Washrooms Solutions is next to the railway station and on the other side of A308 is Hutchison 3G UK; on the other side of the railway is The Rank Group at the A308 roundabout, in Bray Wick. Adobe Systems have their European HQ on the A4, south of the B4447 roundabout, next to a Sainsbury's. Hanson UK is based at the A4/A308 roundabout; Hitachi Europe (with Maxell Europe) is off the A4094 on the northern outskirts towards Cookham at Whitebrook Park, with DS Smith, at the former Formica Research Centre. Avery Dennison UK are based to the north off the A308 at Furze Platt.


Allianz Insurance have their UK headquarters in Guildford as do Ericsson, Colgate-Palmolive UK, Constellation Brands Europe, Electronic Arts (formerly in Chertsey before 2008), Sanofi-Aventis, the CTC, Surrey Satellite Technology, Avaya UK, and Philips UK. Alexander Dennis (ADL) is off the A320 at Worplesdon on the north of Guildford on the Slyfield Ind Est, towards Jacobs Well; Wagner Spraytech (UK) design power decorating tools nearby. Lionhead Studios and BAE Systems Detica are near the Royal Surrey County Hospital. BOC Gases UK are also in Guildford. UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory is high in the Surrey Hills. Mövenpick Ice Cream UK is off the A248 at St Martha, to the east of Guildford; Vivid Imaginations, in Artington to the south, own the UK rights to Crayola. The former company, now owned by The Linde Group, was based in Windlesham. British Car Auctions is on the A325 in Farnham. Scotts Garden Chemicals are at Catteshall. Motor company McLaren and McLaren Automotive are based at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking as are the UK base of Yum Restaurants (owner of KFC), SABMiller, BIW Technologies (project software), SPSS (statistical software), and Capgemini; ISS UK & Ireland (Danish services company, similar to Serco or G4S) is next to the railway on the Sheerwater Ind Est. In the south of Woodham, next to the Basingstoke Canal, is Playtex UK, and to the east is Fernox (water treatment, owned by Alent). Towards Woking along the railway is Pirbright (home of the Pirbright Institute), where Merial Animal Health also make vaccines. Tupperware UK is in Knaphill. ). In the area straddling the M25, the huge Compass Group is based in Chertsey as is Samsung UK,


High Wycombe is known historically for its furniture industry, and has the Association of Master Upholsterers & Soft Furnishers. Hyundai UK and Tetra Pak UK are at Wycombe Marsh on the A40, and Dreams, the UK base of Ariston (now owned by Indesit), Wilkinson Sword, Merisant UK, and Staples are based in High Wycombe; Cofely (energy services) and Rank Hovis are off the M40 Handy Cross Interchange, with The Perfume Shop, the food technology centre of Premier Foods, and Instron Europe (tension testing machines), off the A4010. To the north of the town centre is Sennheiser UK (audio equipment). RAF High Wycombe (Air Command) is at Bradenham on Grim's Ditch (Chilterns) off the A4010. To the west of the town, United Biscuits have their group technical centre on Sands Ind Estate, off the A4010, near the rugby ground of London Wasps. Swedish Match UK (all their matches are made in Sweden) are in Totteridge. Johnson & Johnson UK have their base at Booker next to the M40 near Handy Cross, with Janssen-Cilag UK (Imodium); Taylor Wimpey is off the A4010, with Focusrite, a big industry player in consoles for sound recording, with Novation Digital Music Systems MIDI controllers and keyboards.


The Army have a large garrison in Aldershot, with Sandhurst being nearby. Elica also make extractor hoods in Aldershot, and the European HQ of the Computer Sciences Corporation consulting firm is based at the A323/A325 roundabout; Securikey on Springlakes Ind Est make digital door locks near the railway bridge over the Basingstoke Canal. Rentokil Initial have their head office and pest control division next to Blackwater railway station, north of the A30, towards Camberley. Farnborough has many international aerospace companies as well as Sofa Workshop. Nokia UK, which had also been a R&D base for Nokia Siemens Networks on the A327, left in 2012; further along the A327 is Autodesk UK. DKB Household UK (Zyliss) is off the A327 in North Farnborough; at the A325/A327 roundabout is Parametric Technology Corporation UK (known for its industry-standard PTC Creo Elements/Pro (Pro/ENGINEER) CAD/CAM software) with Red Hat UK. Thomson Local directory is on the A325 next to Farnborough railway station, next to the Catholic National Library; opposite is the design centre for Qualcomm UK (W-CDMA UMTS mobile technology) with Hogg Robinson Group UK (its worldwide headquarters are in Basingstoke). BAE Systems with CORDA is south of the airfield at the Farnborough Aerospace Centre, off the A325/A3011 Queen's Roundabout. Sun Microsystems had their UK headquarters at Guillemont Park (former Guillemont Barracks until 1997) north of the M3 Minley Interchange at Blackwater and Hawley, until 2009.


Southern Water is on the A2032 in Durrington, Worthing; Durrington Bridge House on the Barrington Road Ind Estate, next to Durrington-on-Sea railway station, in Goring-by-Sea has HMRC's national office for its Voluntary Arrangement Service


Is next to Rochester Airport and the M2, where they make helmet mounted displays and head-up displays; it was GEC Avionics, previously Marconi Avionics and Elliott Flight Automation, and Kent's biggest employer in the 1980s; the display technology originated from acquiring Cintel in 1963; the site was a Shorts factory in the war, and built many Short Sunderlands. The Royal Engineers and the Royal School of Military Engineering are based in Chatham at Brompton Barracks. London Thamesport is on the Isle of Grain. Metsä Board UK (paper) is off the A289 near Medway Tunnel, and next to the Universities at Medway, Chatham. Sleepeezee (owned by the Simmons Bedding Company) is at Conquest Ind Est in Strood on the A228 next to the River Medway. Bose UK are on the Gillingham Business Park, off the A278 near the A2 Bowaters Roundabout; on other side of A278 is Delphi Diesel Systems.


Oxford University Press, Blackwell UK, Electrocomponents and Amey plc are in Oxford as is the BMW plant that builds the Mini. BMW assemble the MINI at Cowley; in the south of Oxford is Unipart and TI Automotive UK. South of Oxford in Littlemore, off the A4074 at the Oxford Science Park is Nominet UK (UK domain names). SAE Institute has its world HQ on Littlemore Park off the A4074. Grafton Merchanting GB (Buildbase, and Hirebase) are on Oxford Business Park in Cowley, with Electrocomponents next to Publishing Technology, Blackwell UK and Harley Davidson UK; to the south on the side of the B480 is Oxfam GB at Oxfam House,