officially United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, constitutional monarchy (2005 est. pop. 60,441,000), 94,226 sq mi (244,044 sq km), on the British Isles, off W Europe. The country is often referred to simply as Britain. Technically, Great Britain comprises England (1991 pop. 46,382,050), 50,334 sq mi (130,365 sq km); Wales (1991 pop. 2,798,200), 8,016 sq mi (20,761 sq km); and Scotland (1991 pop. 4,957,000), 30,414 sq mi (78,772 sq km) on the island of Great Britain, while the United Kingdom includes Great Britain as well as Northern Ireland (1991 pop. 1,577,836), 5,462 sq mi (14,146 sq km) on the island of Ireland. The Isle of Man (1991 pop. 69,788), 227 sq mi (588 sq km), in the Irish Sea and the Channel Islands (1991 pop. 145,821), 75 sq mi (195 sq km), in the English Channel, are dependencies of the crown, with their own systems of government. For physical geography and local administrative divisions, see England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, Northern. The capital of Great Britain and its largest city is London.
Great Britain is the fourth most populous country in Europe. The English constitute more than 80% of the nation's inhabitants. The Scottish make up nearly 10%, and there are smaller groups of Irish and Welsh descent. Great Britain's population has shown increasing ethnic diversity since the 1970s, when people from the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Africa, and China began immigrating; in the late 1990s these groups accounted for close to 3% of the population. English is the universal language of Great Britain. In addition, about a quarter of the inhabitants of Wales speak Welsh and there are about 60,000 speakers of the Scottish form of Gaelic in Scotland.
The Church of England, also called the Anglican Church (see England, Church of), is the officially established church in England (it was disestablished in Wales in 1914); the monarch is its supreme governor. The Presbyterian Church of Scotland is legally established in Scotland. There is complete religious freedom throughout Great Britain. By far the greatest number of Britons (some 27 million) are Anglicans, followed by Roman Catholics and other Christians. There are smaller minorities of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists.
There are 88 universities in Great Britain, the most famous being those at Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, London, and St. Andrews.