There is no denying that Europe is one of, if not the most popular choice of destination for international students. Besides its long-standing reputation of quality education, the continent is rich with history, cultural diversity, and countless tourist sites that all contribute to a rewarding academic experience. In this article, we will be looking at the best universities in Europe for international students.
Is Europe good for international students to study in?
Many international students choose to study in Europe for its high standards in education. Several of the world’s top-ranked and time-honored universities are found in the continent, such as Cambridge and Oxford in the UK, the École Normale Supérieure of Paris, the ETH Zurich of Switzerland, and much more.
Most programs in European universities are competitive in terms of cost, especially in comparison to America. Many institutions are generous with scholarships, and most universities offer free postgraduate education as well.
Besides excellent programs, students are also after the open-minded and progressive culture of Europe. Most countries favor work-life balance, sustainability, cultural appreciation, and freedom of expression. In line with these values, European countries have high standards of living that enable students to have a safe and healthier life.
Check Also: Programs in Europe for International Students
Can international students work in Europe while studying?
Citizens of the European Union (EU) have the same rights as nationals of the country they are studying in. They do not need any special work permit and can work the same hours (whether part-time or full-time) as the local students. Non-EU citizens, however, may have to review a country’s specific regulations. Nonetheless, most European nations allow part-time employment for students in general.
Can international students stay in Europe after graduation?
After graduation, EU-nationals can stay and work in EU-member countries without needing a visa or work permit. On the other hand, non-EU citizens are required of a work visa or similar to be able to stay in a European country.
Best Universities in Europe
1. University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a time-honored and prestigious higher learning institution in England. University of Oxford is considered to be the best university in Europe for international students. The research-driven institution is particularly reputable in the sciences. Not only has it consistently ranked first in the world for medicine, but also among the ten best universities globally in physical sciences, life sciences, and social sciences, and in numerous programs in the arts and humanities, too.
Today, the University of Oxford admits nearly 22,000 students, of which over 40 percent are international, representing 140 countries around the globe. Oxford cites an international faculty, as well, teaching across thirty-nine semi-autonomous colleges. Furthermore, Oxford has been associated with the greatest personalities in various disciplines, including Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Thatcher, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as 72 Nobel Prize Laureates, 160 Olympic medalists, and much more.
2. ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
ETH Zurich is one of the world’s leading universities in science and technology, mathematics, and engineering. In 2020, it was the fourth-best university for engineering and technology and first in earth and marine science, while in 2021 it was named the second-best European university by QS. Besides numerous academic accomplishments, this top university in Europe is among the most attractive study destinations for international students due to its low tuition fees. It presently has the most Ph.D. and graduate students and educates over 22,200 students from more than 120 countries.
Located in the largest city of Switzerland, ETH Zurich has two campuses that house its 16 departments, a Science City, and a soon-to-open Student Project House – which is a maker space to foster students’ innovative ideas. Altogether, the university stands out for incorporating Swiss traditions of open-mindedness, entrepreneurship, and individual responsibility, into its teaching.
3. Imperial College London
As one of the best universities in Europe for international students, Imperial College London is a state research university focusing exclusively on science, engineering, medicine, and business. It was initiated by Prince Albert in 1907 to make South Kensington a center for culture and was built alongside the region’s major museums and educational institutions. Today, Imperial College comprises a network of faculties, an innovation campus, a research field station, and teaching hospitals around London.
Over 15,000 students presently attend Imperial College, where over 32 percent are from outside the European Union. Moreover, the number is expected to increase as London was named the world’s top student city for 2022 by QS. Students from all over the world will get to study in the same institution of some of the world’s renowned personalities, including the scientist Sir Alexander Fleming, the writer H.G. Wells, and the musician Brian May.
4. University of Cambridge
The world’s fourth-oldest surviving collegiate institution, the University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 by scholars that migrated to Cambridge after a dispute with townspeople in Oxford. Over the centuries, the humble association grew into 31 constituent colleges, six schools, and over 150 academic programs. Cambridge is known to excel in law, theology, philosophy, classics, anthropology, maths, and modern languages. The university is also regarded for the Cambridge University Press & Assessment, which is the oldest publication and examining body in the world.
Cambridge, a top university in Europe for international students, educates over 18,000 students, where about 4,000 come from outside England and from all corners of the world. After all, the university is among the highest in the world in terms of “openness and diversity”.
5. University College London (UCL)
University College London, known as UCL, is the United Kingdom’s second-largest university in terms of enrollment. Founded in 1826, it claims to be among the pioneer higher learning institutions to admit women on equal terms with men; as well as the first secular universities in England and admits students of any religion. UCL’s progressive values stand firm to this day, especially having over one-third of its entire student body coming from over 150 countries around the world.
Besides excelling in international outlook and mobility, this top university in Europe is world-leading in several disciplines. Some of its highest-ranking subject areas include Education, Anthropology, Geography, Psychology, Architecture, Pharmacy, and Anatomy & Physiology. Furthermore, it bested all universities in the UK when it comes to research excellence.
6. The University of Edinburgh
One of Scotland’s four ancient universities and the sixth-oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Edinburgh boasts immense research power with the departments of Computer Science, Informatics, Sociology, Anthropology, and Development Studies being ranked as the best in the UK. It is one of the top universities in Europe for international students due to its research-driven culture and is globally ranked among the top 50 universities worldwide.
The university hosts more than 45,000 students from 156 countries, with more than 30 percent being from outside the European Union. In addition to offering programs on campus, the university is also the largest provider of online distance learning in the Russell Group of UK universities, making it an increasingly popular option for students looking to balance study with other commitments.
7. London School of Economics and Political Science
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a constituent college of the University of London, offering applicants the opportunity to study social sciences. It was founded in 1895, joined the University of London in 1900, and began conferring degrees in 2008 in its name.
Today, the university is recognized worldwide, ranking 27th globally in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022. It is well known for economics, social sciences, and management. The student community is one of the most internationally diverse in the world, with the university registering students from over 140 countries each year, making it a good destination for international students as they get to study in one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities.
8. The University of Manchester
Located in Manchester, the University of Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK. It is a public research university offering over 1,000 degree programs from foundation courses to postgraduate courses across the humanities, business, science, and engineering. It is a global leader in cutting-edge research, particularly into new treatments for life-threatening diseases, and boasts an employability rate of 94 percent for its graduates.
The university also has the highest percentage of international students in the UK, having as many as 180 nationalities represented on campus. This and its offer of various postgraduate scholarships for international students make it one of the best universities for international students.
9. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Founded in 1472 in Ingolstadt, Germany, the LMU Munich is Germany’s sixth-oldest university in continuous operation. It is also one of Europe’s best universities for international students, and there are many reasons why this is so. The research-driven institute is particularly known to provide excellent conditions for innovative basic research and an inspiring learning environment for budding researchers.
It is associated with 43 Nobel laureates as well as Pope Benedict XVI, who was also a student and professor at the university. The population of international students makes up 15 percent of the total population, and the school is a target destination for many international students due to its low tuition fees.
10. Technical University of Munich
The Technical University of Munich is one of the best universities in Europe for international students, boasting a population made up of 38 percent international students and 69 English-taught study programs. The specializations of the university include engineering, technology, medicine, and the applied and natural sciences.
QS World Rankings 2023 ranked TUM 19th worldwide in engineering and technology, 28th in natural sciences, 29th in computer science, and 50th overall, an indication of the university’s academic excellence. In addition to that, TUM is attractive to international students due to its low tuition fees.
11. University of Copenhagen
With over 40,000 students, the University of Copenhagen is one of the largest research institutions in the Nordic countries. Located in Copenhagen, Denmark, it is considered one of the top universities in Europe for international students as it is located in Northern Europe’s hub for science and innovation. The university also fosters entrepreneurship and is one of the many reasons Copenhagen is considered to have a flourishing start-up environment. This provides students with a myriad of opportunities in research as well as entrepreneurship.
Initially, it was founded as a Catholic teaching institution but has since transformed into a modern secular university highly ranked globally, with science and humanities as the main subjects taught. The population of full-degree international students is about 10 percent of the total student population, and approximately 2,000 international exchange students are welcomed every year, promoting diversity.
12. KU Leuven
KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) is a highly ranked Catholic research university located in Leuven, Belgium, and a top destination for international students. Ranked 42nd by the Times Higher Education ranking in 2021, it is consistently named Europe’s most innovative university due to the high number of publications, citations, and collaborations.
Of the over 60,000 students enrolled at KU Leuven, 20 percent are international students representing over 140 countries. It is open to students from all faiths and walks of life, demonstrating its openness and diversity and solidifying its position as one of the best universities for international students.
13. Heidelberg University
Heidelberg University was established in 1368 and is the oldest university in Germany. It comprises three major campuses which separate the humanities, natural sciences and medicine, and the social sciences, giving students a more focused and immersive experience in whatever they choose to pursue at the school. International students come from around 130 countries and account for more than 20 percent of the entire student body. The city of Heidelberg itself is considered cosmopolitan and student-friendly, making it one of the most attractive study destinations for international students.
14. Sorbonne University
One of the first universities in Europe, Sorbonne University was established in 1257 by Robert de Sorbon as Sorbonne College. The university, known for its selectivity, is one of the most sought-after universities in Europe by international students and researchers and is ranked 60th in the 2023 QS World University Rankings.
Host to a population of 53,400 students, 10,200 being international students and 4,400 being in doctoral programs, Sorbonne remains an attractive study destination for international students. It also offers exchange programs for its students in partnership with other high-ranking universities, a fact that makes it one of the best options for international students.
15. Utrecht University
As an international student, the goal is to join a university that will make you part of an innovative and diverse academic community, and Utrecht University provides just that. Founded in 1636, Utrecht University is a globally recognized public research university known for its innovative approach to research and teaching.
Not only does the university rank highly in global rankings, but is considered to be located in one of the happiest places to live, according to BBC Travel. Located in Utrecht, Netherlands, the university is less than half an hour from Amsterdam and Schiphol Airport and is in a beautiful medieval city where English is widely spoken. This environment and the university’s academic prowess make it a highly attractive study destination for international students.
16. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)
Located in Lausanne, Switzerland, EPFL is a public research institute and university that specializes in natural sciences and engineering. It is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, the other being ETH Zurich, and has been ranked by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings as the 19th best school in the world for engineering and technology.
The university is home to students of 112 different nationalities, making it a good option for international students, especially those seeking to study the sciences or engineering. It also offers the opportunity for its students to study abroad for one or two semesters in their 3rd year of study, making it a great destination for international students seeking to obtain a globally involved education.
17. Wageningen University and Research
A global center for life sciences and agricultural research, Wageningen University and Research is located in Wageningen, Netherlands. WUR grants degrees at BSc, MSc, and Ph.D. levels in life and social sciences with a focus on agriculture, technical and engineering subjects. According to the QS World University Rankings, it is the worlds best in the field of agriculture and forestry and has been voted the best university in the Netherlands for seventeen years in a row.
There are about 12,000 students from 100 different countries enrolled at the university, making it an internationally diverse study destination. It is among the top universities in Europe for international students, especially those interested in being involved in focusing on current and future global issues, as the programs offered are research-intensive, propelling the notion of forward thinking and innovation.
18. Leiden University
Leiden University was founded in 1575 and is one of the leading public research universities in Europe. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the Netherlands and is highly ranked globally, placing in the top 50 universities in thirteen fields of study by the 2022 QS World University Rankings.
Located in the historical city of Leiden, Netherlands, with a second campus in The Hague, Leiden University is a dream destination for international students looking to broaden their personal and academic horizons in a stimulating environment. The university hosts international students from about 115 countries and offers a number of financial aid options for both international and national students.
19. Erasmus University Rotterdam
One of the best universities for international students in Europe, Erasmus University Rotterdam is a research university that was founded on 8th November 1913 as the Netherlands School of Commerce. The university is highly ranked globally, and Erasmus Medical Center, which is home to its faculty of medicine, is the largest academic medical center and trauma center in the Netherlands. Thus, it is one of the best European universities for international students.
Located in Rotterdam, the second biggest city in the Netherlands, known for its experimental architecture, Erasmus University Rotterdam is a highly attractive study destination for international students as the city itself is home to many multinational companies and several cultures that make for rich student life. The subsidized tuition fees are also a factor that makes it desirable to many international students.
20. Humboldt University Berlin
Humboldt University Berlin is a German public university that was established in 1809 as the University of Berlin and opened in 1810, making it the oldest of Berlin’s four universities. It has about 32,000 students, with about 16% being international students. Many scholarship options are offered to students, especially at graduate and postgraduate levels, making the school one of the best universities for international students in Europe. It offers degree programs in 189 disciplines, offering a number of these in English, and students at HU can study abroad for a semester or a year at partner institutions such as Princeton University.
Notable staff and alumni include 57 Nobel Prize laureates, the most of any German institution, and many leaders in their respective fields of science and mathematics, among others, including Albert Einstein and the Brothers Grimm.
21. Delft University of Technology
The Delft University of Technology, abbreviated as TU Delft, is the oldest Dutch public technical university. Based in Delft in the Netherlands, it has one of the largest campuses in the world and is the largest Dutch public technical university. It is ranked among the top 10 universities in the world in engineering and technology and was ranked 2nd in the world after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in architecture and civil engineering.
TU Delft has a population of more than 26,000 students, with almost 30% of the student population being made up of international students. 50% of the staff is international members, making it a good study destination for international students looking for a culturally diverse and academically stimulating environment.
22. University of Glasgow
With 77 undergraduate programs and 636 postgraduate programs, the University of Glasgow has one of the widest ranges of courses in the UK. It is located in Glasgow, Scotland, and is a member of the prestigious Russell Group, among other groups of top research-intensive universities in the UK.
The high educational standards and high entry standards of the university have made it a competitive destination for students worldwide, and it currently has an international community of more than 29,000 students from over 130 countries. Its location in one of the world’s top student cities in terms of friendliness and affordability adds to its attractiveness to international students.
23. University of Warwick
The University of Warwick was founded in 1965 and is a public research university in England. It is best known for Mathematics and Statistics, and ranks highly among the top universities globally. The university has a population of over 26,500 students, two-fifths being postgraduates. Of this student population, about 43% are from outside the UK with over 150 countries represented.
It has increasingly become a popular option for international students due to its academic achievements and its great performance in STEM-related subjects. Students at Warwick also have the option of studying abroad for a semester or a year and can obtain double degrees at partners such as Columbia University and Cornell University, making it among the top schools for international students in Europe.
24. University of Southampton
The University of Southampton was founded in 1862 as the Hartley Institution and is a founding member of the Russell Group. It is a research-intensive university located in Southampton in England and is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world. The university offers admission to 84% of its applicants and maintains high academic standards, attracting many international students.
There are over 21,000 students from more than 130 countries hosted by the institution and the international students make up 21% of this population. A number of scholarships are offered at various levels by the university in partnership with various organizations making it one of the best universities for international applicants in Europe.
25. University of Birmingham
Located in Birmingham, United Kingdom, the University of Birmingham received its royal charter in 1900 and is a founding member of the Russell Group. It is highly ranked globally, ranking among the top 100 universities worldwide in several league tables. The university is particularly known for music, physics, biosciences, computer science, mechanical engineering, political science, international relations and law. It offers admission to 79.2% of its applicants, and 18% of its student population is non-EU students. Scholarships are available at various levels of study, making it a desirable university for international students from all backgrounds.
We hope that this article on the best universities in Europe for international students was helpful! Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Europe!