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Top Universities in Europe

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It may be the second-smallest continent on Earth, but Europe claims many of the world’s best educational institutions. In the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16 a total of 338 European universities are featured within the world’s top 800 (roughly 42%). The UK boasts Europe’s highest number of internationally ranked universities with 70 entries, followed by Germany (43) and France (41). Meanwhile Switzerland claims one of the world’s top 10 universities, with a second entrant in the top 15, leading a group of smaller European countries with very strong higher education systems.

With such a large selection of top universities in Europe to choose from, deciding where to study in Europe is not always easy. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top universities in Europe categorized by country, based on the QS World University Rankings 2015/16.

Top universities in Austria University of Vienna

A landlocked country in central Europe, Austria shares borders with eight other European nations, including Germany to the north and Italy to the south. It has seven top European universities currently included in the QS World University Rankings. Of these, the top universities in Austria are:

1.      University of Vienna (153rd in the world;  65th in Europe)

2.      Vienna University of Technology (197th in the world;  88th in Europe)

3.      Universität Innsbruck (joint 295th in the world; joint 133rd in Europe)

4.      Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (431-440 in the world; 195th in Europe)

5.      Johannes Kepler University Linz (551-600 in the world; 237th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Austria

Top universities in Belgium KU Leuven Belgium

Known for its fine chocolate and beer, Belgium is also home to some excellent educational establishments. Like Austria, it claims seven of the top universities in Europe to be internationally ranked, all of these placed within the top 300 worldwide. The top universities in Belgium are:

1.      KU Leuven (joint 82nd in the world; 30th in Europe)

2.      Ghent University (joint 124th in the world; 50th in Europe)

3.      Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL, joint 149th in the world; 63rd in Europe)

4.      Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB, 194th in the world; 87th in Europe)

5.      Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, 207th in the world; 92nd in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Belgium

Top universities in France Ecole Normale Superieure Paris

France boasts a very extensive selection of top European universities, and an impressive presence in the international rankings, with the majority of its top 10 universities located in the capital city of Paris. The top universities in France are:

1.      Ecolé Normale Supérieure, Paris (23rd in the world; 10th in Europe)

2.      Ecolé Polytechnique (40th in the world; 13th in Europe)

3.      Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC, joint 137th in the world; 57th in Europe)

4.     CentraleSupélec (new this year – joint 156th in the world and joint 68th in Europe)

5.      Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (joint 188th in the world; joint 84th in Europe)

+ 36 more top universities in France

Top universities in Germany Technische Universität München

Offering free tuition to all undergraduate students, regardless of nationality, Germany is the world’s most popular non-Anglophone destination for international students. The top universities in Germany are:

  1. Technische Universität München (60th in the world; 17th in Europe)
  2. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (66th in the world; 20th in Europe)
  3. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (75th in the world, 25th in Europe)
  4. Kit, Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie (93rd in the world, 35th in Europe)
  5. Freie Universität Berlin (119th in the world, 47th in Europe)

+ 37 more top universities in Germany

Top universities in Ireland Trinity College Dublin

A relatively small country in Western Europe, Ireland is home to eight world-ranking universities, of which half are located in the capital city, Dublin. The top universities in Ireland are:

1.      Trinity College Dublin (78th in the world; 28th in Europe)

2.      University College Dublin (154th in the world; 66th in Europe)

3.      University College Cork (joint 233rd in the world; joint 104th in Europe)

4.      National University of Ireland, Galway (joint 271st in the world; 124th in Europe)

5.      Dublin City University (353rd in the world; 159th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Ireland

Top universities in Italy University of Bologna

Located in the southern peninsula of the continent and much-loved for its weather, cuisine and beautiful settings, Italy is the fifth most populous country in Europe and boasts 26 internationally ranked universities. The top universities in Italy are:

1.      Politecnico di Milano (187th in the world, 83rd in Europe)

2.      University of Bologna (joint 204th in the world; 91st in Europe)

3.      Sapienza University of Rome (joint 213th in the world; 95th in Europe)

4.      University of Milano (306th in the world; 137th in Europe)

5.      Università Degli Studi Di Padova (joint 309th in the world, 139th in Europe)

 + 21 more top universities in Italy

Top universities in the Netherlands University of Amsterdam

This Dutch-speaking country towards the north of the continent (often referred to as Holland, though in fact the region of Holland only makes up two of its provinces), boasts 13 globally ranked universities. The top universities in the Netherlands are:

1.      University of Amsterdam (55th in the world; 15th in Europe)

2.      Delft University of Technology (64th in the world; 19th in Europe)

3.      Utrecht University (94th in the world; 36th in Europe)

4.      Leiden University (95th in the world; 37th in Europe)

5.      University of Groningen (100th in the world; 39th in Europe)

+ 7 more top universities in the Netherlands

Top universities in the Nordic countries University of Copenhagen

Europe’s Nordic countries (DenmarkFinlandIceland, Norway and Sweden) offer 26 internationally ranked universities. Within the Nordic region, Finland claims the highest number of ranked institutions, despite being the most sparsely populated country in Europe, while Denmark offers the highest-ranked university in the group. The top universities in the Nordic countries are:


1.      University of Copenhagen (69th in the world; 22nd in Europe)

2.      Aarhus University (107th in the world; 42nd in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Denmark


1.      University of Helsinki (joint 96th in the world; 38th in Europe)

2.      Aalto University (joint 139th in the world; joint 59th in Europe)

+ 7 more top universities in Finland


1.      University of Oslo (joint 135th in the world; joint 55th in Europe) University of Oslo

2.      University of Bergen (181st in the world; 79th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Norway


1.      Lund University (joint 70th in the world; joint 23rd in Europe)

2.      KTH Royal Institute Of Technology (92nd in the world; 34th in Europe)

+6 more top universities in Sweden

Top universities in Russia Lomonosov Moscow State University

If you think size matters when it comes to deciding where to study in Europe, then perhaps you’ll consider Russia, the largest country in the world, and home to 21 universities included in the QS World University Rankings. The top universities in Russia are:

1.      Lomonosov Moscow State University (108th in the world; 43rd in Europe)

2.      Saint-Petersburg State University (joint 256th in the world; joint 119th in Europe)

3.      Novosibirsk State University (317th in the world; joint 143rd in Europe)

4.      Bauman Moscow State Technical University (joint 338th in the world; joint 153rd in Europe)

5.      Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO-University, joint 397th in the world; joint 179th in Europe)

+ 16 more top universities in Russia

Top universities in Spain University of Barcelona

Acclaimed for its buzzing cities and attractive Mediterranean coast, Spain is popular among tourists and students alike, and claims 18 of the top European universities according to the QS World University Rankings. The top universities in Spain are:

1.      University of Barcelona (joint 166th in the world; joint 72nd in Europe)

2.      Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (186th in the world; 82nd in Europe)

3.      Universitat Autonóma de Barcelona (joint 190th in the world; 86th in Europe)

4.      University Complutense Madrid (UCM - 226th in the world; 99th in Europe)

5.      University of Navarra (joint 265th in the world; joint 122nd in Europe)

+ 13 more top universities in Spain

Top universities in Switzerland ETH Zurich

Home to a large portion of the Alps mountain range, Switzerland is the only country other than the US or the UK to claim a university in the world’s top 10. It has a second entrant in the top 15, and half of its eight internationally ranked universities are in the global top 100. The top universities in Switzerland are:

1.      ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, 9th in the world; 5th in Europe)

2.      Ecolé Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, 14th in the world; 6th in Europe)

3.      University of Zurich (UZH, joint 85th in the world; 31st in Europe)

4.      University of Geneva (joint 89th in the world; 33rd in Europe)

5.      University of Basel (joint 139th in the world; joint 59th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Switzerland

Top universities in the UK University of Cambridge

Second only to the US in overall rankings presence, the UK has the continent’s largest selection of internationally ranked institutions, and is also the most popular destination to study in Europe. It currently boasts four of the world’s top 10 universities, and seven of the 10 top universities in Europe. The top universities in the UK are:

1.      University of Cambridge (joint 3rd in the world; 1st in Europe)

2.      University of Oxford (6th in the world; 2nd in Europe)

3.      UCL (University College London; 7th in the world; 3rd in Europe)

4.       Imperial College London (8th in the world; 4th in Europe)    

5.      King’s College London (KCL; joint 19th in the world; 7th in Europe)

+ 65 more top universities in the UK

Top universities in Greece  National Technical University of Athens

1.      National Technical University of Athens (joint 376th in the world; joint 171st in Europe)

2.      Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (461-470 in the world; 205th in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Greece

Best of the rest…

The list above covers most of the best-known places to study in Europe as an international student. But the top universities in Europe do not end there; many more European countries are home to one or more institutions included in the QS World University Rankings. Here’s a quick round-up of the rest:

Belarus Belarus State University

1.      Belarus State University (421-430 in the world; 192nd in Europe)

2.      Belarusian National Technical University (701+ in the world; 284th in Europe)


1.      University of St. Kliment Ohridski (701+ in the world; 299th in Europe)


1.      University of Zagreb (701+ in the world; 332nd in Europe)

Czech Republic Charles University

1.      Charles University (279th in the world; 127th in Europe)

2.      Czech Technical University in Prague (451-460 in the world; 202nd in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in the Czech Republic


1.      University of Tartu (joint 400th in the world; joint 182nd in Europe)

2.      Tallinn University of Technology (601-650 in the world; 260th in Europe)


1.      University of Szeged (501-550 in the world; 234th in Europe) University of Szeged

2.      Eötvös Loránd University (601-650 in the world; 253rd in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Hungary


1.      University of Latvia (701+ in the world; 330th in Europe)


1.      Vilnius University (501-550 in the world; 236th in Europe)

2.      Kaunas University of Technology (701+ in the world; 288th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Lithuania

Poland University of Warsaw

1.      University of Warsaw (344th in the world; 156th in Europe)

2.      Jagiellonian University (411-420 in the world; 186th in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Poland


1.      University of Porto (308th in the world; 138th in Europe)

2.      Universidade Nova de Lisboa (joint 351st in the world; joint 157th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Portugal


1.      University of Bucharest (651-700 in the world; 276th in Europe) University of Bucharest

2.      Alexandru loan Cuza University (701+ in the world; 280th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Romania


1.      University of Belgrade (701+ in the world; 323rd in Europe)


1.      University of Ljubljana (551-600 in the world; 249th in Europe)


Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

1.      Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (421-430 in the world; 192nd in Europe) 

2.      V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University (491-500 in the world; 220th in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Ukraine

This article was originally published on 14 November 2013. It was last updated on 21 September 2015 to reflect the results of the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16.

Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker

Laura is a staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life. View her past articles and blog posts here.

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Hello! I am from Greece, I attended high school in the US and completed one semester in college. I would like to study for cheap and in english in either Germany, Belgium or Bulgaria. My major is Psychology. It would be very helpful for me to complete my BSc under the above circumstances. Also, my boyfriend also wants to study abroad, he completed 1-2 years of university and wants to start a different subject in one of the countries.

Hi Polyxeni, I've replied to your question here. :)

Hi, could someone tell me if Medical university of Sofia is good for dentistry and if bulgaria is safe for a female student?? thanks

Hi, Do you know of any universities in Europe Or specifically Germany the offer full scholarship for masters degree course in Medicine?

Hi Peter, please see our list of medical scholarships around the world, which contains scholarships to study in Europe. We also have a list of scholarships to study in Germany. Hope this is helpful.

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