5 of the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Places to Study Abroad | Top Universities

5 of the Most LGBTQ-Friendly Places to Study Abroad

By Chloe Lane

Updated June 22, 2021 Updated June 22, 2021

Many countries have made huge steps towards more LGBTQ-friendly societies in recent years but unfortunately this is still not the case everywhere in the world. In some countries, LGBTQ students may face prejudice, discrimination and even arrest. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are many countries which have great laws and regulations to support the LGBTQ community. In these socially progressive countries, people can be open about how they identify and are free to be themselves. 

Here are five of the most LGBTQ-friendly places to consider if you are looking to study abroad: 

The Netherlands  Amsterdam

The Netherlands has a long-standing reputation as one of the most progressive and tolerant study locations in the world. A pioneer in LGBTQ rights, it was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage in 2001 and remains a great option for LGBTQ students. 

The capital, Amsterdam, is packed full of LGBTQ-friendly restaurants, cafés, clubs and hotels. In 1984, the city hosted the first International Gay Youth Congress and Festival, which led to the formation of IGLYO (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Youth & Student Organisation). For three weeks every July, the streets and canals of the city are filled with celebrations and parties for the annual Amsterdam Gay Pride festival – one of the most renowned Pride celebrations in the world.  

The Netherlands is also a great place to look for work after your studies, if you are looking for a place that accepts the LGBTQ community openly in the workplace. 

Denmark 

Copenhagen

Denmark's openness to the LGBTQ community dates back to 1948, when it became the first country to establish the National Association for Gays and Lesbians. In 1989, the country established the world’s first legislation for registered partnerships for couples of the same sex. In 2012 Denmark legalised same-sex marriage. 

There are several LGBTQ establishments safeguarding rights in Denmark, and it has been a popular destination for students belonging to this community. There are many LGBTQ students’ organisations, such as BLUS (in and around Copenhagen) and ANSO (which also has member organisations in Norway, Lithuania, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Poland and Estonia). 

The Danish capital, Copenhagen, was rated number one on Lonely Planet’s list of “the most gay-friendly places on the planet” and the city has a wide variety of LGBTQ+ cafés, bars and nightclubs. Copenhagen is consistently rated one of the happiest places in the world and offers excellent opportunities for those who want to settle down and start their professional life. 

Canada  Toronto

Canada is famed for its high levels of acceptance and liberalism and is considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly locations in the world. Canada has been prominently politically liberal since the late 18th century and has since made huge strides in support of LGBTQ+ rights.  

Canada legalised same-sex marriage in a series of court decisions starting in 2003, leading to full national legislation in 2005. There are also various laws that protect the interests and rights of the LGBTQ community. For example, Canada outlawed conversion therapy in 2020. This legislation makes Canada a safer place for LGBTQ+ students, and students can choose from a variety of reputable universities 

One of these universities, the University of Western Ontario is home to the country’s first official university-based queer resource centre. Founded in 1997, the Pride Library now houses more than 6,000 items – including books, videos and DVDs, posters, paintings, periodicals and magazines. Most Canadian universities offer LGBTQ+ student societies, such as LGBTOUT at the University of Toronto. Additionally, a few Canadian organisations offer scholarships for students belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. 

Spain 

Madrid

With good weather, delicious food, great universities and diverse communities, Spain is the perfect LGBTQ-friendly study destination. Spain has been a consistent high-performer in lists of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in recent years. 

Since the fall of the Fascist dictator, Franco, Spain has shed its conservative nature and moved towards a more liberal and tolerant culture. Same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005, and capital Madrid will host the next WorldPride event in 2017. 

Many of the big cities in Spain have LGBTQ-friendly neighbourhoods and two of Spain’s major cities, Madrid and Barcelona, have a reputation as two of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the world, boasting many LGBTQ+ bars and clubs. 

Spain is home to several LGBTQ organisations, including the campaign group Federación Estatal de Lesbianas, Gays, Transexuales y Bisexuales (FELGTB), which was granted consultative status by the United Nations Economic and Social Council. 

Uruguay  

Uruguay

Other LGBTQ-friendly places to study abroad in Latin America include Brazil and Argentina, but Uruguay deserves a special mention due to its growing progressive attitude towards the LGBTQ community. It has been consistently at the forefront of LGBTQ acceptance and decriminalised homosexuality as early as 1934. In 2013, it became the second country in Latin America to legalise same-sex marriage. 

Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, is especially known for being particularly LGBTQ-friendly and has a number of gay, lesbian and transgender bars and clubs.  

With many cities and towns which are friendly and accepting, Uruguay is a great place for students looking for an LGBTQ-friendly destination. It is also one of the most affordable options among the list of LGBTQ-friendly places to study abroad. 

There are of course lots of other places to study abroad which are LGBTQ-friendly, such as the UKGermanyAustraliaIceland and many more. Many countries are moving towards being more inclusive, and in the future there will be even more great places to study abroad for LGBTQ students. 

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This article was originally published in October 2016 . It was last updated in June 2021

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Written by

A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. She enjoys writing articles about a wide range of topics for a student audience. 

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