9 Top Study Destinations You Haven’t Considered | Top Universities

9 Top Study Destinations You Haven’t Considered

By Sabrina Collier

Updated May 19, 2016 Updated May 19, 2016

If you’re thinking of studying abroad, the first destinations that come to mind are likely to be the ever-popular US, UK, Australia et al, but there are many less obvious options that have a lot to offer international students. All of the countries listed below feature in the top 50 of the new QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings, which highlights the world’s strongest higher education systems. Click on each country’s name to find out more about universities, student cities, fees and visas for studying abroad there.

1. Greece

Study in Greece

Known as the birthplace of academia, Greece places 41st in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings. It’s sunny, friendly and home to many prestigious universities, with six featuring in the QS World University Rankings® 2015/16, the highest-ranked of which is the National Technical University of Athens at joint 376th. Although most teaching is in Greek, there are some opportunities to study in English at all study levels, and many locals are also fluent in the language. Greece offers an unmatched intellectual heritage dating back over two thousand years, and remains a strong center of higher education today. Not to mention the wealth of fantastic Greek food, Mediterranean sea views and opportunities to visit ancient landmarks, attractive cities and ‘party islands’.

2. Indonesia

The next of the best places to study abroad that may not have been on your radar, the Southeast Asian island-based nation of Indonesia comes 42nd in the System Strength Rankings. It’s ideal for international students who want to immerse themselves in a truly diverse study abroad experience – there are hundreds of ethnic groups, cultures and languages to explore. Made up of thousands of tropical (and volcanic) islands, Indonesia’s residents are known for their smiling faces, and the country’s cuisine will be a hit with spice-lovers. Indonesian universities are also some of the most respected in the region, with Universitas Indonesia the highest ranked at joint 358th in the world.

3. Argentina

Heading to Latin America, Argentina is ranked 18th in the System Strength Rankings, and has something to offer for everyone – foodies will want to sample the country’s finest steaks, urbanities will feel at home in the bustling capital Buenos Aires, while international students looking for adventure will enjoy opportunities to explore the diverse and beautiful landscapes off the beaten track. Argentina is also a very affordable option, with relatively low tuition fees and living costs. The highest ranking university in Argentina is also the country’s largest – Universidad de Buenos Aires (ranked joint 124th in the world). Knowledge of Spanish is essential for studying in Argentina, as it both the language of instruction at Argentinian universities and the day-to-day language.

4. Belgium


A great place to study abroad for chocoholics, beer lovers and budding policy wonks alike, Belgium features at 15th in the System Strength Rankings. It’s home to a good selection of prestigious international universities, which teach predominantly in either French or Flemish (a variety of Dutch), as well as offering many opportunities to study in English. Belgium is multicultural, multi-lingual, and an established political hub, with capital city Brussels often called the ‘Capital of Europe’. It’s also home to some beautiful countryside, great food, and an overall high quality of life, with low tuition fees and reasonable costs of living. The highest-ranked Belgian university is Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven), which places joint 82nd in the world.  

5. South Africa

The next of our best places to study abroad that you may not yet have considered is South Africa, a diverse and unique country which ranks 30th in the System Strength Rankings. This is a perfect study destination for those interested in exploring the country’s turbulent past, dynamic present, and stunning natural landscapes. Of the nine South African institutions featured in the global rankings, the highest-ranked is the University of Cape Town, at 171st in the world. The nation has no less than 11 official languages, including English, and many universities offer multicultural student communities, good facilities, social activities and clubs, and good support for international students. 

6. United Arab Emirates

Ranked 48th in the System Strength Rankings, the United Arab Emirates has proved to be an attractive option for expatriates, tempted in by the hot, sunny climate and tax-free earnings. It’s also got plenty to offer international students, with an exciting, youthful and hospitable outlook and some of the best universities in the Gulf region. Of the six top universities featured in the QS World University Rankings, the American University of Sharjah is the highest ranked at 411-420, while the city of Sharjah itself features among the top 75 in the latest QS Best Student Cities index, reflecting its status as a hub of education and Emirati culture. The UAE’s population is incredibly diverse, with only 13% of the population native to the country, and the rest coming from all over the world.

7. Estonia

Back to Europe, the next of our best places to study abroad which you may not have considered yet is ideal for tech-lovers – Estonia is famous for its innovation and leadership in digital and internet technologies, with the ‘E-Estonia’ movement digitalizing various aspects of daily life. Also known for its entrepreneurial spirit, Estonia has provided the foundation for many successful start-ups and also encourages an innovative spirit in students. Away from all the technology, Estonia boasts picturesque lakes, forests and beaches, as well as interesting and historical cities. Higher education in Estonia is well-respected around the world, earning it 49th place in the System Strength Rankings, and the country’s highest-ranked university is currently the University of Tartu at 400th in the world.

8. Kazakhstan

The largest and richest of the countries nicknamed the ‘Stans’, Kazakhstan places 41st in the System Strength Rankings and is gaining in prominence as an Asian education hub. Another ethnically diverse nation, the international elements of the country are also reflected in its higher education, with Kazakhstani universities taking part in a growing number of international exchanges and collaborations. There are around 150 universities in Kazakhstan, with its oldest and largest, Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (KazNU) the highest-ranked at joint 275th in the world. A tolerant multi-lingual, multi-cultural state, Kazakh people are known for their friendliness and hospitality.  

9. Chile

Last but not least in our list of the best places to study abroad which you haven’t yet considered, Chile features in 30th place in the System Strength Rankings and is indeed home to one of the strongest higher education systems in Latin America. The country’s highest-ranked university, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, is placed 170th, and many other high-quality institutions are found here. With attractive and very varied terrain, Chile may be ideal for explorers and students who enjoy outdoor activities. The country also boasts well-developed infrastructure, vibrant cities, renowned universities, and one of the region’s most stable and prosperous economies. 


This article was originally published in May 2016 .

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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