Top Universities in Europe | Top Universities

Top Universities in Europe

By Laura Tucker

Updated April 9, 2021 Updated April 9, 2021

It may be the second-smallest continent, but Europe is densely packed with many of the world’s best educational institutions. In the QS World University Rankings® 2020, a total of 381 European universities are featured among the world’s best, roughly 38 percent of all the universities included.

The UK boasts Europe’s highest number of internationally ranked universities with 84 entries, followed by Germany (46) and France (31). However, it’s Switzerland that joins the UK in having a university ranked among the world’s top 10, something neither Germany nor France can manage.

With such a wide 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 location.

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 eight top European universities currently included in the QS World University Rankings. Of these, the top universities in Austria are:

  1. University of Vienna(joint 154th in the world, joint 64th in Europe)
  2. Vienna University of Technology(joint 192nd in the world, joint 84th in Europe)
  3. Universität Innsbruck(joint 266th in the world, 115th in Europe)
  4. Technische Universität Graz (311th in the world, 136th in Europe)
  5. Johannes Kepler University Linz(joint 412th in the world, joint 183rd in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Austria

Top universities in Belgium 

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

  1. KU Leuven(80th in the world, 26th in Europe)
  2. Ghent University(joint 130th in the world, joint 51st in Europe)
  3. Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL)(joint 167th in the world, 70th in Europe)
  4. Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)(195th in the world, 87th in Europe)
  5. University of Antwerp (223rd in the world, 96th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Belgium

Top universities in France 

Ecolé Normale Supérieure, 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 Paris. The top universities in France are:

  1. Paris Sciences et Lettres Research University (PSL) (53rd in the world, 13th in Europe)
  2. Ecolé Polytechnique(joint 60th in the world, 15th in Europe)
  3. Sorbonne University (77th in the world, 23rd in Europe)
  4. CentraleSupélec(139th in the world, 55th in Europe)
  5. Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon(joint 160th in the world, 66th in Europe)

+ 26 more top universities in France

Top universities in Germany 

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

  1. Technische Universität München(55th in the world, 14th in Europe)
  2. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München(63rd in the world, 17th in Europe)
  3. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg(66th in the world, 19th in Europe)
  4. Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin (joint 120th in the world, joint 44th in Europe)
  5. Kit, Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie(124th in the world, 47th in Europe)

 + 41 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 in the capital city, Dublin. The top universities in Ireland are:

  1. Trinity College Dublin(joint 108th in the world, 37th in Europe)
  2. University College Dublin(185th in the world, 80th in Europe)
  3. National University of Ireland, Galway(259th in the world, 112th in Europe)
  4. University College Cork(310th in the world, 135th in Europe)
  5. Dublin City University(joint 429th in the world, joint 189th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Ireland

Top universities in Italy 

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 34 internationally ranked universities. The top universities in Italy are:

1. Politecnico di Milano(149th in the world, 61st in Europe)
=2. Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa (joint 177th in the world, joint 75th in Europe)
=2. University of Bologna (UNIBO) (joint 177th in the world, joint 75th in Europe)
4. Sapienza University of Rome (203rd in the world, 89th in Europe
5. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa(204th in the world, 90th in Europe)

 + 29 more top universities in Italy

Top universities in the Netherlands 

University of Amsterdam

This Dutch-speaking country towards the north of the continent boasts 13 globally ranked universities. The top universities in the Netherlands are:

  1. Delft University of Technology(50th in the world, 13th in Europe)
  2. University of Amsterdam(64th in the world, 15th in Europe)
  3. Eindhoven University of Technology(102nd in the world, 35th in Europe)
  4. University of Groningen (114th in the world, 40th in Europe)
  5. Leiden University(118th in the world, 42nd in Europe)

+ 8 more top universities in the Netherlands

Top universities in the Nordic countries 

Europe’s Nordic countries (DenmarkFinlandIcelandNorway and Sweden) offer 27 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:

Denmark 

  1. University of Copenhagen(joint 72nd in the world, 21st in Europe)
  2. Technical University of Denmark(112th in the world, 39th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Denmark

Finland

  1. University of Helsinki(107th in the world, 36th in Europe)
  2. Aalto University(134th in the world, 53rd in Europe)

+ 7 more top universities in Finland

Norway

  1. University of Oslo(119th in the world, 43rd in Europe) 
  2. University of Bergen(joint 163rd in the world, joint 67th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Norway

Sweden

  1. Lund University(92nd in the world, 29th in Europe)
  2. KTH Royal Institute of Technology(joint 98th in the world, 33rd in Europe)

+6 more top universities in Sweden

Top universities in Russia 

Lomonosov Moscow State University

The largest country in the world by landmass, Russia performed very well in the latest QS World University Rankings, with 25 universities, including eight in the top 350. The top universities in Russia are:

  1. Lomonosov Moscow State University(84th in the world, 28th in Europe)
  2. Novosibirsk State University(joint 231st in the world, 98th in Europe)
  3. Saint-Petersburg State University(joint 234th in the world, joint 99th in Europe)
  4. Tomsk State University(joint 268thin the world, 116th in Europe)
  5. Bauman Moscow State Technical University(284th in the world, 119th in Europe)

+ 20 more top universities in Russia

Top universities in Spain 

Acclaimed for its buzzing cities and attractive Mediterranean coast, Spain is popular among tourists and students alike, and claims 27 of the top European universities according to the QS World University Rankings. The top universities in Spain are:

  1. University of Barcelona(joint 165th in the world, 69th in Europe)
  2. Universitat Autonóma de Barcelona(188th in the world, 82nd in Europe)
  3. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid(joint 192nd in the world, joint 84th in Europe)
  4. University Complutense Madrid (UCM)(joint 212th in the world, 92nd in Europe)
  5. University of Navarra(245th in the world, 105th in Europe)

+ 22 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. All but one of its nine internationally ranked universities are in the global top 400. The top universities in Switzerland are:

  1. ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)(sixth in the world, second in Europe)
  2. Ecolé Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)(joint 18th in the world, sixth in Europe)
  3. University of Zurich (UZH)(76th in the world, 22nd in Europe)
  4. University of Geneva(110th in the world, 38th in Europe)
  5. University of Bern (123rd in the world, 46th in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Switzerland

Top universities in the UK 

Second only to the US in the number of total universities included in the ranking, the UK is the most popular destination to study in Europe (although Brexit may change this in the future). It currently boasts four of the world’s top 10 universities, and eight of the 10 top universities in Europe. The top universities in the UK are:

  1. University of Oxford(fourth in the world, first in Europe)
  2. University of Cambridge(seventh in the world, third in Europe)
  3. UCL (University College London)(eighth in the world, fourth in Europe)
  4. Imperial College London(ninth in the world, fifth in Europe)    
  5. University of Edinburgh(20th in the world, seventh in Europe)

+ 79 more top universities in the UK

Top universities in Greece 

  1. National Technical University of Athens(joint 454th in the world, 199th in Europe)
  2. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki(561-570 in the world, joint 241st in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Greece

Best of the rest…

University of Tartu

The list above covers most of the best-known places to study in Europe as an international student. But the top European universities 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 

  1. Belarus State University(joint 351st in the world, joint 159th in Europe)
  2. Belarusian National Technical University(801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

Bulgaria

  1. Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski(751-800 in the world, joint 299th in Europe)

Croatia

  1. University of Zagreb(751-800 in the world, joint 299th in Europe)

Czech Republic 

  1. Charles University(joint 291st in the world, joint 122nd in Europe)
  2. University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (355th in the world, 162ndin Europe)

+ 7 more top universities in the Czech Republic

Estonia

  1. University of Tartu(301st in the world, 128th in Europe)
  2. Tallinn University of Technology(601-650 in the world, joint 252nd in Europe)
  3. Tallinn University (801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

University of Szeged

Hungary

  1. University of Szeged(501-510 in the world, joint 214th in Europe) 
  2. University of Debrecen (601-650 in the world, joint 252nd in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Hungary

Latvia

  1. Riga Technical University(701-750 in the world, joint 281st in Europe)

=2. Riga Stradins University (801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

=2. University of Latvia (801-100 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

Lithuania 

  1. Vilnius University(joint 458th in the world, joint 200th in Europe)
  2. Vilnius Gediminas Technical University(591-600 in the world, joint 246th in Europe)

 + 2 more top universities in Lithuania

Poland 

  1. Jagiellonian University(joint 338th in the world, joint 149th in Europe)
  2. University of Warsaw(joint 349th in the world, joint 157th in Europe)

+ 14 more top universities in Poland

Portugal

  1. University of Lisbon(joint 338th in the world, joint 149th in Europe)
  2. University of Porto(joint 353rd in the world, 161st in Europe)

+ 5 more top universities in Portugal

Romania 

=1. Babes-Bolyai University (801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

=1. University of Bucharest (801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

University of Belgrade

Serbia

  1. University of Belgrade(801-1000 in the world, joint 325th in Europe)

Slovakia

=1. Comenius University in Bratislava (751-800 in the world, joint 303rd in Europe)

=1. Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava (751-800 in the world, joint 303rd in Europe)

Slovenia

  1. University of Ljubljana(591-600 in the world, joint 246th in Europe)
  2. University of Maribor(751-800 in the world, joint 303rd in Europe)

Ukraine 

  1. V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University(joint 491st in the world, joint 208th in Europe)
  2. Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv(541-550 in the world, joint 233rd in Europe) 

+ 4 more top universities in Ukraine

This article was originally published in November 2013. It is updated after each QS World University Rankings® release, most recently in June 2019.

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This article was originally published in June 2018 . It was last updated in April 2021

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Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, 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.

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