Explore the most international universities in the world using data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings
January 28 2021
Most international universities in the world
Prospective students looking to study in the most international environments in the world should apply to universities in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Singapore or the UK.
Universities, by their nature, are global institutions. Typically, they are home to communities of students and scholars from all over the world, and they tackle some of the globe’s most pressing problems through research.
This table, compiled using the international student score, international staff score, international co-authorship score and international reputation metrics collected for the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, shows that the above four countries are home to the some of the most international universities in the world.
These institutions all have a high proportion of international students and staff, collaborate on research with scholars from across the world, and have a strong global reputation to match. Read the full methodology at the bottom of the page.
Research suggests that diverse communities of students improve the teaching and learning experience, while opportunities for students to spend time abroad better prepare them to become global citizens.
International student experience
Life as an international student at EPFL, Switzerland
International perspective: an Indian student in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic
Discovering my passion at the University of Hong Kong
International perspective: students from Hong Kong in the UK
International perspective: a Chinese student in New Zealand
International perspective: a French student in Switzerland
A day in the life of a student in Singapore
Top five most international universities in the world
1. University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong has embarked on a mission to become “Asia’s global university”, which includes the goal of giving all its undergraduates two opportunities to study outside Hong Kong during their degree by 2022.
Overall, this Hong Kong university has more than 30,000 students, of which more than 35 per cent are international.
Teaching at the institution is in English and education has an international focus, with the aim of preparing students to become global citizens who could be successful anywhere in the world.
2. ETH Zurich
It is no surprise that Switzerland is home to some of the most international universities in the world, given its situation in the heart of Europe, surrounded by France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein.
ETH Zurich is located in Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, which is known for being very safe (although expensive). The main spoken language is Swiss German, but the university also offers courses in English.
The institution has more than 22,000 students from over 120 countries and is the top university in continental Europe.
The university focuses on teaching and research in the STEM subjects, and 21 Nobel prizes have been awarded to students and teachers connected to the institution. One of the most famous alumni is Albert Einstein.
3. Chinese University of Hong Kong
Students from more than 50 countries study at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
The university has exchange partnerships with more than 282 institutions in 36 countries and regions. Some 6,000 students study abroad or take part in a learning abroad programme or internship.
Applying to university overseas
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Applying through Ucas as an international student
A guide for international students choosing a university in Australia
Hoping to apply to a US university as a foreign student?
How to choose a UK university
The cost of studying at a university in the UK
Nine tips for students studying abroad for the first time
4. University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is not only the top university in the world, it also happens to be one of the most international.
Over a third of students at the University of Oxford are international students coming from 160 countries and territories. In fact, international students have been attending the University of Oxford for hundreds of years, with the first international student arriving way back in 1190.
Almost half of the staff at the university are also international and the institution has links with many other institutions worldwide.
Prospective international students can listen to the university’s International Students podcast, which talks you through academic and social aspects of being at Oxford.
5. Imperial College London
Imperial College London focuses teaching and learning around science, engineering, medicine and business.
More than 60 per cent of students are international, with undergraduates coming from over 125 countries.
Clubs and support services with an international focus at Imperial College include International Medical Careers and the Indian National Student Association.
Most international universities in the world 2021
Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2021 profile
The data in Times Higher Education’s ranking of The World’s Most International Universities 2021 are drawn largely from the “international outlook” pillar of the THE World University Rankings 2021. This takes into account a university’s proportions of international students, international staff and journal publications with at least one international co-author. Each of these elements is given equal weighting in calculating the score for this pillar.
The table adds a fourth component, which makes up 25 per cent of the total score: a university’s international reputation. This is a measure of the proportion of votes from outside the home country that the institution achieved in THE’s annual invitation-only Academic Reputation Survey, which asks leading scholars to name the world’s best universities for teaching and research in their field.
Only institutions that received at least 100 votes in the survey were eligible for inclusion. Universities must also receive at least 50 or at least 10 per cent of available domestic votes to be ranked.
Metrics and weightings:
• 25 per cent: proportion of international staff
• 25 per cent: proportion of international students
• 25 per cent: international co-authorship
• 25 per cent: international reputation