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Top Universities in Europe

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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 Tops® 2018, a total of 369 European universities are featured among the world’s best, roughly 38% of all the universities included.

The UK boasts Europe’s highest number of internationally ranked universities with 76 entries, followed by Germany (45) and France (39). 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 country.

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 Tops. Of these, the top universities in Austria are:

1. University of Vienna (154th in the world, 63rd in Europe)

2. Vienna University of Technology (joint 182nd in the world, joint 80th in Europe)

3. Universität Innsbruck (286th in the world, 126th in Europe)

=4. Johannes Kepler University Linz (471-480 in the world, joint 207th in Europe)

=4. Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz (471-480 in the world, joint 207th 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 (joint 71st in the world, 21st in Europe)

2. Ghent University (joint 125th in the world, joint 47th in Europe)

3. Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) (153rd in the world, 62nd in Europe)

4. Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) (joint 182nd in the world, joint 80th in Europe)

5. Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) (joint 205thin the world, 93rd 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 of Paris. The top universities in France are:

1. Ecolé Normale Supérieure, Paris (43rd in the world, 11th in Europe)

2. Ecolé Polytechnique (59th in the world, 16th in Europe)

3. Université Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC) (131st in the world, 50th in Europe)

4. Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (157th in the world, 65th in Europe)

5. CentraleSupélec (177th in the world, 77th in Europe)

+ 34 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 (64th in the world, 17th in Europe)

2. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (66th in the world, 19th in Europe)

3. Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (68th in the world, 20th in Europe)

4. Kit, Karlsruher Institut Für Technologie (107th in the world, 38th in Europe)

5. Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin (120th in the world, 45thin Europe)

 + 40 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 (88th in the world, 29th in Europe)

2. University College Dublin (168th in the world, 73rd in Europe)

3. National University of Ireland, Galway (joint 243rd in the world, 107th in Europe)

4. University College Cork (joint 283rd in the world, joint 124th in Europe)

5. Dublin City University (joint 391st in the world, 177th 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 sixth most populous country in Europe and boasts 30 internationally ranked universities. The top universities in Italy are:

1. Politecnico di Milano (170th in the world, 74th in Europe)

2. University of Bologna (joint 188th in the world, joint 83rd in Europe)

3. Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (new this year, ranked joint 192nd in the world and joint 85th in Europe)

4. Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna Pisa (new this year, ranked joint 192nd in the world and joint 85th in Europe)

5. Sapienza University of Rome (215th in the world, 95th in Europe)

 + 25 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 (54th in the world, 13th in Europe)

2. University of Amsterdam (58th in the world, 15th in Europe)

3. Eindhoven University of Technology (104th in the world, 37th in Europe)

=4. Leiden University (joint 109th in the world, joint 39th in Europe)

 =4Utrecht University (joint 109th in the world, joint 39th 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:


1. University of Copenhagen (joint 73rd in the world, joint 22nd in Europe)

2. Technical University of Denmark (joint 116th in the world, 43rd in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in Denmark


1. University of Helsinki (joint 102nd in the world, joint 35th in Europe)

2. Aalto University (joint 137th in the world, joint 54th in Europe)

+ 8 more top universities in Finland


1. University of Oslo (joint 142nd in the world, 57th in Europe) 

2. University of Bergen (joint 164th in the world, joint 70th in Europe)

+ 2 more top universities in Norway


1. Lund University (joint 78th in the world, joint 24th in Europe)

2. KTH Royal Institute of Technology (joint 98th in the world, joint 32nd in Europe)

+6 more top universities in Sweden

Top universities in Russia 

Lomonosov Moscow State University

The largest country in the world, Russia performed extremely well in the latest QS World University Tops, with 24 universities and only three dropping down the ranking since the previous year. The top universities in Russia are:

1. Lomonosov Moscow State University (joint 95th in the world, 31st in Europe)

2. Saint-Petersburg State University (joint 240th in the world, 105th in Europe)

3. Novosibirsk State University (joint 250th in the world, 108th in Europe)

4. Bauman Moscow State Technical University (291st in the world, 129th in Europe)

5. Tomsk State University (joint 323rd in the world, 145th in Europe)

+ 19 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 23 of the top European universities according to the QS World University Tops. The top universities in Spain are:

1. University of Barcelona (156th in the world, 64th in Europe)

2. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (187th in the world, 82nd in Europe)

3. Universitat Autonóma de Barcelona (joint 195th in the world, joint 88th in Europe)

4. University Complutense Madrid (UCM) (233rd in the world, 100th in Europe)

5. University of Navarra (joint 270th in the world, joint 115th in Europe)

+ 18 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) (10th in the world, fifth in Europe)

2. Ecolé Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (12th in the world, sixth in Europe)

3. University of Zurich (UZH) (joint 73rd in the world, joint 22nd in Europe)

4. University of Geneva (joint 98th in the world, joint 32nd in Europe)

5. University of Lausanne (146th in the world, 59th 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 Cambridge (fifth in the world, first in Europe)

2. University of Oxford (sixth in the world, second in Europe)

3. UCL (University College London) (seventh in the world, third in Europe)

4. Imperial College London (eighth in the world, fourth in Europe)    

=5. King's College London (joint 23rd in the world, joint seventh in Europe)

=5. University of Edinburgh (joint 23rd in the world, joint seventh in Europe)

+ 70 more top universities in the UK

Top universities in Greece 

1. National Technical University of Athens (401-410 in the world, joint 180th in Europe)

2. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (501-550 in the world, joint 217th 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 Tops. Here’s a quick round-up of the rest:


1. Belarus State University (joint 334th in the world, 149th in Europe)

2. Belarusian National Technical University (751-800 in the world, joint 305th in Europe)


1. Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski (701-750 in the world, joint 286th in Europe)


1. University of Zagreb (651-700 in the world, joint 263rd in Europe)

Czech Republic 

1. Charles University (joint 314th in the world, joint 142nd in Europe)

2. Czech Technical University in Prague (491-500 in the world, joint 214th in Europe)

+ 3 more top universities in the Czech Republic


1. University of Tartu (joint 314th in the world, joint 142nd in Europe)

2. Tallinn University of Technology (601-650 in the world, joint 255th in Europe)

University of Szeged


1. University of Szeged (501-550 in the world, joint 217th in Europe) 

2. Eötvös Loránd University (651-700 in the world, joint 272nd in Europe)

+ 4 more top universities in Hungary


1. Riga Technical University (new this year, ranked 651-700 in the world and joint 272nd in Europe)

2. University of Latvia (701-750 in the world, joint 286th in Europe)


1. Vilnius University (401-410 in the world, joint 180th in Europe)

2. Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (551-600 in the world, joint 237th in Europe)

 + 2 more top universities in Lithuania


1. University of Warsaw (411-420 in the world, joint 187th in Europe)

2. Jagiellonian University (461-470 in the world, joint 201st in Europe)

+ 7 more top universities in Poland


1. University of Porto (joint 301st in the world, 134th in Europe)

2. University of Lisbon (joint 305th in the world, joint 136th in Europe)

+ 5 more top universities in Portugal


1. University of Bucharest (701-750 in the world, joint 286th in Europe)

2. Alexandru loan Cuza University (801-1000 in the world, joint 322nd in Europe)

 + 2 more top universities in Romania

University of Belgrade


1. University of Belgrade (801-1000 in the world, joint 322nd in Europe)


1. Comenius University in Bratislava (701-750 in the world, joint 286th in Europe)


1. University of Ljubljana (651-700 in the world, joint 272nd in Europe)

2. University of Maribor (801-1000 in the world, joint 322nd in Europe)


1. V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University (401-410 in the world, joint 180th in Europe)

2. Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv (411-420 in the world, joint 187th in Europe) 

+ 4 more top universities in Ukraine

This article was originally published in November 2013. It was last updated in June 2017 to reflect the results of the QS World University Tops® 2018.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former 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.

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Hello, I'm from Ireland and studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway, is pleased to meet you

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Hello, I'm from Ireland and studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway, is pleased to meet you

Hello, I'm from Ireland and studying at the National University of Ireland, Galway, is pleased to meet you

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