10 best countries for education that are worth leaving everything behind for

best countries for education
The American Dream is well alive in 2023, drawing one million international students to the US every year. Source: AFP

Some countries are better at educating children than the rest. This shouldn’t be but it is.

The hard truth is today, the best countries for education are years and even decades ahead in knowing what — and what not — to teach.

But while we’ve heard our share of tales from aunties and uncles on what are the best countries for education, these aren’t exactly the most trusted ways to get real insight into what makes a country’s schools, colleges and universities so good.

How to find the best countries for education

“Best” is subjective. However, there are several factors we can consider:

  • programmes offered
  • language of instruction
  • research opportunities
  • scholarships
  • employment opportunities

What we mean by the best countries for education is often tied to how our learning helps us fulfil our full potential while preparing us for the future.

And yes, our full potential and future careers differ from one to another, something that the best countries for education also recognise and help realise.

But with 193 countries and many different ways of measuring them, how do you know which one to rely on?

The long answer would get you deep-diving into the scientific metrics of each ranking and understanding how these were used to determine the best countries for education today.

The short answer is you should probably rely on a few lists and rankings — this is so you can pick and choose the factors that matter most to you.

A good place to start is the choices made by the 6.4 million students who took the big and bold step to study abroad in 2022.

Leaving everything you know and love behind is not easy — which is why their choices make for a great indicator of the best countries for education in the world.

best countries for education

2023 Nobel prize for medicine laureate Katalin Kariko moved from Hungary to the US, one of the best countries for education, to pursue research in mRNA technology, which would later lead to the development of the first COVID-19 vaccines. Source: AFP

10 best countries for education in the world 

1. US

According to US News, the US is home to eight of the top 10 Best Global Universities. It also has the highest number of Nobel Laureates compared to any other country in the world.

Over a million international students choose to study in the US every year.

Fields such as computer science, engineering, business administration, law, and the arts stand out as the most popular subjects among international students in the country.

Being the home of universities like Harvard University, University of Oxford, Yale University, and MIT, the US is undoubtedly one of the best countries in the world for education. 

best countries for education

The UK is one of the world’s most popular destinations to study higher education, with more than 500,000 international students enrolling each year. Source: AFP

2. UK 

The UK is the world’s second most popular destination, with about half a million international students enrolled in various programmes. 

With many prestigious universities and institutions, the UK offers high-quality courses and degrees across various disciplines.

These include accounting, finance, psychology, sports science, nursing, animation, etc. 

According to the QS World University Rankings 2023, some of the UK’s top universities placed in the world’s top 10:

  • University of Oxford (#2)
  • University of Cambridge (#4)
  • Imperial College London (#6)
  • UCL (#8)

3. Germany 

Germany stands out as an unparalleled destination for those seeking a top-tier education in a diverse and dynamic environment.

It is one of the few countries that provide high-quality, industry-relevant education at low or no cost.

Many scholarships are also available to international students, attracting talents from around the world.

Here, universities regularly receive awards in teaching and research, so you’re sure to have an enriching educational experience.

Germany’s unwavering dedication to exceptional education, diverse cultural experiences, and promising career prospects position it as an excellent choice for international scholars. It also holds a reputation as one of the most welcoming countries for students from abroad.

If you are looking to study in Germany, consider these universities: 

  • Technical University of Munich
  • LMU Munich
  • Heidelberg University
best countries for education

Every year thousands of international students travel to Canada for a study abroad experience like no other. Source: AFP

4. Canada 

Diverse, more affordable and welcoming, Canada has become a top study destination for many students.

Many are drawn to Canadian universities as they serve as a clear pathway to getting permanent residence in the country, thanks to the Post-Graduation Work Permit Programme (PGWPP).

In QS and Times Higher Education rankings, Canadian universities have consistently performed well for the strengths of their research and teaching.

According to Times Higher Education, four of its universities are within the top 100 globally:

  • University of Toronto (#18)
  • University of British Columbia (#40)
  • McGill University (#46)
  • McMaster University (#85)

5. France 

France is known for so much more than macarons and the Eiffel Tower. It is known as one of the best countries for education in the world. 

This stems from the fact that education is one of the most fundamental rights in France, and it is mandatory from the age of six to sixteen

A few of its universities rival even renowned institutions like MIT; for instance, the University of Paris-Saclay and Ecole Polytechnique are recognised for their world-class engineering programmes.

Embark on your educational journey abroad in France by selecting from some of the nation’s finest universities, including:

  • Sorbonne Universite
  • Universite de Paris
  • Universite Paris Saclay
best countries for education

Australia is one of the best countries for education in the world. Source: AFP

6. Australia 

Australia is not only the world’s sixth-largest country by land, but it is also the sixth country on the list of best countries for education in the world.

Not only does it stand out for its diverse programmes encompassing engineering, administration, architecture, media, business, communication, and the arts, but also the diversity of its people.

Close to one in three people (29.3% of Australia’s population) in Australia were born abroad.

With a notable presence of seven Australian universities within the top 100 of the 2022 QS World University rankings, Australia’s educational offerings are positioned among the elite globally.

Here are the best universities in Australia for international students:

  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Sydney 
  • University of Queensland
best countries for education

Japan is not only one of the best countries for education, it is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Source: AFP

7. Japan

Japan is home to universities consistently ranking among the top globally, ensuring a high-quality education, such as Tohoku University Miyagi, The University of Tokyo, and Osaka University.

These are the top three universities in the country, as ranked by Times Higher Education.

While not the most budget-friendly option, the tuition fees in Japan are much lower than those in other popular study destinations such as the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

The total expenses, including tuition and cost of living, can vary significantly based on your choice of city and the university you go to.

For example, Tokyo is infamous for its high living costs, with rent ranging from approximately 43,000 yen (US$286.77) at the lower end and can go up to 100,000 yen (US$666.90) per month.

The cost of pursuing an undergraduate degree in Japan typically averages around US$23,000, while a master’s degree programme is generally around US$12,000.

While most university programmes are taught in Japanese, there is an increasing number of English-taught programmes. Here are a number of Japanese universities that offer English programmes:

  • Meiji Gakuin University
  • International University of Japan
  • Waseda University
best countries for education

Denmark is one of the most beautiful and friendliest countries for international students to study in. Source: AFP

8. Denmark

A list of the best countries for education would be incomplete without Denmark. How could we miss a country that boasts a whopping 99% literacy rate? 

This high literacy rate is due to the government’s move to make education compulsory for students up to the age of 16.

Here, education is free  — for locals — from kindergarten all the way up to university. 

Aside from being known for its quality education, Denmark has been recognised as one of the happiest countries to study abroad. 

It is one of the most popular destinations for international students, attracting thousands worldwide who seek high-quality education and internationally recognised degrees. The top universities include:

  • University of Copenhagen
  • Aarhus University
  • Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
best countries for education

People walk on a bridge in the red light district of Amsterdam on March 30, 2023. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

9. Netherlands

The Netherlands is home to many excellent universities that are ranked highly by QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education.

This includes the University of Amsterdam, Wageningen University & Research and Leiden University.

The University of Amsterdam is one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the Netherlands. It conducts research across various fields, including social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and more.

As in its name, Wageningen University & Research emphasises the importance of research, specifically in areas related to agri-food, food production, sustainability, and environmental studies.

The cost of education in the Netherlands is comparatively lower, making it one of the cheapest European countries.

The average tuition fee for a degree programme in the Netherlands for non-EU students is 6,000 euros per year (US$6,361.80).

Cost of living is just as low, around 800 to 1,200 euros per month (US$848.42 to US$1,272.61).

best countries for education

In South Korea, international students can indulge in delicious food while gaining a world-class education. Source: AFP

10. South Korea

South Korea is known to be one of the best countries for education in the world. Now, you can indulge in kimchi and bibimbap as you gain a world-class education. 

The country’s effort to improve its educational system has been a success, with many of its institutions ranking among the best in the world.

This includes Seoul National University, KAIST – Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and Korea University.

Here, you can find prestigious universities renowned for their academic excellence, research output, and global reputation. Here are some of the top universities in South Korea:

  • Seoul National University (SNU)
  • Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
  • Korea University