international universities
The top 10 universities with strong international reputations are located in just four countries. Source: Shutterstock

Times Higher Education (THE) recently released its list of the most international universities in the world.

But what makes a university “international” and how are some more international than others?

THE’s ranking interprets this using four equally weighted metrics: proportions of international students, international staff, international reputation and journal publications with at least one international co-author.

According to THE, “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.

“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.”

This year’s results showed that the 10 most international universities in the world are located in just four countries.


international universities

The Hive learning hub, nicknamed the Dim Sum Basket building, at Nanyang Technological University. Source: Shutterstock

The National University of Singapore (NUS), one of the top universities in the world, came in at seventh place on this list.

The university is research-intensive, where faculty and students work collaboratively with researchers from abroad as they tackle global challenges.

Another top Singaporean university that came in at tenth spot on the list is Nanyang Technological University.

It’s one of the fastest-rising young universities in the world, consistently ranking high in young university league tables. Research focus areas here include artificial intelligence, robotics, sustainability, healthcare, new media and future learning.

Hong Kong

international students

The main building of the University of Hong Kong, one of the most diverse universities in the world. Source: Shutterstock

Another diverse location in Asia is Hong Kong, the financial hub known as one of the most international cities in the world with its influx of expats and international students.

Universities here offer students the chance to learn in both Asian and global contexts, particularly in business.

This has led to two of the city’s top universities – City University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong – making the top of the list at first and second spots respectively.

According to THE, the University of Hong Kong has over 20,000 students with almost 8,000 being international students.

They are also on a mission to become “Asia’s Global University,” with 50 percent of its undergraduates having at least two opportunities to study outside Hong Kong during the last year of their degree. By 2022, they aim to provide this opportunity for all students.

Meanwhile, the City University of Hong Kong has over 400 exchange partners in 44 countries and regions. More than 1,200 CityU students participate in student exchange programmes each year, according to THE.


international universities

A view of the ETH Zurich campus, a leading science-based institution. Source: Shutterstock

At third and fourth spot on the rankings are Switzerland’s top-ranking universities École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and ETH Zurich.

Students at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have plenty of opportunities to take part in exchange programmes with other universities in Switzerland and overseas. There is also an internship programme for students enroled at other universities to spend up to three months at one of its campus laboratories.

ETH Zurich, the alma mater of Albert Einstein, is home to over 19,000 students from over 120 countries.

United Kingdom

international universities

The historic University of Oxford is a strong player on the world stage. Source: Shutterstock

As one of the most popular study abroad destinations, it should come as no surprise that some of the most international universities in the world are in the UK.

Imperial College London, University of Oxford and University of Cambridge are ranked sixth, seventh and ninth on the ranking.

At the University of Cambridge, approximately 4,000 of its students come from over 120 different countries. There is also an International Summer Schools programme that offers 150 courses to students from over 50 countries.

At the University of Oxford, approximately 40 percent of faculty members are from overseas.

As for Imperial College London, one of the leading science-based institutions in the UK, approximately half of all students are international.

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