These are the world's most international universities
The world's 5 most international universities in 2019, according to Times Higher Education. Source: Slava Bowman/Unsplash

‘Globalisation’ refers to the interconnectedness of people and business on all corners of the world, leading to eventual cultural, political and economic integration.

It’s an important economic phenomenon, considered the most significant contributor to boosting a country’s GDP and quality of life.

But globalisation has also become a vital pillar of contemporary higher education. As the higher education sector grows in reach and impact, it simultaneously becomes increasingly international. OECD data show that between 1985 and 2008, the total number of students studying overseas tripled.

It’s a trend that continues, with one Japanese university pledging to make study abroad compulsory by 2020; Israel investing US$120m to boost inbound student numbers; and the UK government unveiling a plan to grow international student numbers by 30 percent to reach 600,000 by 2030.

And that merely scratches the surface.

Universities are international by nature; global institutions that become home to staff, students and faculty from different countries and walks of life, tackling the most pressing issues faced by global citizens through powerful research.

As the American Council on Education (ACE) explains, diversity promotes personal growth and a healthy society.

“Diversity challenges stereotyped preconceptions; it encourages critical thinking; and it helps students learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds. It strengthens communities and the workplace,” notes the ACE.

Globalisation is so integral to progress in both society and education that Times Higher Education (THE) launched an annual ranking of the world’s most international universities.

Compiled using the international student score, international staff score, international co-authorship score and international reputation metrics for each institution, THE ranked the world’s most international universities in 2019. Here are the Top 5:

1. University of Hong Kong (HKU)

HKU is globally-known for its achievements in scientific discovery and research. The university encompasses 10 comprehensive faculties that together teach more than 20,000 students, driven by a mission to become ‘Asia’s Global University’.

Attracting the best local students as well many from mainland China and almost 8,000 from overseas, HKU’s student body is both lively and diverse – not to mention the fact that almost half its faculty come from abroad.

HKU’s ambition to support 50 percent of undergraduates through two study abroad opportunities in 2019, and for all students to have this same experience by 2022, is incredibly unique. It’s an institution that undoubtedly places globalisation at the heart.

= 2. ETH Zurich

The history of ETH Zurich dates back to 1855, forged as a centre for knowledge and innovation by the founders of modern-day Switzerland. Today, ETH Zurich is built on the values of Swiss society, empowering students through freedom, individual responsibility, entrpreneurial spirit and open-mindedness.

Nestled in the heart of Europe next to France, Germany, Austria and Leichtenstein, it’s no surprise this university hosts 19,000 students from over 120 countries.

Students at ETH Zurich have the chance to study at another university for one or two semesters. Whether it’s through an exchange with one of the institution’s many international partners, or whether it’s a stay the student arranges themselves, ETH Zurich’s global focus is clear.

= 2. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Tied in second is HKUST, a “globally-oriented university…committed to fostering academic originality, innovative spirit, open-mindedness and a can-do attitude”.

Founded in 1991, HKUST has since grown into a respected international research university with valuable ties to global thought leaders. Located on a hillside campus overlooking the Clear Water Bay peninsula, less than a 30-minute drive from Central Hong Kong, it’s no wonder so many international students flock to HKUST.

According to THE, more than a third of the institution’s student body hail from global roots, representing about 60 nationalities. On top of this, 80 percent of faculty come from abroad and more than 70 percent of students pursue internships overseas.

4. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)


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More sun on campus! #epflcampus #epfl #epflstudents #springatepfl #epflingreen

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In fourth place comes EPFL, located in Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva. Known as Europe’s most cosmopolitan technical university, the institution offers both Swiss and international vocation, intent on providing world-class teaching, research and innovation.

As of 2018, EPFL was home to 11,134 Bachelor, Master, PhD and Postdoctoral students from more than 116 countries, all of whom are encouraged to participate in exchange programmes across Switzerland or abroad.

Nurturing over 150 international exchange and double degree agreements, this university promises students a wide array of potential study abroad destinations. As the institution notes, “Global is part of EPFL’s DNA”.

5. Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)


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“Travelled alone to 12 countries for voluntary service for 130 days” LEE Tin Sum Year 2, Journalism and Communication ✈️2018 Outstanding Students Awards – Social Service (for the Community) ✈️Global Learning Award Scheme, Wu Yee Sun College ✈️Top 10 Outstanding Youths 李天心 新聞與傳播學2年級 💕2018傑出學生獎 — 社會服務(社會) 💕伍宜孫書院寰宇學習獎勵計劃 💕十大優秀青年 #月曆拍攝花絮 #calendarmakingof 2⃣0⃣1⃣9⃣Calendar Is Available Now🗓at the CUHK Souvenir Counter and CUHK Bookstore, selling at HK$40 . Proceeds from the calendar sales will be donated to support CUHK I‧CARE Programme. This year the University invited 12 recipients of the ‘CUHK Outstanding Students Awards’ to participate in the production of our 2019 calendar. 2⃣0⃣1⃣9⃣中大月曆🗓即日起於中大紀念品銷售處及中大書店有售。月曆定價港幣40元正,所有收益將撥捐中大I‧CARE博群計劃。今年大學特別邀請12位首屆「中大傑出學生獎」的得獎同學拍攝月曆。 #outstandingstudent #sunshineatcuhk #中大有晴 #山城樹窿 #ubuddies #atcuhk #cuhk #thechineseuniversityofhongkong #中大 #香港中文大學

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Established in 1963, this university os future-facing. Inspired by a vision to bring together China and the West, the CUHK community comes from all over the world, while CUHK graduates stay connected through a global alumni network.

This university teaches students from more than 50 countries, also holding invaluable partnerships with 270 instiutions in over 30 countries.

“CUHK responds to the fast changing world by enhancing its reputation, presence, relevance and impact globally as well as embracing cultural diversity and full inclusiveness,” the institution notes. “This is demonstrated in all its efforts in teaching, research, and global engagement.”

Click here to view the full rankings for the Most International Universities in the World 2019 by Times Higher Education.

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