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List of the 20 Best Non-U.S. Universities and Colleges in the World

Jun 10, 2011

Thinking about studying abroad? Although some of the best colleges in the world can be found right here in the U.S., there are many top-quality institutions in other countries. Read on to learn about 20 of the top-ranked universities located outside of the United States.

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Best Universities in the World

Building on data provided by the universities and analyzed by Thomson Reuters, the British education magazine Times Higher Education has compiled its yearly list of the world's 200 best universities. The magazine based its rankings on 13 performance indicators divided into five major categories. The categories are: teaching (30% of the total score), research (30% of total score), citations (30% of total score), international outlook (7.5% of total score), and industry income (2.5% of total score).

In 2013, American universities dominated the list. The top 5 are Harvard University, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University, and Princeton University. Many high-performing institutions made the list from the U.K., Canada, Japan, Korea, and other countries.

According to the Times Higher Education rankings, here are the top 20 non-U.S. universities (listed in order of appearance):

1. University of Oxford (#2 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (England)

The University of Oxford has a reputation as one of the best universities in the world. Oxford was founded in the 11th century and is the first university founded in the English-speaking world. Over a third of the 22,000 students at Oxford hail from outside of the United Kingdom.

2. University of Cambridge (#7 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (England)

The University of Cambridge is one of the oldest and most well-respected educational institutions in the world. Students of this university have a reputation for outstanding academic achievement - Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking are among its most prestigious alumni.

3. Imperial College London (#10 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (England)

The Imperial College London is one of England's most selective universities, receiving six applications for every available spot in the freshman class. A science-focused institution, Imperial College London has an excellent reputation as a teaching and research facility.

4. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (#14 overall)

  • Country: Switzerland

Known locally as ETH Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology is home to over 18,000 students from all over the world. The institution has an outstanding research record and distinguished faculty. More than twenty Nobel laureates have studied here, including the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.

5. University of Toronto (#20 overall)

  • Country: Canada

The University of Toronto was the first institution of higher learning in upper Canada and has maintained an excellent reputation throughout its history. As the top-ranked university in Canada, the University of Toronto receives a significant amount of annual research funding houses North America's third-largest academic library.

6. University College London (#21 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (England)

University College London was the first university in the UK to admit students without regard to race, class, religion, or gender. UCL boasts the best student-to-faculty ratio in the UK, and more than 20 UCL professors and graduates have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

7. University of Tokyo (#23 overall)

  • Country: Japan

This prestigious institution is widely regarded as Japan's best university and maintains research and teaching relationships with top-ranked universities throughout the world. Students who graduate from the University of Tokyo often go on to leadership positions in research, government, business, and technology - it counts as alumni 15 Japanese prime ministers.

8. National University of Singapore (#26 overall)

  • Country: Singapore

The National University of Singapore was founded as a small medical college but has grown into a distinguished global university. Three campus locations provide research and learning opportunities for students from Singapore, Asia, and the rest of the world.

9.University of British Columbia (#31 overall)

  • Country: Canada

The University of British Columbia in Canada has an international reputation for advanced research and learning. Dubbed a 'place of mind,' University of British Columbia works to meet the mission of transforming education for Canada and the world.

10. London School of Economics and Political Science (#32 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), a specialized university, is a global home for in-depth study of economics, political science, law, and other social sciences. Boasting George Bernard Shaw as one of its founders, LSE is a truly international university and represents a world-wide coalition of thought. About half of its faculty and over two-thirds of its students hail from outside the United Kingdom.

11.University of Melbourne (#34 overall)

  • Country: Australia

The best university in Australia, University of Melbourne employs the Melbourne Model, a curriculum which melds American and European approaches to learning and degree planning. The model represents the university's commitment to becoming an international destination and a world leader in teaching, research. and learning.

12. McGill University (#35 overall)

  • Country: Canada

One of the oldest universities in Canada, McGill has maintained a reputation for excellence for almost 200 years. The institution boasts many unique accomplishments, including development of the first Internet search engine. The university has 21 professional schools, and students who attend McGill hail from more than 150 countries.

13. Karolinska Institute (#36 overall)

  • Country: Sweden

This is considered the best medical campus in Europe, and one of the best in the world. KI, as it is known, is the home of great medical research. The pacemaker and gamma knife were invented on this campus, and KI moves into the future committed to the union of medical theory and practice.

14. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (#37 overall)

  • Country: Switzerland

Located on Lake Geneva, this school has roughly 9,300 students and focuses on science, engineering and technology education. The school had 26 institutes and 316 laboratories as of 2012.

15. King's College London (#38 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (England)

King's College London, one of the oldest and highest-ranked universities in England, is a liberal arts university par excellence. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of the school's most distinguished alumni, and Florence Nightingale developed her ground-breaking nursing training while on staff.

16. University of Edinburgh (#39 overall)

  • Country: United Kingdom (Scotland)

The University of Edinburgh is one of the largest universities in the United Kingdom and one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Edinburgh houses three colleges containing 22 schools across seven campuses, including a highly regarded medical school.

17. University of Hong Kong (#43 overall)

  • Country: China

The University of Hong Kong is the oldest modern university in China. HKU has educated a number of notable people, including the Republic of China's founder. The university caters to international students and Chinese students who want an international education; the official language of instruction is English.

18. Seoul National University (#44 overall)

  • Country: Republic of Korea

The nation's most prominent liberal arts university, Seoul National University is also the nation's first national university. Notable alumni include many Korean public servants and government officials.

19. Peking University (#45 overall)

  • Country: China

Peking University (PKU) was originally founded as an imperial university. In 2000, it merged with Beijing Medical University, and today it educates over 30,000 students in 39 different schools, including the School of Marxism.

20. Australian National University (#48 overall)

  • Country: Australia

Australian National University is comprised of seven colleges and nine research schools. The school is committed to diversity in all areas - about a quarter of all students are international, and there is a campus-wide program to ensure that Australia's diversity is represented.

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