Which Are the Most International Universities?

Which Are the Most International Universities?

The ranking is largely based on the “international outlook” pillar of THE’s World University Rankings 2016-17, which covers international staff, students, and co-authors. However, it also includes a measure of universities’ international reputation, taken from THE’s annual Academic Reputation Survey.

The 150-institution table prominently features universities from relatively small, export-reliant countries, where English is an official language or is widely spoken. The ranking is led by two Swiss universities: ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich; and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. Of all the countries in the ranking, the Swiss representatives also have the greatest average proportion of international staff and internationally co-authored publications: both 62%.

Next in the ranking are the University of Hong Kong and the National University of Singapore. Data scientist Billy Wong says that this may reflect the fact that nations such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Switzerland are all big, global trading hubs, inclined to look beyond their borders for personnel and ideas (the Chinese University of Hong Kong also ranks highly, at number 27).

Check out: The World’s Most International Universities 2016

Below the top four is a glut of institutions from the UK, Australia and Canada: prominent destinations for international students and scholars because of their prestigious universities and their use of English. Indeed, apart from the Swiss institutions – which increasingly use English as their language of instruction, especially at postgraduate level – France’s École Polytechnique is the only non-anglophone university to reach the top 20. The UK has 13 institutions in the 150, led by Imperial College London at number five. The University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, University College London and the London School of Economics also make the top 10.

The US is less prominent in this ranking than it usually is in international league tables, possibly reflecting the fact that its size makes it less reliant on immigration to supply it with top student and academic talent. There is only one US institution in the top 30: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at number 22. Harvard University (sixth in the overall World University Rankings 2016‑17) is 33rd, Stanford (third) is 36th and the California Institute of Technology (second) is 52nd. However, US institutions are still the most numerous in the international ranking, accounting for 64 places – partly reflecting the fact that the ranking is confined to the top 500 institutions in the World University Rankings, and nearly a quarter of those are American.

Universities the world over have become more international in recent years. Between 2003 and 2012, almost all member nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development increased their level of international scientific collaboration, as measured by the proportion of scientific papers published with international co-authors, according to the OECD report Trends Shaping Education 2016. The US had the largest rise – 33% – although the rate of international co-authorship among the US universities in THE’s ranking is still relatively low at 34%.


ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich



École  Polytechnique  Fédérale  de Lausanne



University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong


National University of Singapore



Imperial College London

United Kingdom


University of Oxford

United Kingdom


Australian National University



University of Cambridge

United Kingdom


University College London

United Kingdom


London School of Economics and Political Science

United Kingdom

Source: Times Higher Education


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