Top 10 Destinations to Study for Academics

Opera house in Paris, France

Over the past two decades, students from all over the world have been studying abroad in huge numbers. According to the International Institute of Education, around 270,000 American students studied abroad in 2010. While the cultural aspect of the experience often takes precedence, it is also important to choose a good university in terms of academics.

To provide an easy reference list for students, we created this ranking with the best top-tier universities outside of the United States based on three of the most influential international university ranking catalogs: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the QS World University Rankings and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

1) United Kingdom  

It should come as no surprise to find the United Kingdom above the rest at number one. With iconic, world-renowned universities like Oxford and Cambridge, this country is a haven of top-tier schools. However, the U.K. has a lot more to offer than just those two universities. From London, to Edinburgh, to Manchester and to many other cities across the country, students can find some of the greatest universities in the world. The quality and diversity of education offered in the United Kingdom stands as model for the rest of the world. Thus, 27 universities of the top 200 are located in the United Kingdom.

2) Germany

Located in the heart of Europe, Germany is ideal for students and tourists alike. American students are guaranteed to get their money’s worth, both culturally and academically. It has a lot of good universities which attract a number of American students each year, including schools such as Heidelberg or the Technical University of Munich. Germany boasts a total of 13 universities in the top 200, and has a lot of potential and promise for the future. And while you’re there, don’t forget to visit the numerous festivals and museums.

3) The Netherlands

The Netherlands (also known as Holland) is one of the world’s leading educational destinations. With more than 10 universities in the top 200, Holland delivers high quality education in a unique system. The Netherlands’ higher education system consists of two distinct institutions: universities focused on research and academia, and universities focused on professional education. While the schools of research and academia train students to be the professors of the future, the vocation-based universities prepare students students are more directly for a profession. While this system may be unusual, its effectiveness is evident in the numbers: The Netherlands has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, and one of the highest average wages in the world.

4) Canada

This large neighbor to the north is often an afterthought to Americans. However, Canada boasts eight universities in the top 200 with five in the top 100. The diversity of major cities like Vancouver, Montreal, Quebec and Toronto make Canada a very attractive destination for students around the world. In 2010 alone, around 10,000 students chose Canada as their study destination according to the Canadian Government. For American students, Canadian study abroad programs have the added bonus of not breaking the bank with costly travel fees.  

5) Japan

Japan may be thousands of miles away from the United States, but it has a great deal to offer to students willing to make the long journey. For many years now, Japan has been considered the leader of higher education in Asia. Their record of academic excellence is well known throughout Asia and the world. Students preparing to study in Japan can receive a top-notch education and excellent support from their host university. Around 6,000 American students made the move to the Land of the Rising Sun so far, and Japan has flung their doors wide open - setting a goal of 300,000 study abroad students per year.  

6) Australia

What’s the first thing you think of when you imagine the land down under? Most people’s imaginations head straight for the beaches, the accents and the Sydney Opera House. Roll all of those things together and you have one hell of a study abroad experience. In all the excitement, it’s easy to see how Australia’s strength in higher education might be overlooked. Nonetheless, Australia boasts eight universities in the top 200, with almost 20 of those in the top 700. Today, thousands of American students flood the land down under in order to get a little taste of the Australian culture.

7) Switzerland

Switzerland is known for banking, cheese and watches, but those are not the only reasons to visit the Swiss. This European country hosts a number of renowned and prestigious universities. Whether you want to go to Lausanne, Zürich, Bern or Geneva, you will get your money’s worth. A Swiss degree is almost as valuable as a Swiss watch! While roughly 35,000 international students matriculate to universities in Switzerland every year, the toughest challenge remains to pass the admission criteria. Therefore, don’t forget to apply to several universities. It may take some persistence to be admitted, but the education is certainly worth it.

8) France

The country of Volaire and Descartes has a lot to offer to international students, both from a cultural and academic standpoint. France is one of the bigger countries in Europe, and has an array of different universities that attract students from all over the world. One has to be careful when picking a French university, as some of them might not be ready to accommodate English-speaking students. Top French schools remain a safe bet, and for this reason France hosts six of the world’s top 200 universities.

9) Sweden

Scandinavian countries - Sweden in particular - have a tradition of providing high quality education to students. A variety of universities offer great curriculums, with five making it into the top 200. The differences between universities are not striking, however, and students will find their needs met at pretty much any university. One of the main advantages of the Swedish system is that education is delivered mostly in English, making it a perfect fit for American students. According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), 30,000 international students chose Sweden as their study destination in 2010. The weather is also great, with pleasant summers and cold winters. It’s the perfect destination for fans of the outdoors.

10) China

Details of the Chinese school system are still somewhat mysterious to the Western world. In line with their recent economic growth, China has proven to become more welcoming. Some of their universities have gained prominence beyond the Asian continent. China has three universities ranked in the top 200, all of which are open to international students and offer programs in English. Several US colleges have agreements with leading Chinese institutions, making it easier than ever for American students to study in the Middle Kingdom. Lured by the experience of a radically different culture, the stream of international students to China has grown to more than 60,000.