THE announces the most international universities in the world in 2016

Qatar University tops list while the UK is the most outward-looking nation

January 14, 2016
People watching Flyboard World Championship qualifier, Doha, 2012
Source: Reuters
Take off: like a water jet pack, Qatar University is flying high in a league table of institutions graded on their international outlook according to WUR data

View the full list of the 200 most international universities in the world 2016

Qatar University has topped a list of the world’s most international institutions, based on data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.

The Middle Eastern institution, which was ranked in the 601-800 band in the overall rankings, knocked Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) off pole position to fourth place for the first time in six years.

The rest of the top five is filled by the University of Luxembourg (second), University of Hong Kong (third) and University of Geneva (fifth).

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Despite EPFL’s drop, Switzerland remains the most-represented country in the top 10, taking four places, while the UK has the deepest reservoir of outward-looking institutions in the top 200, claiming almost a third (64) of the positions, led by Imperial College London in 10th place. Australia comes a distant second with 24 institutions.

The ranking is compiled using the results of the “international outlook” indicator in the THE World University Rankings. This measure considers each institution’s proportion of international staff, proportion of international students and proportion of research papers published with at least one co-author from another country.

A breakdown of the data shows that the United Arab Emirates’ American University of Sharjah has the highest proportion of international students (82 per cent), while the UK claims half the top 10 spots on this measure, including the London School of Economics (LSE) (70 per cent) in second place.

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On the proportion of international staff, the UAE and Switzerland are the most-represented nations in the top 10, with two institutions each. The American University of Sharjah, the University of Macau and Qatar University take the top three spots on this measure.

Hassan Rashid Al-Derham, president of Qatar University, said that the institution’s high proportion of international students and staff is mainly due to the “demographics of the Gulf region rather than an aggressive internationalisation strategy”, but its research papers score is the result of a strategy adopted by the state of Qatar aimed at “steering the country steadily towards a knowledge-based economy”.

“The generous funds provided to Qatari and international researchers encourages international collaboration and, as a result, Qatar tops the charts in international collaboration,” he said.

Jenny Hällen-Hedberg, head of the University of Luxembourg’s international relations office, said that its internationalisation success transcends its geographic location in the heart of Europe; the university has student exchange programmes with almost 80 international institutions, offers multilingual teaching and has worldwide research partnerships.

“We see internationalisation not as a goal in itself, but as a key success factor and a means by which we can reach excellence in research and education,” she said.

“It is our aim to become a preferred destination for the most ambitious researchers in the world. Another target is to attract top-quality students globally, and for those students to become international leaders in their domain.”

Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, said that the university intends to build on its global position, citing its recently announced joint seed fund with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which aims to “encourage our researchers to collaborate on early stage and risky research”.

“No university can achieve world-class status without a global community of staff, students and collaborators. Innovation often emerges from the creative synergies that occur when people from different cultures, disciplines and sectors come together,” she said.

North America dominates the overall THE World University Rankings but is conspicuous by its absence in this league table. Just 22 North American institutions feature in the most international top 200 (compared with 128 in Europe and 31 in Oceania), led by Canada’s University of British Columbia at number 40. MIT is the top US university in 90th place. Overall, 28 countries are represented in the top 200 list.

Daniel Obst, deputy vice-president for international partnerships at the Institute of International Education, said that while the US hosts the largest number of international students in the world, it has a lower proportion of international students than other countries because of its high number of student enrolments overall.

All the institutions that feature in the top 800 of the THE World University Rankings 2015-2016 have been considered for this list, up from a pool of 400 institutions in last year’s table.

View the methodology and browse the full list of the 200 most international universities in the world

Top 10 most international universities in the world

Rank Institution Country International outlook WUR 2015-2016 rank 
1 Qatar University Qatar 99.9 601–800
2 University of Luxembourg Luxembourg 99.8 =193
3 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 99.5 =44
4 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Switzerland 98.6 31
5 University of Geneva Switzerland 98.5 =131
6 University of Macau Macao 98.4 401–500
7 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland 97.9 9
8 University of St Gallen Switzerland 97.6 351–400
9 National University of Singapore (NUS) Singapore 96.2 26
10 Imperial College London UK 96.0 8

View the full table of the 200 most international universities in the world

Top 10 universities for overseas students

Rank Institution Country Proportion of international students (%)
1 American University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates 82
2 London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) UK 70
3 Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Republic of Ireland 63
4 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) Switzerland 54
5 University of Luxembourg Luxembourg 52
6 Imperial College London UK 51
7 City University London UK 50
8 Maastricht University Netherlands 48
9 University of St Andrews UK 47
10 University College London (UCL) UK 46

Source: THE DataPoints © THE


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