Best universities in Central Europe

Explore the best universities in Central Europe determined by data collected by Times Higher Education

June 13 2017
Swans on river Limmat, Zurich, Switzerland

Stretching from Germany to Hungary and Switzerland to Poland, the region of Central Europe can be defined as a collection of eight nations, all with good economic and educational resources.

Aside from Switzerland, all Central European nations in the modern era are members of the European Union, which allows for ease of travel between them and established economic trade agreements. Full-time students from within the EU, or those from countries who have reciprocal agreements with a host nation, will often not need to pay university tuition fees.

Central Europe has a definitive cultural history, and is the birthplace of figures such as composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, playwright Johann Goethe and philosopher Slavoj Žižek. Art excursions for students range from Prague’s Museum Kampa of modern art to Berlin’s legendary techno club Berghain.

The region is also the home of multinational corporations including Siemens, Budweiser Budvar and Skoda. English is a common second language and many university courses will be taught in English.

Below are four of the best universities in Central Europe.

ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich

Established in 1855 as the Federal Polytechnic School, ETH Zurich is today considered one of the world’s most prestigious universities in science and technology, and consistently ranks in the top 20 universities in the world.

ETH Zurich has 16 academic departments, providing academic interdisciplinary research in subjects such as architecture, biology, chemistry and physics. Undergraduate programmes will typically be in German, and master’s and doctoral courses taught in English. As part of the Institute of Physics, the Dissertori Group has performed particle physics experiments at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider.

University students can enjoy the classic event Polyball, which dates back to the 1880s. The musical event features a live orchestra and has hosted famous national singers. ETH’s most famous alumnus is Albert Einstein, regarded as the greatest physicist of all time.

The city of Zurich is the largest in Switzerland, and is known for its many museums and art galleries, as well as a high quality of living.

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Heidelberg University

Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is one of the oldest extant universities in the world. The town of Heidelberg is located in southwest Germany on the river Neckar, and is known for Heidelberg Castle.

The university has 12 academic faculties. International focus is a core element of study at the university, with more than 20 per cent of the student body and a third of those studying doctorates coming from abroad.

Study at Heidelberg is divided between the four faculties of natural sciences, mathematics and computer sciences; liberal arts and theology; law, economics and social sciences; and medicine. Heidelberg has three chapels, and the Rickley Chapel based in the main university building can seat up to 600 people.

Alumni from Heidelberg include 11 national leaders, and among faculty and graduates there are 56 Nobel laureates. Both the university and surrounding region inspired the Mark Twain novel A Tramp Abroad.

University of Debrecen

The city of Debrecen is located in western Hungary and is seen as the country’s cultural hub, host to festivities such as the Flower Parade, which has taken place every summer since 1966. The university is the oldest institute of higher learning in the nation, founded in 1538.

Academics are divided between a wide range of departments, including theology, the medical school, and arts and science, all of which were unified under the same university umbrella organisation in 2000. The department of music provides a concert series that can be attended by both the student body and local community, and the Erasmus scheme offers study abroad opportunities.

The University of Debrecen Library is categorised as a national library of Hungary, and is estimated to house more than 6 million books. The university’s main building is also one of the largest in Debrecen, constructed in a neo-Baroque style.

The university has an extensive English language programme across subjects, and a branch of medical education has been taught in English since 1986.

University of Ljubljana

Founded in 1919, the University of Ljubljana is based in Slovenia’s capital city, and is both the oldest and largest university and scientific research institute in the nation. 

Originally founded with departments in the fields of law, philosophy, technology, theology and medicine, the university has since expanded into fields such as architecture, information science and electrical engineering. English language courses are widely available for both Erasmus+ students and regular undergraduates. There are 20 doctoral programmes offered, which typically last for three years.

Affiliated with the university is the National and University Library of Slovenia, the national library, which houses more than 1.3 million books.

The city is known for its Baroque architecture, and BTC City in Ljubljana is one of the largest shopping and business centres in Europe.


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