Best universities in Eastern Europe

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

March 1 2017
Best universities in Eastern Europe

Although there is no set definition of the region encompassing Eastern Europe, it can be taken to mean former nations of the Eastern Bloc stretching from Estonia and its coast on the Baltic Sea to Bulgaria with it’s eastern coast on the Black Sea, and to the western portion of Russia that is a part of the European continent.

Eastern Europe is a region with chequered history and since emerging from the Cold War some of its nations, such as Estonia and Latvia, are among the most highly developed in the world while others, such as Moldova, are among the poorest in Europe.

While the USSR was dissolved in 1991, Russia’s influence over the region remains with the Russian language and culture a prominent influence in nations such as Latvia and Lithuania, and in the political sphere. 

Some of the most famous places in Eastern Europe are the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, and Tallinn, the Estonian capital, which is a highly modernised metropolis as well as home to one of the best preserved medieval old cities in Europe.

Below are four of the best universities in the region. 

Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University

Known more simply as Polytechnic University, this institute was founded in 1899 and is one of the top ranked higher learning institutes in the region. The city of St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and known for its cathedrals with their famed spiral towers. The city experiences mild summers, with highs of around 18°C in July and cold winters with lows of -6°C in January.

More than half of students at Polytechnic study in the department of engineering, technology and technical sciences and the university also offers courses in the fields of social sciences, mathematics, humanities, art and education. Research and development also form a core part of the university’s mission and there over 120 laboratories on campus.

Polytechnic has a strong international outlook, and there are more than 3,000 master’s or doctoral students studying at the university. Courses are taught in Russian or English.

 Alumni include three Nobel Prize winners, chess grandmaster David Bronstein, and journalist Matt Taibbi.


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University of Tartu

Founded in 1632, The University of Tartu can be defined as a public research university and ranks among the top 3 per cent of universities in the world. The city of Tartu is located in the southeastern region of Estonia and is home to the nation’s Supreme Court and a number of folk festivals.

Study at Tartu is offered at the four faculties of arts & humanities, social sciences, medicine and science & technology. Research at the university is undertaken at locations such as Kääriku Sports Centre, focusing on training and medicinal breakthroughs, and the Institute of Physics which in 2016 beat Harvard University to first place at an international competition on 3D microscopy.

Merged with Tartu in 2005, the Viljandi Culture Academy takes an interdisciplinary approach to performance art incorporating studies such as cultural anthropology and contains a performing arts departments offering courses including dance and visual technology.

As well as offering many English language courses across academic departments, Tartu is dedicated to preserving the Estonian language and culture through continuing education programmes. For international students, Tartu also participates in four Erasmus Mundus projects.

 Riga Technical University (RTU)

There is a rich history to RTU which opened as a polytechnic in 1862 and is the oldest technical university in the Baltic region. The university is based at an urban campus in the city of Riga, the capital of Latvia.

The internationally accredited faculty of Computer Science and IT at RTU is one of the most renowned technical schools in the region, and incorporates the Institute of Applied Computer Systems and Computer Technology. Currently there are five courses taught in English at the faculty, from undergraduate to PhD level. As well as the FCSIT, faculties at RTU range from Civil Engineering to Aeronautics.

The RTU scientific library was founded with the university and is the oldest higher learning based library in Latvia. In 2006, the library was accredited as being of national importance, and contains over 1.9 million units of information.

Alumni of RTU include spaceflight pioneer Friedrich Zander, Latvian prime minister Valdis Dombrovskis, and architect Moisei Ginzburg.

Babeş-Bolyai University (UBB)

The largest higher learning institute in Romania, Babeş-Bolyai can be dated back to 1581 when it was founded as a Jesuit college. It is based in the city of Cluj-Napoca, the second largest in the country and the 2015 European Youth Capital.

There are no less than 21 faculties at UBB including computer science, law and european studies.

Facilities available to students in scientific fields include an astronomical observatory, botanical garden, and the Arcalia complex, which is located in a medieval castle and is a regular host of symposia and conferences. At UBB there is also a swimming complex with an Olympic-sized pool, and museums of botany, zoology, and palaeontology.

Classes are taught in five languages; Romanian, French, German, Hungarian and English. UBB has international partnership programmes with institutes across Europe, and the ERASMUS+ and Erasmus Mundus programmes.

The university is named for bacteriologist Victor Babeș and mathematician János Bolyai. 

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