Best Public Universities in Europe

Last Updated on May 28, 2022

There are a few factors that differentiate public universities from private ones, some being sources of funding, size, religious affiliation, and programme offer. State governments fund public schools, meanwhile, private colleges support themselves with individual contributions and tuition fees.

Generally speaking, public universities are bigger compared to private ones, considering the number of students enrolled, the campus and classes sizes. In some countries, according to the law, public universities are secular. On the contrary, private universities and schools may be non-secular. Finally, private institutions tend to offer a smaller range of courses compared to public universities which might be organised into different schools.

Right here on infolearners, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on best public universities in europe, best public universities in the world, best private universities in europe, cheapest universities in europe, and so much more. Take out time to visit our catalog for more information on similar topics.

What are the pros and cons of private vs public university?

Each and every one of us might have a different opinion as to what pros and cons are when it comes to public and private universities. My needs are different than yours, so the things I might be looking for in a school might be different than the ones you might pay more attention to. In short, usually, private schools have smaller teams and few extracurricular activities offered but can be more prestigious compared to public universities. On the other hand, government-funded unis may offer many events and activities to students on various topics.

Are they hard to get into?

This is not an easy question to answer. Given that the admission criteria differ from university to university, some are harder to get into than others. It goes without saying that if the university receives an important number of applications but has limited spaces, the acceptance rate will be significantly lower.

Best Public Universities in Europe:

University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge

With many notable alumni up to date, the University of Cambridge has operated since 1209 and it is known for being one of the long-lasting universities worldwide. It is composed of 31 colleges, which are self-governing institutions, with 150 academic departments, and faculties, all divided into six schools. As of 2015, the acceptance rate of Cambridge was 21% and it is still considered one of the hardest universities to get into. According to CWUR 2019-2020, Cambridge is the best university in the UK and the fourth in the world. In the QS World University Ranking by Subject, Cambridge ranks in the top 3 for Arts & Humanities, Engineering & Technology, and Life Sciences & Medicine.

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Imperial College London

Best public universities europe

In 2007, Imperial College London gained its independence from the University of London after 100 years. The university counts roughly 20,000 students and more than half of its student body is international. Imperial is composed of four faculties, including a business school. In 2015, the acceptance rate of Imperial was 14,3%. In the QS World University rankings 2020, Imperial appears as number 9. However, their Faculty of Engineering ranks number 7.

Sorbonne University


Among the top 100 universities worldwide, Sorbonne University is a public research institution headquartered in Paris that counts more than 42,000 students. It is referred to as one of the top 3 universities in France. It is organized into the Sorbonne College and the Doctoral College. Sorbonne has strong international partners, including the University of Toronto and King’s College London.

École Polytechnique

École Polytechnique Paris - campus

This public institution in the suburbs of Paris is considered to be one of the most respected French universities. École Polytechnique, also referred to as X, is 2nd in the Times Higher Education Small University Rankings and 61st in the QS World University Rankings 2021. It is considered a small university as it counts only around 3300 students, the majority of those at the postgraduate level. In fact, it offers only one English-taught Bachelor degree in Maths with the possibility to get a double major and choose between Physics, Economics, and Computer Science.

Technical University of Munich

Technical University of Munich – TUM - campus

Established in 1868, TUM now has 5 campuses in Germany and one in Singapore. With more than 42000 students, 12000 are foreigners. TUM has a strong focus on research and is organized into 15 academic departments, 5 of which are schools. It is the 50th best university in the QS World University Ranking 2021.

Heidelberg University

Best public universities in europe

Founded in 1386, this is the oldest public university in Germany and the third that opened its doors during the Holy Roman Empire. It counts nearly 29,000 students, 20% of whom are foreigners. It is composed of 12 faculties and it offers bachelors, masters and PhD programmes. The majority of programmes are offered in German, however, some are offered in English and even French. Heidelberg University appears 3rd in Germany and 44th in the world in The Times Higher Education Ranking 2020.

Radboud University

Radboud University

Established in 1923, Radboud is a public research university affiliated with the Roman Catholic church. It is constantly ranked among the best 150 universities in the world by four major rankings, including CWUR and SARWU. Nearly 23,000 students are enrolled at Radboud University, which counts also nearly 3,000 staff members. Nine of the 46 undergraduate degrees are offered in English. Additionally, it offers 75 postgraduate degrees, half of which are English-taught.

Nova University Lisbon

Nova SBE

Organized into five faculties, three institutes, and one school, Nova University Lisbon is one of the youngest universities in Portugal. In fact, it opened its doors in 1973. It currently counts over 20,000 students and 1,800 staff members. The nine academic units are semi-autonomous. Nova School of Business and Economics offers the Lisbon MBA, in collaboration with the Catholic University of Portugal and MIT Sloan School of Management. Last year, NOVA SBE was among the top 30 European Business Schools in the Financial Times ranking. Eduniversal also places NOVA SBE among the top 100 business schools in the world.

University of Cyprus

University of Cyprus

Established in 1989, the University of Cyprus is located in Nicosia, which is the capital of the country. It is home to more than 7,000 students and it offers courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It is composed of 8 faculties and 22 departments. Programmes are taught in Greek, however, their MBA degree is taught in English. UCY is expanding quickly and it is considered to be an important hub for researchers.

University of Helsinki

Public universities in europe

Located in Helsinki, the University of Helsinki is the oldest and biggest Finnish institution. It has 11 faculties and 11 research institutes with an overall enrolment of 31,000 students. It offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral degrees. Teaching happens in Finnish and Swedish, however, the university also offers Masters and Doctoral degrees in English. Helsinki ranks 104th in the QS World University Rankings 2021.

Cheapest universities in Europe

1. Scuola Normale Superiore

We’re kicking off our list with one of the sweetest deals around for studying abroad in Europe. Scuola Normale Superiore is a top-rated college in Italy, and one of the best in all of Europe. The school has three main programs for undergraduate students: humanities, sciences, and political science.. The humanities program offers specializations in topics such as paleography history of art, archaeology modern literature, and linguistics philosophy. The school also has biology, chemistry, and physic focuses in the school of science. 

The best part about all of this? Scuola Normale is one of the tuition free universities in europe for international students. That’s right. Free. As if that weren’t amazing enough, the school also covers living costs such as housing and food. You’ll barely pay a dime if you go here to study abroad.

  • Location: Pisa, Italy
  • Tuition Cost: Free!
  • Popular Subjects: Humanities, Sciences, and Political Science
  • Recommended Program: Study Italian in Pisa, Italy by The National Registration Center for Study Abroad

2. Sant’Anna

Sant’Anna easily earns its spot on our list of cheapest universities in Europe. This school has two main programs: experimental & applied sciences and social sciences. While some courses are taught in English, you’ll need to know a decent amount of Italian to study here. 

The extra effort to learn the language is worth it! This school is tuition free, and they’ll cover your living expenses as well. You’ll love living and attending school in Pisa, all for free! This university is a perfect option to help you study abroad in Europe for free.

  • Location: Pisa, Italy
  • Tuition Cost: Free
  • Popular Subjects: Experimental & Applied Sciences and Social Sciences
  • Recommended Program: SAI Programs: Education Abroad Inspiring Creativity!

3. Free University of Berlin

The tuition at the Free University of Berlin is, you guessed it, free! You’ll be responsible for living costs such as rent and food. In Berlin, living costs come out to about 700 euros a month, just less than $800 per month! That’s a pretty sweet deal for such a great university. This university is also one of the cheap universities in Europe that teach in English. They offer a Bachelor of Arts program filled with courses taught in English. This school in Berlin is waiting for you to have tons of awesome study abroad adventures!

Study abroad at cheap universities in Europe 
You’ll have a great time studying in Berlin.
  • Location: Berlin
  • Tuition Cost: Free
  • Popular Subjects: North American Studies
  • Recommended Program: API at Freie University of Berlin

4. University of Göttingen

Germany is king of free schooling, and University of Göttingen is yet another of the tuition free universities in europe for international students! This university has programs in humanities, natural sciences, law, and social sciences some of which are in English! It’s also home to one of the largest libraries in all of Germany. 

The only cost for this university is a small administrative fee of around 300 Euros per semester. That’s just $335 dollars for an entire semester of school! The only other cost is the cost of living. In Göttingen, the cost of living is similar to Berlin at around 700 euros, or less than $800 a month. 

  • Location: Göttingen, Germany 
  • Tuition Cost: ~€300 (~$335)
  • Popular Subjects: Humanities, natural sciences, law, and social sciences
  • Learn more: View the University of Göttingen’s website 

5. RWTH Aachen University

RWTH Aachen University specializes in architecture, georesources, and materials engineering. All bachelor study courses are taught in German, so you’ll need a certain amount of fluency to attend school here. 

Study abroad at cheap universities in Europe 
Plus, Aachen, Germany is home to gorgeous cathedrals like this one.

Learning German is worth it, though! This university charges no tuition except for a small student body and processing fee of ~260 euros, or ~$290 per semester. The expected cost of living is about ~800 Euros per month, or just under ~$900. While this doesn’t quite help you study abroad in Europe for free, it’s pretty darn close!

  • Location: Aachen, Germany
  • Tuition Cost: ~260 euros (~$290)
  • Popular Subjects: Architecture, georesources, and materials engineering
  • Learn More: View the RWTH Aachen University website

6. The University of Vienna

10 Best Universities in Europe for International Students

Vienna, Austria is another great place for cheap universities in Europe. The University of Vienna is tuition free, with only a small processing fee of ~730 Euros, or ~$815 per semester. There are nearly 200 different programs from which to choose and many are even taught in English. Because it was founded in 1365, this University has tons of history, and is one of the oldest universities around. The town of Vienna is famous for its culture and nightlife, and will be the perfect place for you to study abroad.

  • Location: Vienna, Austria
  • Tuition Cost: ~730 Euros, or ~$815 per semester
  • Popular Subjects: Theology, Computer Science, Cultural Studies, Philosophy
  • Recommended Program: Budget Low Cost – German Studies – University of Vienna by Center For Study Abroad (CSA)

7. Nord University

As a publicly-funded Norwegian university, Nord University doesn’t charge tuition fees.

The only catch is that, as a non EU citizen, you are required to prove that you have the funds to support yourself for a year in Norway in order to get a visa to study there. Currently, the cost of living in Norway for a year is around ~$13,000. 

Study abroad at cheap universities in Europe
Studying abroad in Norway means opportunities to see the Northern Lights!

While this is a little more than some of the other costs of living from our list, the Nord University experience is worth it. Nord University is among the cheap universities in Europe that teach in English. The programs taught in English include Circumpolar Studies, 3D art, Animation, Games and Entertainment Technology, Biology, and English.

  • Location: ‎Bodø, Norway
  • Tuition Cost: ~725 Euros, or ~$800 per semester
  • Popular Subjects: Circumpolar Studies, 3D art, Animation, Games and Entertainment Technology, Biology, and English
  • Learn more: Visit Nord University’s website

8. Nantes University 

If France is calling your name, then Nantes University has the study abroad adventure for you. Nantes University charges only a small processing fee of 184 euros, or ~$200 per semester! The cost of living here is fairly low, at just 600 euros, or ~$670 per month. 

Nantes University offers a variety of programs taught in English: biology and earth science; foreign languages, literature, and civilizations; and European and international studies. 

  • Location: Nantes, France
  • Tuition Cost: ~184 Euros, or ~$200 per semester
  • Popular Subjects: Health and medical technology, engineering, legal and political science, and other interdisciplinary programs
  • Recommended Program: IES Abroad Nantes – French Language Immersion & Area Studies

9. University of Paris-Sud

Tuition free universities in Europe for international students are the best! University of Paris-Sud is one of the cheapest universities in Europe; they charge only a small processing fee of around ~€170 (~$190) per semester. Their English-taught programs include sciences and languages, physics, and economics and management.

Study abroad at cheap universities in Europe
Paris is gorgeous and everybody should study abroad here. 😉

And the location, Paris, is amazing! Eiffel Tower and many other French adventures await you! The only catch is, because it’s such a big city, the cost of living in Paris tends to be a little higher. Still, with a university this cheap, your dreams of studying abroad in Paris are achievable here!

  • Location: Paris, France
  • Tuition Cost: ~170 euros, or ~$190 per semester
  • Popular Subjects: Sciences and languages, physics, and economics and management.

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