Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Explore 25 of the World’s Richest Universities Beyond the US

Huge endowments are the secret sauce for top-notch education.

Harvard and Stanford — two of the world’s richest universities thanks to billions of dollars in endowments per year, high-profile alumni, and trailblazing innovations. But what’s the big deal about rich schools, anyway?

A strong financial standing means colleges can offer more scholarships, hire excellent professors, own state-of-the-art equipment, and attract moneyed students — which keeps the dough rolling in. 💰

Attending college can broaden your horizons, but even more so if you’re not in your comfort zone (aka the US). So, find your best match from 25 of the world’s richest universities. 😉

READ MORE: These Are the Top 25 Richest Colleges in the US

1. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) 

Did you know that KAUST was Saudi Arabia’s first university to accept a mixed-gender student population when it was established in 2009? 😲

Being named after a Saudi king has its perks: the school received a whopping $20 billion endowment from the government, which goes to modernized education programs and rich research activities reflecting its goal of being a “House of Wisdom.” 

Despite its university status, the school only accepts graduate students. But KAUST also offers scholarships and mentorships for talented Saudi Arabian STEM undergraduates (studying in the US) through its KAUST Gifted Student Program. 🔬

💰 Endowment: US$23.5 billion
🎓 Notable alumni: Amani Alonazi (scientist), Sabique Langodan (scientist)
📍 Location: Thuwal, Saudi Arabia

2. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford’s famous majestic libraries and buildings are designed in grandiose Gothic and Baroque styles — traditional symbols of wealth and power. 🏛️

The colossal buildings reflect the institution’s equally great capabilities, which include managing the world’s oldest museum and largest university press and offering the prestigious Rhodes scholarship for aspiring postgraduate students pursuing a specialization. ✨

Oxford is also almost a thousand years old; it has taught and collected plenty of alumni who have donated to this university’s enormous endowment fund. 

💰 Endowment: £6.36 billion (US$7.87 billion) 
🎓 Notable alumni: Margaret Thatcher (former Prime Minister of the UK), Oscar Wilde (poet)
📍 Location: Oxford, England

3. University of Hong Kong (HKU)

Did you know that Dr. Sun Yat-sen, one of the most influential figures during the 1911 Chinese Revolution, studied at the University of Hong Kong? 🧍

Just like how the NUS had its roots as a medical school, HKU started out as the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese in 1887. Eventually, medicine became one of the many programs offered by the University of Hong Kong, in addition to arts and engineering. 🩺

HKU receives almost 60 percent of its income from government funding, and the rest comes from its endowment fund supported by different donors. 

💰 Endowment: US$5.2 billion
🎓 Notable alumni: Ann Hui (film director), Kay Tse (singer)
📍 Location: Pok Fu Lam, Hong Kong

4. National University of Singapore (NUS)

Sculptures like the Happy Owl within the National University of Singapore campus are a memorial to the ophthalmologist and professor Arthur Lim. 🦉 

Lim, who was an alumnus back when the university was a medical school, helped establish the small country’s National Eye Centre, the National University Hospital, and the NUS

Over time, the university’s medicine program became known for its innovative contributions to the field, such as the development of decoy cytokine receptors.

But now, the NUS offers other programs aside from medicine and has become Singapore’s flagship university. It counts politicians among its graduates and partners with industry leaders to fill up its endowment fund. 💰

💰 Endowment: S$6.27 billion (US$4.59 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Halimah Yacob (first female Singaporean president), Raline Shah (actress)
📍 Location: Queenstown, Singapore

5. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is the alma mater of scientific figures that shaped the world as we know it today (check out the alumni listed below). 👀

Established by the breakaway University of Oxford scholars in 1209, it carries many similarities with the UK’s oldest university — managing multiple large museums and libraries, producing Nobel prize winners and Olympic medalists, and leading the progress for inventions like IVF, hovercraft, and artificial intelligence. 🤖

Cambridge’s programs and research projects are supported by charitable foundations, CEOs like Winton’s Sir David Harding, and multinational companies like Shell. 💸

💰 Endowment: £2.48 billion (US$3.07 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Isaac Newton (physicist), Alan Turing (computer scientist)
📍 Location: Cambridge, England

6. King Saud University (KSU)

Modernizing a country starts with education, and that’s exactly what King Saud of Saudi Arabia did by creating this university in his name in 1957. 

As the first university in the country, it initiated a private endowment program. It also started with zeroing in on top-tier teaching quality — hiring Nobel laureates in its faculty, for example — but has since focused on upgrading its research capabilities to meet global standards. 🌏

Focusing on quality in its research projects and school facilities is made possible with donations from its slew of prominent alumni ranging from members of the royal family to business leaders. 💼

💰 Endowment: US$2.7 billion
🎓 Notable alumni: Mohammed bin Salman (Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia), Mohammed Hasan Alwan (novelist)
📍 Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

7. University of Sydney (USYD)

The University of Sydney is among the oldest universities in Australia, as it was established in 1850 before the country was founded in 1901. 

This public university reinvests its federal and private endowments to grow its income and uses the rest to offer scholarships and fuel its research activities. 💰

USYD has several scientific accomplishments made possible by its large treasure chest, such as noting the connection between genes and allergens as asthma triggers and cementing the fact of sunlight exposure’s link to melanoma. ☀️

💰 Endowment: A$4.072 billion (US$2.62 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Ruby Payne-Scott (radio astronomer), Geraldine Brooks (novelist)
📍 Location: Sydney, Australia

8. University of Toronto (U of T)

Did you know that the University of Toronto used to be a faith-based educational institution upon its foundation way back in 1827? 🏫

Now a secular university since 1849, U of T boasts about 700 undergraduate programs and 200 graduate programs and counts one of Canada’s longest-serving prime ministers, William Lyon Mackenzie King, among its alumni.

As a public research university, it’s been the recipient of generous research funding from influential graduates and private companies that have helped launch inventions such as the pacemaker and electric wheelchair. 🦼

💰 Endowment: C$3.2 billion (US$2.37 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Margaret Atwood (novelist), William Lyon Mackenzie King (10th prime minister of Canada)
📍 Location: Toronto, Canada

9. Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University hints at the prestigious STEM-based programs it offers simply by its name and location. 

The prestige is supported by generous donations, such as an $11 million gift from a philanthropist that was equally matched by the Singapore government (totaling $22 million) for its medicine and healthcare research and education. ⚕️

Plus, enrolment is not just for the one percent of society, as there are a number of donations funding scholarships for financially disadvantaged students at NTU. 👍

💰 Endowment: S$2.75 million (US$2.03 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Vincy Chan (singer), Joanne Peh (actress)
📍 Location: Singapore, Singapore

10. University of British Columbia (UBC)

Before UBC became a public research university with locations in Vancouver and Kelowna within British Columbia, it had its humble beginnings at the “Fairview Shacks,” a collection of cheap wooden buildings.

Alumni donations and charitable foundations’ endowments pump up the funds for UBC’s operations, scholarships, and research programs. In fact, this helps with the institution’s focus on biomedical advancements. 💉 

To cover more ground for research development and partnerships, it has established Asian bases in Hong Kong and India. 🌏

💰 Endowment: C$2.10 billion (US$1.55 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Rick Hansen (athlete), Hannah Simone (actress)
📍 Location: Vancouver, Canada

11. McGill University 

McGill University was established in Montreal, Canada, in 1821 at the bequest of Scottish philanthropist James McGill, but it bore its original name of University of McGill College until 1885.

While Canada doesn’t have Ivy Leagues, McGill University certainly comes close with Nobel laureates populating its faculty, politicians, and business magnates among its alumni and international students attracted to its high teaching standards in chemistry, medicine, and biology. 🧬

Inventions like the artificial blood cell and Plexiglas were made within the rooms of this public research university and backed by philanthropic funding. Want to make discoveries like that? Check out the postgraduate McCall MacBain Scholarship, supported by a $200 million donation. 😉

💰 Endowment: C$1.8 billion (US$1.33 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada), Rachelle Lefevre (actress)
📍 Location: Montreal, Canada

12. University of Alberta (U of A)

In North America, the Ivy Leagues, like Harvard, aren’t the only ones making world-changing discoveries. Canada’s U of A has churned out innovations of its own since its foundation in 1908.

For example, researchers from the U of A created lamivudine, the world’s first oral hepatitis antiviral medication, and the C-Leg, a bionic leg controlled by a microprocessor. 🦿

Adding to its prestige as a reputable research university is its mighty contribution to the economy of Alberta — we’re talking about C$19.4 billion per year. 😲 Maintaining this quality invites strategic partnerships and hefty donations from various entities. 

💰 Endowment: C$1.64 billion (US$1.21 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Beverley McLachlin (17th chief justice of Canada), Raymond Urgel Lemieux (organic chemist)
📍 Location: Alberta, Canada

13. Queen’s University 

Religion played a big part in creating now-prestigious higher educational institutions. Just look at the Queen’s University at Kingston in Ontario, Canada, established through the efforts of the Presbyterians in 1841. 👑

Fun fact: Kingston was the first capital of Canada (during British occupation) from 1841 to 1844.

But starting around 1912, the institution moved away from its religious focus and has since expanded its facilities: managing libraries, the Miller Museum of Geology, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (just to name a few).

This university bulks up its wealth with government funding and generous donations from its alumni, such as a $30 million gift to boost research capabilities from Permian Industries CEO Bruce Mitchell. 🪙

💰 Endowment: C$1.4 billion (US$1.04 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: Philip Michael Ondaatje (poet), Wendy Crewson (actress)
📍 Location: Ontario, Canada

14. Lund University 

Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, was born in 1707 and attended Lund University — which highlights just how old his alma mater is (hint: more than 300 years old!) 🫢

Lund has evolved into a prestigious institution, having fostered groundbreaking innovations such as the first echocardiogram, Bluetooth products, and the popular Swedish massage technique used in spas. 💆

This college names big players like IKEA and Swedish royalty among its generous donors funding its research and investments to maintain its reputation. 

💰 Endowment: SEK 9.9 billion (US$885 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Ingvar Carlsson (former Swedish prime minister), Jens Bergensten (lead designer of Minecraft)
📍 Location: Lund, Sweden

15. University of Edinburgh 

Counted as one of the contributors to the Enlightenment Period (aka Europe’s focus on freedom, equality, and human rights) since it was founded in 1583, the University of Edinburgh’s legacy endures today as a public research university. ✨

The University of Edinburgh is also supported by donations from the government and philanthropists (like the investment firm Baillie Gifford gifting £14.7 million for lung disease treatments).

Part of this university’s huge endowment goes to eco-friendly and state-of-the-art centers, like the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation and the Centre for Business, Climate Change, and Sustainability. 🍃 

💰 Endowment: £541 million (US$670 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Charles Darwin (biologist), Arthur Conan Doyle (writer)
📍 Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

16. Imperial College London 

If you’re on the lookout for British excellence in science, engineering, medicine, and business, you won’t be disappointed with the more-than-a-century-old Imperial College London. 👑

Hefty endowments to Imperial have led to state-of-the-art facilities, such as the Brahmal Vasudevan Institute for Sustainable Aviation (supported by a £25 million donation) for research activities. 🏢

Boosting the university’s prestige is its partnership with the Francis Crick Institute, Europe’s largest biomedical laboratory. With its commitment to cutting-edge educational facilities and research opportunities, it often receives endowments from its graduates and industry shapers. 

💰 Endowment: £511.3 million (US$633 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Brian May (musician), Arthur Holmes (geologist)
📍 Location: London, England

17. University of Manchester (UOM)

What do nuclear physics and the world’s first stored-program computer have in common? They were both invented at the University of Manchester! 🧑‍🔬

This university gives thanks to the industrialists — especially the textile merchant John Owens — who shaped its educational and financial foundation in the early 1800s. What used to be a secular college officially renamed itself in 2004 and is now known for its research and innovation. 

Given its background and scientific contributions, it’s no surprise that UOM receives sizable donations from industrial partners, charities, and the government. 🏛️

💰 Endowment: £223.5 million ($277.5 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Brian Cox (physicist), Benedict Cumberbatch (actor)
📍 Location: Manchester, England

18. University of Queensland (UQ)

The oldest public universities tend to produce high-ranking public servants and executives, and the University of Queensland, Australia (founded in 1909) is no exception.

Many of its professors are award recipients for notable scientific contributions — all the way from new uses for peptides to volcanic triggers — so it’s no wonder this school consistently makes it to the top of education rankings. 🏆

UQ’s initiatives and projects are well-oiled by donations coming from private companies and its own managed funds. 🤑 In fact, UQ promised to match donations greater than $50,000 to its scholarship programs aimed at assisting students from low-income backgrounds.

💰 Endowment: A$342.7 million (US$221 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Quentin Bryce (25th Governor-General of Australia), Geoffrey Rush (actor)
📍 Location: Brisbane, Australia

19. University of New South Wales (UNSW)

UNSW was founded in the post-World War II era in 1949 as a technological university with programs in civil, electrical, mechanical, and mining engineering. 

About 10 years later, it was formally named the University of New South Wales and taught programs in medicine and the arts. Today, UNSW is counted as one of the top global universities with the largest engineering faculty in Australia. 🧑‍💻

Prominent industry shapers have donated to this university, such as a $5.3 million crypto gift from Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and $7 million from billionaire investor James Packer directed toward the university’s health research activities. 💰

💰 Endowment: A$337 million (US$218 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Rebel Wilson (actress), Markus Zusak (novelist)
📍 Location: Sydney, Australia

20. University of Auckland (UoA)

One of the perks of attending the University of Auckland is gaining access to its Unleash Space — a hub where you can do anything from startup creation to 3D model building. 

This facility is just one example of how far New Zealand’s largest university (and one of the top-ranked public research educational institutions globally) has come since it started with about a hundred students taking classes in a former courthouse and jail in 1883. 😲

Now, it offers multiple educational opportunities like its US/NZ Scholarship Programme. Similar initiatives attracting the best faculty and students are made possible with an “A-Z list of funds” that potential donors can choose from to fund. 🤑

💰 Endowment: NZ$352 million (US$208 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Philippa Boyens (screenwriter), Marcus Chang (actor)
📍 Location: Auckland, New Zealand

21. University College London (UCL)

UCL has a notable string of firsts as a London-based university established in 1826 and as one of the earliest English institutions accepting students regardless of their sex or religion. 

This university is famous for its research-intensive science, medicine, and law programs that have produced global leaders (in fact, the first Japanese prime minister graduated from UCL!). 🌏 These have generated a whopping £10 billion annual income for the UK economy. 

To keep its valuable societal contributions up and running, UCL receives donations from the government and charitable organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. 🪙

💰 Endowment: £159 million (US$197 million)
“🎓 Notable alumni: Chris Martin (musician), Christopher Nolan (filmmaker)
📍 Location: London, England

22. Monash University

Fun fact: Australia’s Monash University has a campus in Malaysia and Indonesia! 🏫 It’s an amazing achievement since their humble start of having around 400 students in one college grounds in the 1950s.

Today, this public research university is renowned for its contributions to science and health, like how its researchers designed an oxytocin inhaler to save lives during high-risk childbirth for women in developing countries. 💯

Achievements like that are made possible with donations from generous alumni, private companies, and charitable organizations. For example, the Empowerment Charitable Trust is one non-profit that gifted A$2.15 million to Monash postgraduates’ tech research in remote areas. 

💰 Endowment: A$169 million (US$109 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Vance Joy (musician), Alan Finkel (neuroscientist)
📍 Location: Melbourne, Australia

23. University of Warwick 

The UK’s most distinguished schools aren’t just limited to Oxbridge (referring to the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge) — there’s also the prestigious University of Warwick! 🏫

This public research university was brought to life in 1961 by the government and has produced interesting discoveries, like a Formula 3 racing car powered by food, a literary approach to dementia, and a stroke sign detector in the blood.  

With Nobel prize laureates among its alumni and faculty, the University of Warwick attracts hefty donations like a £3.5 million gift to its astronomy and astrophysics research group. 💫

💰 Endowment: £12.8 million (US$15.86 million)
🎓 Notable alumni: Stephen Merchant (actor), Valerie Amos (diplomat)
📍 Location: Coventry, England

24. ETH Zurich 

ETH Zurich holds many of renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein’s fondest memories: he studied, taught, and met his first wife at this institution. 👰

Today, this public and federal university established in 1855 is still known for its STEM-focused programs alongside other disciplines. The ETH stands for “Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule” which translates to Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. 

ETH is directly administered and funded by the Swiss government, but it also receives donations from companies like Apple and Shell to fund its research initiatives and projects. ⚛️

💰 Endowment: ₣1.349 billion (US$1.5 billion)
🎓 Notable alumni: John von Neumann (mathematician), Richard Ernst (physical chemist)
📍 Location: Zürich, Switzerland

25. Aalto University 

When you merge three major Finnish universities specializing in economics, technology, and the arts, you get the multidisciplinary public research institution named Aalto University. 🎉

Helsinki, the Finnish capital, has seen a rise in startups since the university’s establishment in 2010, which was mostly headed by its student-run entrepreneurship community: Aaltoes

Despite being a relatively young university, it has been able to achieve innovative feats due to endowments from fundraising campaigns, government capitalization, and the special purpose funds contributed by its predecessors. 💰

💰 Endowment: €1.29 million (US$1.4 million) 
🎓 Notable alumni: Jorma Ollila (former Nokia chairman and CEO), Linda Liukas (author)
📍 Location: Espoo, Finland


If you want to become a student in any one of the world’s richest universities, you better start brushing up on your high school academics and extracurriculars

And while you’re at it, why don’t you squeeze in learning a foreign language to give you a smooth adjustment as you study in another part of the world? ✈️

Feature Image:Depositphotos

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