The most expensive universities in the world

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(Last updated on: 21/09/2021)

Which universities are the most expensive universities in the world? This is a question many undergraduate students-to-be are asking themselves nowadays. The cost of a university education has risen considerably in recent years. In fact, most universities have become, at their core, a commercial business. But are the most expensive universities in the world worth the extra money?

University fees – an explanation

Before we answer this question, it is important that we understand what we are actually paying for at the most expensive universities in the world….

In many countries, fees are standardised for native students. For example, in England the most a university can charge an English student is £9,250 per year. International students, however, can expect to pay more – somewhere between £10,000 and £26,000 per year. Although, overseas students *can* pay up to £58,600 per year to suited medical degrees in the UK!

And in the US, fees range from $5,000 to $50,000 per year. Public colleges charge in-state students less than those coming from out of state – it’s usually more than double if you’re coming from out of state. Private colleges charge much more than public colleges, too, with average fees of $35,830 per year.

Generally, international students will pay more to study at an institution than residents of that country. And as it happens, the most expensive universities in the world in terms of tuition fees alone are all in the US – you’ll find them below. However, when you factor in the cost of living in various places as well as any course materials you need to purchase, it might be that these universities are not necessarily the most expensive overall. 

Find out what I think about the most expensive universities in the world in this video!

The most expensive universities in the world

This list of the most expensive universities in the world comes from the World Scholarship Forum. In ascending order, they are as follows…

#10 University of Chicago

The University of Chicago was established in 1890 as an urban research university. It offers courses to undergraduates and graduates alike, and has a vast international network of resources. The most popular majors you can study here include Social Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Public Administration and Social Service Professions, and Physical Sciences. There is a student satisfaction rate of 99% here too! It is one of the most elite and prestigious institutions in the US, if not the world… Annual tuition fees are a whopping $57,711 – and this is bottom of the list in terms of the most expensive universities in the world!

#9 John Hopkins University 

Located in Baltimore, John Hopkins University was America’s first research university and remains a definite forerunner when it comes to research of any kind. They have done an immense amount of research into the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Some of their most popular majors include Public Health, Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering, Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience. The university was founded back in 1876, and has long been synonymous with research. John Hopkins himself was a philanthropist and entrepreneur, and his $7 million donation (in the late 1800s!) was considered to be the biggest philanthropic gift ever in the US until that point. Tuitions fees now average out at $57,820 per year…

#8 Parsons the New School for Design

In at number 8 is Parsons, a design school located in New York. It is one of the 5 colleges that make up the so-called The New School, founded in 1919 as The New School for Social Research. Its original mission was dedicated to ‘academic freedom and intellectual inquiry and a home for progressive thinkers.’ Parsons itself was founded in 1896 by William Merritt Chase, and was definitely progressive at the time. It was the first to offer courses in graphic design, interior design, advertising and fashion design. The institutions offer many Bachelor of Fine Arts courses, and you’d be looking at an average annual fee of $57,910.

#7 Dartmouth College

Located in Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College is an Ivy League college. Founded in 1769, it is a private research university and one of nine colonial colleges which were chartered before the start of the American Revolution. With a 97% satisfaction rate, Dartmouth excels in majors such as Computer and Information Sciences, Engineering, Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics, and Social Sciences. Dartmouth is your more typical US university – think fraternise and sororities, a big party scene and beautiful, leafy grounds. The average fees per year come out at $57,996.

#6 Claremont McKenna College

In sixth place is Claremont McKenna College, located in sunny California. Until 1976 it was a men-only college, and it continues to have a very low acceptance rate. This makes it one of the most elite institutions across the US. It is a liberal arts college, and courses focus on areas such as Public Affairs, Economics, Government, Finance, and International Relations. Founded in 1946, it is one of the ‘youngest’ institutions on the list of the most expensive universities in the world. With less than 1500 undergraduate students and a campus labradoodle called Theo, it is an intimate study setting. Course fees average out at around $58,065 per year!

#5 Wesleyan University 

Located in Connecticut, Wesleyan University was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1831. Another liberal arts college, it was named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. It is now a secular institutions, however. It also finally become fully co-educational, meaning women can now study there, in 1970. While not an Ivy League, the university is known as one of the three ‘Little Ivies’ alongside Amherst and Williams. This gives you an idea of the kind of status that Wesleyan University has. With very prominent alumni in its mix (Rhodes scholars, politicians, Pulitzer Prize winners and more), there are definitely worse places to study! Average annual fees here are $58,502 and popular majors include Psychology, Visual & Performing Art, and Social Sciences.

#4 Columbia University

One of the best known institutions on this list of the most expensive universities in the world, Columbia University is located in New York and is another Ivy League research university. It was founded in 1754 (as King’s College), so it is another of the pre-American Revolution universities. It was the first higher education institute in the US to offer a medical degree, too! Columbia has a 99% student satisfaction rate, and some popular majors include Visual and Performing Arts, Social Sciences, and Computer & Information Sciences & Support Services. With beautiful architecture and a thriving social scene, it makes for a great choice when it comes to picking a university to study at. Annual fees here sit at an average of $58,742.

#3 Harvey Mudd College

Campus Life style at

Well known for being one of the most expensive universities in the world, Harvey Mudd is a science-focused university found in 1955. It is situated in California, and has a very intense academic culture. You’ll find much less partying going on here! Their alumni are some of the highest paid citizens across the US, too. Admission is very competitive, and as of 2019 there were actually fewer than 1,000 undergraduate students here. The college is a leading advocate for women in STEM, and ranks very highly in areas such as engineering, physical sciences, mathematics and computer/information sciences. Average fees at Harvey Mudd work out at around $58,913 per year.

#2 New York University 

New York University

Sitting in second place is the world-famous NYU – which you would probably expect to be right there amongst the most expensive universities in the world. Founded in 1831, it is now the country’s largest university with over 50,000 students as of 2019. Despite the high number of students, the admissions process is actually very selective – NYU gets a lot of applicants each year. They are a global institution, with two abroad campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai as well as worldwide academic centres in London, Sydney, Prague, Tel Aviv and more! Average annual fees here are around $59,337.

#1 Sarah Lawrence College 

Another New York institution, Sarah Lawrence College comes in at first place. This makes it the most expensive university in the world. Fees here average out at a whopping $61,236 per year! Sarah Lawrence models its teaching on the example set out at both Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, with one-on-one student/faculty tutorials. It was once women-only, becoming coeducational in 1968; there is high value on independent study, and courses on offer deviate somewhat from traditional majors. They include plastic arts, anthropology, computer science and more. There are masters-level courses on offer too, and international programmes in Havana, London, Leeds and Oxford.

Other expensive universities worldwide

As mentioned, there are other factors that mean your university experience may be more expensive elsewhere. If you can’t find somewhere affordable to live, for example, or your course requires expensive materials, it will definitely work out more costly. Some of the other most expensive universities in the world include:

  • Kalinga Institute of Information and Technology (India)
  • Imperial College of London (UK)
  • Trinity Western University (Canada)
  • Brown University (USA)
  • University of Glasgow (UK)
  • University of Pennsylvania (USA)
  • Amity University (India)
  • University of Cambridge (UK)
  • University of Oxford (UK)

The most expensive universities in the world

So there you have it- the most expensive universities in the world. Are these universities a good fit for you? Only you can decide that- do your research and read the reviews! Oh, and the video below might help you to decide…

Choosing a university is a big decision…. find out why in this video!
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