StudyLink logo
Students on a university campus

Universities in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Panoramic picture of buildings next to a body of water
The Titanic Quarter sits on the River Lagan, and is a mixture of modern buildings and historic ship building and maritime landmarks. It is also where the Titanic was originally built.

Universities in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and the 12th largest city in the United Kingdom. With a long history of industries and trade, Belfast is an important port city and political centre. Belfast is also home to multiple world-class universities offering international students a range of specialised courses and work-study programmes.

Although Belfast suffered from political instability in the 1980s and 1990s, the city has improved significantly in terms of safety and urban infrastructure since the early 2000s and is now a popular destination for international students.

Top Universities in Belfast

Queen’s University Belfast 

Founded in 1845, Queen’s University Belfast is located in central Belfast and is home to nearly 20,000 enrolled students. Newly-admitted international students will be immediately comfortable and supported at Queen’s University by its sizable international community of over 7,000 students.

The university is also well-known for the quality of its research facilities, and the university was ranked 24th in the UK for “Research Power” by Times Higher Education in 2021. In fact, Queen’s University Belfast is Northern Ireland’s only member university of the Russell Group, a prestigious group of 24 Universities in the United Kingdom with a shared focus on research and a reputation for academic achievement.

Queen’s University Belfast also provides international students with excellent internship and employment opportunities, and was ranked 1st in the UK for “entrepreneurial impact” by Octopus Ventures in 2020. The university focuses its research facilities for international students on a range of essential subjects including sustainable economy, secure AI and human-environment relations.

Ulster University

Situated an hour away by road from Belfast in the nearby town of Coleraine, Ulster University is home to over 17,000 enrolled students of which about 1,800 are international students.

Founded in 1984, the university has quickly emerged as a world-class research university and was ranked in the top five UK universities by the 2014 Research Excellence Framework report. Ulster University is especially well-regarded for its research strength in law, biomedical sciences, nursing science, and design.

Ulster University is located on a 18-acre riverside campus and is currently undergoing a 250 Million US Dollar renovation to its campus facilities. International students at the university have access to multiple outdoor activities such as rowing, hiking and mountain biking in Coleraine as well as nearby towns during their time away from the classroom.

Stranmillis University College

Established exactly a century ago in 1922, Stranmillis University College is a small-scale institute in Belfast with nearly 1,400 enrolled students. Stranmillis is home to 300 international students, and offers multiple study abroad opportunities through its partnerships with more than 30 overseas institutes in Europe, Asia and the United States.

Stranmillis also offers international students the chance to pursue Degree Enhancement Programmes which provide you with practical skills training and enable you to attract highly-regarded employers after graduation. Stranmillis is located on an 18-acre campus on the banks of the river Lagan.

Belfast Universities World Ranking 2023

Below are the top-ranked Belfast universities for international students, with their ranks in two of the world’s most well-respected international university rankings, the QS 2024 University World rankings and the Times Higher Education 2023 Rankings.

For more information about rankings systems and methodologies see our University rankings explained guide.

UniversityQS World Ranking 2024Times Higher Education Ranking 2023QS Rank in the UKTHE Rank in the UK
Queen’s University Belfast202=1982928
Ulster University=498601-8004980

List of other top-ranked Colleges & Universities in Belfast

Along with the three best Belfast universities for international students, the city and its nearby region are also home to multiple world-class institutes and universities offering specialisations in subjects such as Education, Agriculture, and Business.

Below are a few of the other top-ranked institutes in and around Belfast for international students:

  • St Mary’s University College, Belfast
  • South West College
  • North West Regional College
  • Newman College Ireland
  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE)

Tuition and Living Costs in Belfast

Undergraduate tuition costs at top-ranked Belfast universities can vary between 15,000-25,000 US Dollars per annum for international students, and fees are higher for specialised programmes, such as Dentistry degrees at 30,000-40,000 US Dollars per year. Meanwhile, tuition fees for Master’s and other postgraduate courses depend on the specific programme and courses selected, and usually total between 15,000 and 30,000 US Dollars per annum.

As for living costs, international students will be interested in the fact that Northern Ireland is recognised by the British Council as having the lowest living costs in the United Kingdom.

Queen’s University Belfast estimates that you should budget between 1,100 and 1,300 US Dollars monthly for living costs. This figure includes 650-750 US Dollars for shared accommodation, 250-300 US Dollars for food expenses, 50-60 US Dollars for utilities and transport, and another 120-150 US Dollars for entertainment and miscellaneous expenses.

Life in Belfast for International Students

With London just an hour away by flight, international students at Belfast universities can make frequent weekend trips to explore the rest of the UK during their time away from academics. Additionally, mainland European countries are also close by flight.

History lovers will surely enjoy the endless monuments dotted all over Belfast, and sports fans can watch spectacular rugby and football matches every week. Below are a few of Belfast’s must-visit destinations for international students:

  • Titanic Belfast
  • Ulster Museum
  • Belfast Castle
  • Belfast City Hall
  • St George’s Market
  • Carrickfergus Castle
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Belfast Zoo
  • St Anne’s Cathedral
  • Grand Opera House

Belfast offers an exciting life as well as world-class academics at a fraction of the prices that international students would have to pay in most other cities in the United Kingdom. This value for money makes top-ranked Belfast universities an extremely attractive option for high-achieving international students, and you will surely fit in at the international student communities in these universities.

Study in the UK

Search for courses now

Universities in the UK

Browse our list of higher education providers in the UK.

Sign up to

Sign up to, the home of quality study abroad advice.

Sign up now
Students with books and test tubes

International study advice

Find out more about the range of subjects that you can study at institutions around the world with our subject guides.

World map on a blackboard
Deciding to study abroad: The first steps

Read StudyLink's suggestions on your first steps when deciding where to study abroad, with helpful tips to make your decision easier.

Students throwing hats
What is a Pre-Masters?

International students finding it difficult to meet conditions of eligibility criteria can choose to enrol in pre-masters courses before applying for a masters degree programme.

Students reading a book
English Language Testing for International Students

Find out more about English language tests, your options and what is required as an overseas student.

Teacher at a whiteboard
How will studying abroad help your career prospects?

Read more about studying abroad, and how it can boost your future career prospects.

See more international study advice