StudyLink logo
Students on a university campus

The League of European Research Universities Explained

Blue flag with a circle of yellow stars on a flagpole in the wind
There are LERU member universities in 12 European countries.

The League of European Research Universities Explained

What is the League of European Research Universities?

The League of European Research Universities (LERU) is a group of 23 top European research universities with a shared commitment to world-class research and innovation. Founded in 2002, LERU member universities are home to about 550,000 enrolled students every year, and have access to a total research budget of more than 5 Billion US Dollars annually.

LERU member universities are home to exciting research opportunities and world-class facilities across faculties and subject areas. So what are the 23 LERU member universities, how do they rank worldwide, and does a LERU member university degree help international students with employment opportunities?

List of LERU Universities

KU Leuven
University of Milan
University of Copenhagen
University of Amsterdam
– Leiden University
– Utrecht University
University of Helsinki
University of Barcelona
– Sorbonne University
University of Paris-Saclay
– University of Strasbourg
Lund University
– University of Freiburg
Heidelberg University
LMU Munich
– University of Geneva
– University of Zurich
Trinity College Dublin
Imperial College London
University College London (UCL)
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
University of Oxford

LERU: the Standard for Best European Research Universities

Each member university of LERU is well-known for the quality and volume of its published research. The University of Oxford, for example, was the 9th most published university in the highly respected Nature and Science journals in 2018. Meanwhile, the Reuters press agency’s list of Europe’s Top 100 Most Innovative Universities features three LERU members in its top 3 spots, and as many as 9 LERU member universities in the top 20.

With almost 250 Nobel Prize winners among its past students, the LERU represents the best of European innovation – driven by world-class universities and encouraged by constant government funding. 7 of the 12 countries which are home to LERU member universities feature in the top 10 European countries for size of their education budgets per capita.

Additionally, each of the 23 LERU member universities are located in countries with largely immigrant-friendly environments, excellent support services for international students, and world-leading standards of urban infrastructure. In fact, 5 of the 12 countries with LERU member universities are ranked in the top 10 worldwide on “standards of living” and “quality of life” indexes. Moreover, LERU member universities in countries such as Germany offer degrees at extremely affordable tuition costs, providing incredible value for money for international students.

However, it must be noted that there are multiple European non-LERU member universities that are also highly respected for their world-class research. For example, the following top-ranked European universities are among the world’s top 200 (in THE or QS rankings) but are not LERU member universities:

LERU Degree Advantages: Will It Boost My Employment Prospects?

LERU member universities offer world-class undergraduate and postgraduate degrees such as PhDs and Masters’ Degrees with award-winning faculty in every department. Specific LERU member universities also provide a packaged undergraduate-cum-postgraduate course, in which certain undergraduate courses are followed by postgraduate degrees in fields like MBAs (Business), LLBs (Law) and Healthcare.

Your grades, work experience and interview skills are ultimately the most important factors for your employment chances. But a LERU member university degree may give you an edge while competing for certain jobs which are research-focused and highly technical. Moreover, LERU universities offer various practical work-study schemes in partnership with world-class companies and research agencies; having this experience will be particularly helpful to international students in competitive fields like engineering and healthcare.

Regardless of whether you are admitted to a LERU University, there are always interesting career choices waiting for you out there!

LERU Universities by Ranking

UniversityQS World University Ranking 2022 (Global)Times Higher Education Ranking 2022 (Global)
University of Oxford21
University of Cambridge=3=5
Imperial College London712
University College London (UCL)=8=18
University of Edinburgh16=30
University of Amsterdam5565
Heidelberg University63=42
LMU Munich6432
KU Leuven=70=42
University of Zurich=70=75
Sorbonne University72=88
University of Copenhagen=79=96
Paris-Saclay University=86=117
Lund University87116
Trinity College Dublin101=146
University of Helsinki104=101
University of Geneva=105=197
Utrecht University11069
Leiden University=11271
University of Barcelona=168=193
University of Freiburg172=108
University of Milan316301-350
University of Strasbourg=421501-600

How Can I Study at a LERU Member University?

LERU member universities have the most selective admissions criteria of all European research universities. These universities prioritise a student’s potential for high-quality research, as well as your academic track record. 

Although admissions criteria for each LERU member university are slightly different, strengthening the following three parts of your application will give you the best possible chance of admission as an international student –

  • Prioritise Academics – because LERU Universities begin their admissions process by ranking applicants according to their academic strengths, it is important that you get the best grades possible during high school and your undergraduate degree, especially in courses related to your chosen field
  • Research Opportunities – approach your high school and college professors to locate opportunities in research. Participating in a research project will signal to LERU member universities that you are ready to conduct world-class research and make the most of the universities’ award-winning faculty and facilities
  • Pursue Work Experience – especially if it is related to your degree. References from employers and internship coordinators go a long way with admissions officials, so make sure to establish good communication with senior employees and request references from them at the end of your internship or job

When selecting the ideal LERU member university for you, you must consider factors such as class size, specific courses and the campus environment. Try to visit open days on campus if possible; you can even sign up for virtual meetings with LERU university officials. You should also make sure to read student reviews of each university and carefully read university brochures before you take the final step.

For more information about what it would be like to study at a LERU university in Europe, take a look at our Study in Europe directory.

Study in Europe

Search for courses now

Universities in Europe

Browse our list of higher education providers in Europe.

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