The world’s universities come in a great variety of types and sizes. There are public universities, private institutions, open universities, colleges that focus on distance education, and vocational schools, among many others. Some of these universities are very small, like the University of Greenland, and others are massive.
In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the biggest universities in the world by number of enrolled students. It’s worth noting that these numbers change each year, and finding the most recent data isn’t always possible.
|Number of Students
|Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
|New Delhi, India
|National University of Bangladesh
|California Community Colleges System
|Islamic Azad University
|Allama Iqbal Open University
|National Technological Institute of Mexico
|Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia Open University)
|Laureate Education Inc.
|Bangladesh Open University
|State University of New York
|New York, USA
|University of Mumbai
|Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|The Open University
|Polytechnic University of the Philippines
15. Polytechnic University of the Philippines
Student population: > 80,000
The Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) is the largest state university in the Philippines. It has more than 20 campuses and more than 80,000 enrolled students. The university is located in Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines and the second-most populous city in the country.
Founded in 1904, PUP was the first state university in the Philippines, and it was initially called the Manila Business School. It has been known as the Polytechnic University of the Philippines since 1978.
As a polytechnic university, education at PUP places a strong emphasis on technical and vocational skills. It does this in a wide range of programs in fields such as engineering technology, business, and humanities.
This university plays an important role in maintaining and developing a skilled workforce in the Philippines, and some government officials are taking steps to continue the school’s modernization.
14. The Open University
Student population: 208,308
With a student population greater than 200,000, The Open University (OU) is the biggest university in the UK in terms of student enrollment. Its student population is more than four times larger than the next-largest in the country, the University College of London.
OU is known for its flexible, distance learning programs. These enable students to study at their own pace from any location. As a pioneer in the distance education space, OU offers a wide variety of undergraduate and postgraduate course options across many disciplines.
For international students looking to get a degree in English that is accredited and recognized in countries like the USA, OU is a popular choice. It serves the highest number of learners with disabilities and produces the most law grads of any school in the UK.
13. University of Mumbai
Student population: > 250,000
Also known as Mumbai University (MU), the University of Mumbai was established by the British in 1857 as one of the first modern universities. It has a student body of more than 250,000, making it one of the largest universities in India.
Admissions at MU have fluctuated dramatically in recent history. The school saw a major increase in student numbers in the years leading up to 2019 when there were reportedly more than 700,000 students studying at the institution.
Enrollment numbers have dropped in the years that have followed, however. The suspected reasons for the drop in admissions are the COVID-19 pandemic, economic stress, and the emergence of other education options.
12. State University of New York
Student population: 363,612
Often referred to as SUNY, the State University of New York is a public university system in the state of New York, USA. It had a total of 363,612 students enrolled in 2022v, which makes it one of the biggest universities in the world and the second largest in the country.
The SUNY university system includes 64 campuses across the state of New York and offers over 7,000 degree and certificate programs. Among these are undergraduate, graduate, online, and study abroad programs. The size of SUNY and the wide range of study programs it offers enable it to serve many students.
Considered the flagship of SUNY schools for many years, Stony Brook University regularly ranks among the top public universities in the USA.
11. Bangladesh Open University
Student population: 410,694
Bangladesh Open University (BOU) is another open university that focuses on distance learning education and ranks among the biggest universities in the world. With more than 400,000 students, BOU is the second-largest university in Bangladesh. It was established in 1992 as a result of the passing of the Bangladesh Open University Act 1992.
BOU was created for the purpose of providing education to learners who are unable to access traditional classroom-based education. The university offers programs at several different levels and across a range of disciplines.
10. Laureate Education Inc.
Student population: 423,000
Laureate Education Inc. consists of an international network of higher education institutions. At its peak, the network comprised universities in more than 25 countries around the world, with a total student population exceeding 1 million.
In recent years, Laureate has followed a pattern of divesting from most of its universities, now only owning institutions in Mexico and Peru. There were 423,000 students enrolled in these universities at the end of 2022.
Laureate International Universities in Mexico are currently Universidad del Valle de México (UVM) and Universidad Tecnológica de México (UNITEC). Laureate also owns three educational institutions in Peru. These universities offer study programs in the fields of design, business, and health sciences, among others.
9. Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia Open University)
Student population: 439,222
Universitas Terbuka (UT), also known as Indonesia Open University, is the leading distance-learning institution in Indonesia. The flexible learning options offered by UT cater to a wide range of learners across the country and abroad. There are 320,000 students at UT from Indonesia and 36 other countries.
UT became the 45th state university in Indonesia when it was established in 1984, and it has since focused its efforts on providing better access to education for people from underserved communities. It does this by facilitating inexpensive education that doesn’t require face-to-face learning environments.
The distance learning available at UT can be especially useful for students from Indonesia’s thousands of islands, many of which are remote.
8. Tribhuvan University
Student population: 460,632
In addition to being the home of many of the world’s highest mountains, Nepal has one of the largest universities in the world by student population. Some sources, such as Times Higher Education, rank Tribhuvan University (TU) as the biggest university in the world with 460,632 students. This ranking doesn’t seem to include university systems or distance learning institutions.
TU is located in Kirtipur, which is just 5 km (3.1 mi) from Kathmandu, which is the capital and largest city in Nepal. As well as the country’s largest university, it is also the oldest, established in 1959. The university comprises five institutes, four faculties, 62 campuses, and 1,062 affiliated colleges.
7. National Technological Institute of Mexico
Student population: > 600,000
There are more than 600,000 students that attend the 254 institutions of the National Technological Institute of Mexico (TecNM), which makes it one of the biggest universities in the world and the largest in Mexico. It offers programs in fields such as engineering, science, technology, and management.
TecNM is renowned for producing highly skilled graduates and trains more than 40% of Mexico’s engineers each year. The university has strong industry connections and places an emphasis on providing students with practical skills in order to prepare them for the workforce.
The first technological institutes in Mexico were established in 1948, and these would later become part of the TecNM public university system, which was created by presidential decree in 2014.
6. Allama Iqbal Open University
Student population: 1,027,000
Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is Pakistan’s largest distance-learning university, named after the renowned philosopher-poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal. With a total enrollment of over 1 million students and dozens of campuses located throughout the country, it is one of the biggest universities in Asia and the world.
In addition to distance learning, AIOU now offers four-year face-to-face degree programs in six different disciplines. Study programs through AIOU are available at a variety of levels, catering to the educational needs of a diverse student population.
When AIOU opened in 1974, it was the second open university to be established in the world and the first in Africa and Asia.
5. Islamic Azad University
Student population: 1,500,000
With 1.5 million students enrolled, the Islamic Azad University (IAU) is the largest university system in Iran and one of the largest in the world. In addition to its hundreds of campuses within Iran, IAU has university branches in U.A.E, United Kingdom, Tanzania, Lebanon, and Armenia, with plans to expand to even more countries.
There are many different degree types available at IAU schools, ranging from associate to doctoral. These degrees are available in many different fields, but the subject area with the most students is humanities and social sciences.
IAU does not rely on government funding and instead raises funds through charitable donations and tuition fees.
4. California Community Colleges System
Student population: > 1,800,000
The California Community Colleges System (CCCS) is the largest higher education system in the United States, serving more than 1.8 million students. The university system is made up of 116 community colleges located across California, which is the most populous state in the US, providing affordable education and flexible learning options.
The network of community colleges provides skills-based education for those looking for vocational study, and pathways for the transfer of around 80,000 students into the University of California and California State University systems each year.
Over half of California State University graduates started at CCCS, and over 69% of CCCS students are from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
3. Anadolu University
Student population: > 2,000,000
Anadolu University is a prominent university located in Eskişehir, Turkey. One of the areas in which Anadolu University excels is the implementation of its distance education system. This enables more than 2 million students to study in the many degree programs available at the university, making it one of the biggest universities in the world.
In 1982, Anadolu University was created from the Eskişehir Academy of Economic and Commercial Sciences, which was established in 1985. Instruction is now conducted in five different languages in Anadolu University’s various schools, and it accommodates more than 4,000 international students.
The large student body at Anadolu University has given Eskişehir a reputation as a student city. As such, there are plenty of student-focused establishments across the city offering inexpensive food and places to study.
2. National University of Bangladesh
Student population: > 2,000,000
The National University of Bangladesh is the largest public university system in Bangladesh and one of the largest in the world. It caters to the needs of over 2 million enrolled students domestically and abroad. The headquarters of the university is located in Gazipur, a city located just 25 km (15.5 mi) north of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
Established in 1992, the National University of Bangladesh now consists of around 2,300 affiliated colleges. Many degrees are available through the university system, including bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.
1. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)
Student population: > 3,300,000
Based in New Delhi, the capital city of India, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is the largest open university in the world. With well over 3 million students, it is the biggest university in the world by a significant margin.
IGNOU was established in 1985 with the passing of the Indira Gandhi National Open University Act. The objective of the act was to democratize higher education by providing access to those who seek it regardless of age, region, or formal qualifications.
Flexible learning methods, an extensive network of study centers, and an emphasis on inclusive education are some of the aspects of IGNOU that have helped it thrive.
More About the Biggest Universities in the World
What’s the biggest private university in the world?
The Islamic Azad University in Iran is a semi-private school, and it has a total student body of 1.5 million, which makes it the largest non-public university by a large margin.
The next largest private university is Spiru Haret University, located in Bucharest, Romania.
What’s the biggest university in the US?
This statistic doesn’t take into account university systems; the California Community Colleges system and the State University of New York are both much larger.
What’s the largest university in the world by area?
Berry College, located in the state of Georgia, USA, has the world’s largest university campus, covering 27,000 acres. This is the largest in the world by far, although it has nowhere near the largest student population, which hovers at just over 2,000.