Biggest Universities in the World

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.

#NameLocationNumber of Students
1Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)New Delhi, India> 3,300,000
2National University of BangladeshGazipur, Bangladesh> 2,000,000
3Anadolu UniversityEskişehir, Turkey> 2,000,000
4California Community Colleges SystemCalifornia, USA> 1,800,000
5Islamic Azad UniversityIran1,500,000
6Allama Iqbal Open UniversityIslamabad, Pakistan1,027,000
7National Technological Institute of MexicoMexico> 600,00
8Tribhuvan UniversityKirtipur, Nepal460,632
9Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia Open University)Jakarta, Indonesia439,222
10Laureate Education Inc.Mexico, Peru423,000
11Bangladesh Open UniversityGazipur, Bangladesh410,694
12State University of New YorkNew York, USA363,612
13University of MumbaiMumbai, Maharashtra, India> 250,000
14The Open UniversityEngland151,840
15Polytechnic University of the PhilippinesThe Philippines> 80,000

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15. Polytechnic University of the Philippines

Pylons of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines displaying the letters "PUP."

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

A sign for the Open University hangs on a building in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The Open University in Belfast, Northern Ireland

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

An ornate building stands over a lawn at the University of Mumbai.
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

The facade of LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University.
LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University

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

Bangladesh Open University, one of the biggest universities in the world.
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.

The facade of the Universidad del Valle de México, a university owned by Laureate Education Inc.
Universidad del Valle de México

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)

A sign can be seen outside of a building of Universitas Terbuka in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Universitas Terbuka in Jakarta, Indonesia

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

Stairs leading up to Tribhuvan University in Nepal.
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

Logo for the 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

Panorama of Islamabad, Pakistan
Panorama of Islamabad, Pakistan, where Allama Iqbal Open University has its headquarters

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

The facade of a building that's part of Islamic Azad University in Iran.
Islamic Azad Unversity in Ardabil, Iran

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

A large building at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California
Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California

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

A Turkish flag flies above an Anadolu University campus park in Eskişehir, Turkey.
Anadolu University Campus in Eskişehir, Turkey

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

People walk across a sky bridge in Gazipur, Bangladesh.
Gazipur, 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)

People pass through a gate of the IGNOU campus in New Dehli, India.
IGNOU campus in New Dehli, India

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?

In 2022, the biggest university in the US was Texas A&M. It had a total enrollment of 74,829 students. The second largest in the US was the University of Central Florida with 68,442 students.

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.

Image Sources and Copyright Information
  • Monument with ‘PUP’ Inscription at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Campus: © Judgefloro | Public Domain Mark 1.0
  • Sign of The Open University on a Brick Wall: © shawnwil23/Shutterstock
  • Sunlit Facade of the Historic University Building in Mumbai, India: © Rachel Moon/Shutterstock
  • Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Entrance at Stony Brook University on a Clear Day: © Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock
  • Exterior View of Bangladesh Open University Building with Pedestrians: © Wasiul Bahar | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
  • Modern University Campus Building with UVM Logo Under a Cloudy Sky: © Nara_money/Shutterstock
  • SEAMEO SEAMOLEC Building Entrance in Jakarta, Indonesia: © Adning/Shutterstock
  • Brick Building of Tribhuvan University with Clock Tower Against a Mountainous Backdrop: © Bijay Chaurasia | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
  • Logo of Tecnológico Nacional de México: © Tecnologico Nacional de Mexico | Public Domain Mark 1.0
  • Panoramic View of Islamabad Cityscape with Lush Greenery and Mountainous Backdrop: © BurhanAy Photography/Shutterstock
  • Modern Educational Building Entrance with Students Gathering Outside: © Matyas Rehak/Shutterstock
  • Modern Building with Cinema & Television Signage on a Sunny Day: © mikeledray/Shutterstock
  • Aerial View of Anadolu University Campus with Turkish Flag in Eskişehir, Turkey: © cinarlarinenes/Shutterstock
  • Workers Crossing a Pedestrian Bridge Between Modern Office Buildings: © ArAfAt114/Shutterstock
  • Busy Street Scene Near IGNOU Entrance in New Delhi, India: © PradeepGaurs/Shutterstock