The very foundation of Kazan University was directly linked to international academia. Some of the University's first teachers were German professors such as Johann Bartels, Franz Erdman and Christian Fren. The famous German professor Karl Fuchs, who was both the founder of Kazan Medical School and the first European researcher of Tatar history and culture, became the University's rector in the 1820s and was awarded the title of Honourable Citizen of Kazan. Since that time Kazan University has had one more rector with international background – professor Ivan Braun (1813-1819) from Austria.

Today the University continues enlarging its international dimensions and enhancing its globally renowned academic reputation.

In 2016 KFU ranked:

KFU strives to attain globally recognised results within its priority areas through developing Centres of Excellence and world-class unique laboratories (open-labs); inviting world-known scholars and сollaborating with large companies and leading research and academic centres.

KFU has partner agreements with approximately 290 universities and research centres from more than 64 countries all over the world. Thanks to its fruitful cooperation with the long-term partners such as Justus-Liebig University of Giessen (Germany), the Superior Institute of Materials and Advance Mechanics (ISMANS, France), Research Institute RIKEN (Japan) and many others, KFU has taken advantage of participating in various research programmes and implementing “double” diploma initiatives and cotutelle agreements.

Currently (2016-2017 academic year), about 4100 international students are studying in KFU on different academic programmes.

Each year more than 900 students and faculty members visit foreign universities and research centres for various purposes, including participation in international conferences. Every academic year the University invites near 1500 specialists with international experience, involving them in various scientific events, development and introduction of new courses, research collaboration and other international activity. Many native speaking specialists teach Chinese, Korean, Farsi, German, Spanish, English and other foreign languages on a regular basis at KFU.

Every year KFU teams carry out about 40 joint international projects. Also its postgraduates, researchers and teachers get individual support from DAAD, DFG, Volkswagen Foundation, NSF, European Commission (Temous, FP7, Marie-Curie Actions, Erasmus Mundus) and other grant making organizations. KFU academic community approves its international recognition by getting research support from national funding authorities of Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, Japan, China, USA and other countries.

KFU carries out several big projects on Mega-grants received from the Russian Government in the framework of Resolution No.220 of the Government of the Russian Federation "On measures designed to attract the world's leading scientists to Russian institutions of higher learning, research organizations of the governmental academis of sciences, and governmental research centers of the Russian Federation" and Resolution No 218 of the Government of the Russian Federation "On promoting cooperation between higher educational institutions and organizations implementing comprehensive high-technology production":

The University administration and faculty have paid special attention to the European Tempus and Erasmus scheme for cooperation, with over a dozen large-scale projects which have been successfully implemented during the last 20 years. Today KFU students and academic staff enjoy wonderful opportunities of training at best European partner universities as part of both “Integration, Interaction and Institutions (Triple I)” and “Aurora” projects (Erasmus Mundus program). These projects often reach beyond the University, making it a centre of entirely new regional research and educational networks involved in international collaboration.