WSJ/THE US College Rankings 2018: Harvard comes top

Stanford loses lead spot in 2018 Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education league table 

September 27, 2017
Harvard University campus
Source: iStock

Harvard University has topped a ranking of US universities and colleges that is fuelled by data from Times Higher Education.

The Ivy League university jumps one place to take the top spot in the second annual edition of the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College Rankings, while last year’s leader Stanford University drops down to joint third.


WSJ/THE US College Rankings: access the results in full


Columbia University climbs three places to second place, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology holds in joint third place.

The top 10 is completed by Duke University, Yale University, the California Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Cornell University.

Unlike the THE World University Rankings, which focus on universities’ research performance, the US table measures institutions’ student engagement, student outcomes and learning environments.

This year, Harvard achieved higher scores for engagement, which measures how well students engaged with learning and interacted with their teachers and peers, as well as environment, which looks at the diversity of the student body and faculty.

In contrast, Stanford achieved lower scores in the resources pillar, which measures finance per student, faculty per student and research papers per faculty, and the outcomes pillar, which includes metrics on the graduation rate and the value added by the teaching at a college to graduate salary and to graduates’ ability to repay student debt.

The last is a new metric that was not included in last year’s ranking and this alters the weighting of the other outcomes indicators, but otherwise the methodology is largely the same as last year.

Caltech is the only newcomer to the top 10, joining in seventh place, up from 12th last year. In contrast, Northwestern University has fallen from 10th place to joint 15th.

Meanwhile, the University of California, Los Angeles is the top public university in 25th place, up from 28th. It overtakes the University of Michigan, which falls five places to 27th.

UCLA achieved a slightly higher score on engagement, while Michigan was hurt by a drop in its resources and outcomes scores.

The US ranking includes the results of the THE US Student Survey, which gathered the views of more than 200,000 current university students in 2016 and 2017 to find out about their engagement with their studies, their interaction with their teachers and their satisfaction with their experience.  

It also draws on the THE Academic Reputation Survey, in order to determine which institutions have the best reputation for excellence in teaching.

A full analysis of the results of the WSJ/THE US College Rankings will be published in THE on 19 October.

WSJ/THE College Rankings 2018: top 10

2018 rank 2017 rank Institution City  State
1 2 Harvard University Cambridge MA
2 5 Columbia University New York NY
=3 3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge MA
=3 1 Stanford University Stanford CA
5 7 Duke University Durham NC
6 6 Yale University New Haven CT
7 12 California Institute of Technology Pasadena CA
8 4 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia PA
9 9 Princeton University Princeton NJ
10 8 Cornell University Ithaca NY

See the full results

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com 

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