Best universities in the United States 2016

Find the best universities in the United States through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data
May 31 2016

Thinking about studying in the USA can be overwhelming, especially since there are so many options of where to study in the United States.

We are currently in the process of launching our own bespoke US college ranking, due for publication in September. Before that goes live, however, we thought you might like to know which are the top universities in America based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.

The best universities and colleges in the USA number almost 150, and wherever you want to study in America, a top university will not be far away. Almost all of the states are represented in the best US universities list. In total, 128 different cities appear in the ranking.


Resources: US university rankings

- Best universities in New York
- US universities with the most international students
- Universities in the United States promoting social mobility
- Explore the best universities in Canada
- Further afield: Best universities in Europe


California is by far the most represented state among the best American universities with 14 institutions, followed by New York State with 12, Texas with nine and Massachusetts with eight.

But the city with the most universities is Washington DC, which has four. Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, New York City, Atlanta in Georgia and Chicago in Illinois have three universities each in the ranking.

The universities at the very top are more concentrated in popular destinations well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.


Resources: applying to the United States

- International student application guide
- American universities with late application deadlines
- Benefits of public universities v Ivy Leagues


Top 5 universities in the United States

Scroll down to view the full table of the best American universities

1. California Institute of Technology

Relative to the tiny size of the student population, CalTech has an impressive number of wildly successful graduates and affiliates, including 34 Nobel prizewinners, six Turing Award winners, five Fields Medalists and a number of national awards.

There are only 2,243 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties there is a focus on science and engineering; the university appears in the top 5 for engineering and technology (#2), physical sciences (#1), and life sciences (#5) rankings in 2016.

In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech alumni community also includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in positions that deal with science, technology and energy.

All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities. There are a number of house traditions and events associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the trope of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.

2. Stanford University

Based right next to Silicon Valley – or Palo Alto – Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the high-tech industry to develop in the area.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion each year.

The university is often referred to as “the Farm”, as the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto Stock Farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres, but more than half of the land is not yet developed.

With distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums in addition to faculty buildings and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,596 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

A long-standing rival of CalTech, MIT also cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.

Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.

The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 different countries around the world.

Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman. Graduates are prevalent throughout science, politics, economics, business and media.

The university appears in the top 5 list in the Engineering and technology, physical sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities rankings published by Times Higher Education.

4. Harvard University

Harvard University is probably the best-known university in the world, coming top in the reputation rankings most years.

It was founded in 1636, and is the oldest higher education institution in the United States.

There are currently 20,152 students enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.

The Harvard Library system is made up of 79 different libraries and counts as the largest academic library in the world.

Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, about 150 Nobel laureates, 13 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.

Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally as reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so. In the 2016 arts and humanities ranking, Harvard takes the second position, and secures top 10 positions for physical sciences, social sciences and engineering and technology.

5. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs” – which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

There are fewer than 8,000 students enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strictly specified requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not now offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businessmen, Olympians and numerous award-winners. Physicist Richard Feynman attended as a graduate student, as did mathematicians John Nash and Alan Turing.


Compare US universities with other regions:

- Best universities in Europe 2016
- Compare top Canadian universities
- Where do graduates face the most debt?
  

- Where are international postgraduates most satisfied?
- European universities competing with US in humanities
- Top universities in South America


Top universities in the United States 2016

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2015-2016 results

USA Rank

Position in World University Rankings 2016

University

State

City

1

1

California Institute of Technology

California

Pasadena

2

3

Stanford University

California

Stanford

3

5

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts

Cambridge

4

6

Harvard University

Massachusetts

Cambridge

5

7

Princeton University

New Jersey

Princeton

6

10

University of Chicago

Illinois

Chicago

7

11

Johns Hopkins University

Maryland

Baltimore

8

12

Yale University

Connecticut

New Haven

9

13

University of California, Berkeley

California

Berkeley

10

15

Columbia University

New York State

New York City

11

16

University of California, Los Angeles

California

Los Angeles

12

17

University of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

13

18

Cornell University

New York State

Ithaca

14

20

Duke University

North Carolina

Durham

15

21

University of Michigan

Michigan

Ann Arbor

16

22

Carnegie Mellon University

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

17

25

Northwestern University

Illinois

Evanston

18

30

New York University

New York State

New York City

19

32

University of Washington

Washington

Seattle

20

36

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois

Champaign

=21

=39

University of California, San Diego

California

San Diego

=21

=39

University of California, Santa Barbara

California

Santa Barbara

23

41

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia

Atlanta

24

=44

University of California, Davis

California

Davis

25

46

University of Texas at Austin

Texas

Austin

26

50

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Wisconsin

Madison

27

51

Brown University

Rhode Island

Providence

28

=60

Washington University in St Louis

Missouri

St. Louis

29

63

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

North Carolina

Chapel Hill

30

64

Boston University

Massachusetts

Boston

31

=65

University of Minnesota

Minnesota

Minneapolis

32

68

University of Southern California

California

Los Angeles

33

75

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania

State College

34

79

University of Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh

35

87

Vanderbilt University

Tennessee

Nashville

=36

=90

Emory University

Georgia

Atlanta

=36

=90

Ohio State University

Ohio

Columbus

38

=94

Georgetown University

Washington DC

39

=99

Michigan State University

Michigan

East Lansing

40

=101

Rice University

Texas

Houston

41

=104

Dartmouth College

New Hampshire

Hanover

42

=106

University of California, Irvine

California

Irvine

43

108

University of Notre Dame

Indiana

Notre Dame

44

=113

Purdue University

Indiana

West Lafayette

45

117

University of Maryland, College Park

Maryland

College Park

46

=120

University of Florida

Florida

Gainesville

47

=123

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

New Jersey

New Brunswick

=48

=127

University of Colorado Boulder

Colorado

Boulder

=48

=127

Tufts University

Massachusetts

Medford

50

=133

Case Western Reserve University

Ohio

Cleveland

51

141

University of Massachusetts

Massachusetts

Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, Worcester

52

=144

University of California, Santa Cruz

California

Santa Cruz

53

147

University of Virginia

Virginia

Charlottesville

54

=158

University of Rochester

New York State

Rochester

55

=161

University of Miami

Florida

Coral Gables

56

163

University of Arizona

Arizona

Tucson

57

=164

Yeshiva University

New York State

New York City

58

=167

University of California, Riverside

California

Riverside

59

=182

University of Utah

Utah

Salt Lake City

60

=185

Brandeis University

Massachusetts

Waltham

61

189

Arizona State University

Arizona

Tempe

62

=190

Boston College

Massachusetts

Newton

63

=193

Texas A&M University

Texas

College Station

=64

201–250

Florida State University

Florida

Tallahassee

=64

201–250

George Washington University

Washington DC

=64

201–250

University of Hawai’i at Mānoa

Hawaii

Honolulu

=64

201–250

University of Illinois at Chicago

Illinois

Chicago

=64

201–250

Indiana University (Bloomington)

Indiana

Bloomington

=64

201–250

University of Iowa

Iowa

Iowa City

=64

201–250

Northeastern University

Massachusetts

Boston

=64

201–250

Oregon Health and Science University

Oregon

Portland

=64

201–250

Rush University

Illinois

Chicago

=64

201–250

University of South Florida

Florida

Tampa

=64

201–250

Stony Brook University

New York State

Stony Brook

=64

201–250

University of Texas at Dallas

Texas

Richardson

=64

201–250

University at Buffalo

New York State

Buffalo

=64

201–250

Wake Forest University

North Carolina

Winston-Salem

=64

201–250

William & Mary

Virginia

Williamsburg

=79

251–300

Colorado School of Mines

Colorado

Golden

=79

251–300

Colorado State University

Colorado

Fort Collins

=79

251–300

University of Delaware

Delaware

Newark

=79

251–300

University of Georgia

Georgia

Athens

=79

251–300

Iowa State University

Iowa

Ames

=79

251–300

North Carolina State University

North Carolina

Raleigh

=79

251–300

Oregon State University

Oregon

Corvallis

=79

251–300

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

New York State

Troy

=79

251–300

Saint Louis University

Missouri

St. Louis

=79

251–300

Syracuse University

New York State

Syracuse

=79

251–300

University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee

Knoxville

=79

251–300

Tulane University

Louisiana

New Orleans

=79

251–300

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia

Blacksburg

=92

301–350

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Alaska

Fairbanks

=92

301–350

University of Cincinnati

Ohio

Cincinnati

=92

301–350

University of Connecticut

Connecticut

Mansfield

=92

301–350

George Mason University

Virginia

Fairfax

=92

301–350

Medical College of Wisconsin

Wisconsin

Milwaukee

=92

301–350

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Nebraska

Lincoln

=92

301–350

University of Oregon

Oregon

Eugene

=99

351–400

Binghamton University, State University of New York

New York State

Binghamton

=99

351–400

Drexel University

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

=99

351–400

University of Houston

Texas

Houston

=99

351–400

University of Missouri

Missouri

Columbia

=99

351–400

University of Montana

Montana

Missoula

=99

351–400

University of Nebraska Medical Center

Nebraska

Omaha

=99

351–400

University of New Mexico

New Mexico

Albuquerque

=99

351–400

San Diego State University

California

San Diego

=99

351–400

University of South Carolina

South Carolina

Columbia

=99

351–400

University of South Dakota

South Dakota

Vermillion

=99

351–400

Temple University

Pennsylvania

Philadelphia

=99

351–400

University of Texas at San Antonio

Texas

San Antonio

=99

351–400

Washington State University

Washington

Pullman

=99

351–400

Wayne State University

Michigan

Detroit

=113

401–500

American University

Washington DC

=113

401–500

Florida International University

Florida

Miami

=113

401–500

Georgia State University

Georgia

Atlanta

=113

401–500

Howard University

Washington DC

=113

401–500

University of Idaho

Idaho

Moscow

=113

401–500

Lehigh University

Pennsylvania

Bethlehem

=113

401–500

Louisiana State University

Louisiana

Baton Rouge

=113

401–500

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Maryland

Baltimore

=113

401–500

University of San Francisco

California

San Francisco

=113

401–500

State University of New York Albany

New York State

Albany

=123

501–600

University of Arkansas

Arkansas

Fayetteville

=123

501–600

Auburn University

Alabama

Auburn

=123

501–600

Kansas State University

Kansas

Manhattan

=123

501–600

Kent State University

Ohio

Kent

=123

501–600

Missouri University of Science and Technology

Missouri

Rolla

=123

501–600

Montana State University

Montana

Bozeman

=123

501–600

New Jersey Institute of Technology

New Jersey

Newark

=123

501–600

New Mexico State University

New Mexico

Las Cruces

=123

501–600

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

North Carolina

Greensboro

=123

501–600

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma

Stillwater

=123

501–600

Portland State University

Oregon

Portland

=123

501–600

University of Texas at Arlington

Texas

Arlington

=123

501–600

University of Toledo

Ohio

Toledo

=123

501–600

University of Tulsa

Oklahoma

Tulsa

=123

501–600

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Wisconsin

Milwaukee

=138

601–800

California State University, Long Beach

California

Long Beach

=138

601–800

Clemson University

South Carolina

Clemson

=138

601–800

Florida Institute of Technology

Florida

Melbourne

=138

601–800

Miami University

Ohio

Oxford

=138

601–800

Oakland University

Michigan

Rochester

=138

601–800

Ohio University

Ohio

Athens

=138

601–800

Rochester Institute of Technology

New York State

Rochester

=138

601–800

University of Southern Mississippi

Mississippi

Hattiesburg

=138

601–800

University of Texas at El Paso

Texas

El Paso

=138

601–800

Texas Tech University

Texas

Lubbock


Resources: explore the rankings by subject

- Best universities for arts and humanities
- Best universities for life sciences


Reader's comments (1)

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