Best universities in Los Angeles

Explore the top universities in Los Angeles using data from the Times Higher Education rankings

October 8 2018
Los Angeles, city

Los Angeles is the second largest city in America, and is also something of a higher education super-power. It's also a great place to be a student: its known for its good weather, and plays host to world-renowned beauty spots such as the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, or Topanga State Park in the west. Hiking, climbing and surfing are all popular pastimes for LA residents (or Angelenos).

The city itself offers curious students plenty to do, with more museums per capita than any other city in the world. These include the world-renowned Natural History Museum and Getty Museum, as well as more obscure collections such as the Museum of Neon Art and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. LA is the home of sporting giants such as the Dodgers and Clippers baseball teams, the Galaxy soccer team and the Lakers basketball team.

One in every six Los Angeles residents works in a creative industry, many of them in Hollywood. This small neighbourhood became the global centre of the film industry in the early 1900s. Now, three of the largest film companies in the world are based in Hollywood, and it remains the world’s show business capital, attracting wannabe starlets and household name celebrities to its streets.

LA may be best known as the place budding actors come for the chance to get their big break, but it’s also one of the top cities in the United States to receive a stellar education. Here are some of its best-known seats of higher learning.

California Institute of Technology

Caltech, as it is known, is located in Pasadena, a 20 minute drive from downtown LA. Caltech is internationally regarded as one of the world’s best places to study science and engineering, and has frequently been named the best university in the world.

The university was founded in 1891 by an astronomer, a physicist and a chemist. It offers 24 majors and 6 minors, as well as postgraduate courses, in six faculties: biology and biological engineering; chemistry and chemical engineering; engineering and applied science; geological and planetary sciences; humanities and social sciences; and physics, mathematics and astronomy. Although on the small side for a university, with just over 2,000 students in total, its faculty and alumni have won 34 Nobel Prizes.

Students benefit from high contact levels with their teachers, with only about three students to every teacher. Caltech is at the forefront of a range of exciting scientific frontiers. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is managed by Caltech, and sends probes into the solar system to explore its planets. In 2016 Caltech’s LIGO Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory became the first to observe gravitational waves.

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University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA is another leading LA university, often ranking among the top 20 in the US. It prides itself on its pioneering nature. In 1969, the university became the birthplace of the internet when the first ARPANET transmission was sent from the campus to Stanford's Menlo Park in San Francisco.

The university offers more than 125 majors and 80 minors, the most popular fields being business economics, biology, psychology, political science, economics and psychobiology. The undergraduate colleges are the College of Letters and Science, School of the Arts and Architecture, School of Theater, Film and Television, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and School of Nursing. There are also seven postgraduate schools and four postgraduate health schools.

The UCLA campus lies to the west of Los Angeles, near to the famous districts of Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Over 1,000 clubs operate at UCLA, from Armenian dance to Disney and from magic to water polo. Student athletes are known as the Bruins, and are one of the leading student athletic association in America, with more National Collegiate Athletic Association championships than any other university. UCLA has dozens of notable alumni, but some of the most famous include the director Francis Ford Coppola, the philosopher Hilary Putnam and the actor Leonard Nimoy. Seven alumni have won Nobel Prizes.

University of Southern California

Situated in the centre of LA, the University of Southern California consistently ranks as one of the world’s top 100 universities. It was LA’s first private university, opened in 1880, prior to the city getting electric lighting, pavements or telephones.

The university has 21 schools, the oldest and most famous of which is the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. Roughly half of the university’s undergraduate students study at this college, which on its own teaches more than 130 majors. The university’s sporting teams, the Trojans, have an ongoing rivalry with UCLA’s Bruins.

Athletes from the University of Southern California have won almost 300 medals in the Olympic Games, making the university comparable to entire countries such as Poland and the Netherlands in its Olympic success. The University of Southern California has more Oscar-winning alumni than any other institution, including Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Robert Zemeckis.

Read next: best universities in California

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