Best universities in Massachusetts

Explore the top universities in Massachusetts using data from the Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education US College Rankings

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November 6 2020
Best universities in Massachusetts


Massachusetts offers a rich array of things to do and has a significant and unique place in American history and culture, and continues to contribute to its varied culture.

Geographically, Massachusetts is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The capital and the most populous city is Boston.

Modern Massachusetts – and Boston in particular – is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade. While Boston is a hub for students –  attracted by its rich history, culture, entertainment, and sophisticated cuisine – great beaches, delicious seafood, and artisan-filled shopping districts await in scenic Cape Cod or nearby Nantucket.

Meanwhile, in Western Massachusetts, the mountainous Berkshires live up to the imagined image of rural New England, and quaint towns like Amherst and Northampton offer a thriving arts scene.

Many students opt for Massachusetts as it is considered to be a more welcoming and more moderately-paced site than New York City without compensating on cultural richness, diversity, and stimuli that the Big Apple has.

Massachusetts boasts an academic reputation like no other state in the US. Not only is it home to the oldest elementary and high schools in the country, it boasts the oldest and arguably most prestigious college in the country, Harvard University. Both Harvard University and the neighbouring university of Massachusetts Institute of Technology consistently rank among the world’s best universities year after year.

These are the best universities in Massachusetts based on the Wall Street Journal / Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2021

1. Harvard University

With roots dating back to 1636, it is known as the oldest university in the US, and its main campus is located in the city of Cambridge. The university itself is organised into 11 separate academic units spread throughout the area. It is the only Ivy League university in the state. 

Uniquely it has more than 18 million volumes in its university library – a number beaten only by the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library.

Alumni from Harvard are particularly impressive including eight US presidents, more than 30 foreign heads of state, 62 living billionaires, 158 Nobel Laureates, 10 Academy Award winners, 48 Pulitzer prizes and 108 Olympic gold medallists.

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has consistently been one of the highest ranked universities in the world. Often mistaken for being in Boston, the university is located on 168 acres of land in the city of Cambridge. As the name suggests, MIT is strongly focused on science and technology, and is considered a dominant world-leader in these fields.

Notable alumni of MIT include: 93 Nobel laureates, 52 National Medal of Science recipients, 45 Rhodes Scholars, 34 astronauts, and 25 Turing Award winners.

=3. Amherst College

Amherst College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts. It is an exclusively undergraduate university where students can choose from 38 major programmes in an open curriculum.

It is thought to be one of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the US.

The university has been recognised for its commitment to quality teaching and student interaction. The student-faculty ratio is 8:1 and 90 per cent of classes have fewer than 30 students. 

=3. Williams College

Williams College is a private liberal arts college, this time in Williamstown in Massachusetts. 

The college has produced many prominent alumni including eight Pulitzer prize winners, a Nobel Prize Laureate, 10 billionaires, and 71 members of the United States Congress. 

The university mainly teaches undergraduate students across humanities, sciences and social sciences, in 24 departments and 35 majors. The university also offers two small master's degree programmes in art history and developmental economics. 

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5. Wellesley College

Another liberal arts college, Wellesley College is a private women's college in the town of Wellesley. It was founded in 1870 by Henry and Pauline Durant and is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. 

In 2015 the admissions policy was updated to allow transgender women and non-binary people assigned female at birth to be considered for admittance. The first transgender women students enrolled in Fall 2017. 

Notable alumni of Wellesley College include politician Hillary Clinton, first female US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, writer Nora Ephron, journalist Diane Sawyer and writer Bing Xin. The colleges's alumni base is often viewed as one of the "most powerful women's networks in the world". 


Other universities

Other well-established, top-ranking universities in Massachusetts include Boston University, Boston College, Tufts University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Northeastern University, Brandeis University and Bentley University

Located in the city centre, Boston University, is ranked highly across the world. Offering 250 different fields of study across 17 schools, the university is renowned for its groundbreaking research. Students have the chance to study across two campuses, including one based in the historic south end of Boston and the Boston University Medical Campus. Boston University boasts an alumnus of seven Nobel Laureates – including Martin Luther King Jr. and Elie Wiesel – along with 35 Pulitzer Prize winners and six Academy Award winners.

Tufts University is perfect for shoppers, foodies and concert goers; Brandeis University was founded just 70 years ago and is great for students looking for a modern institution; and Boston College has a suburban campus with regular transport into the city centre.

However, for students looking to live outside of Boston, there are plenty of other cities in Massachusetts, which all have their own thriving personalities. For instance, Worcester, Massachusetts’ second-largest city, has a welcoming culture and is just an hours drive from Boston and universities there include Assumption College, Worcester State University and University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester.

Students looking to be immersed within nature, art and culture can head to Springfield – midway between New York and Boston. Universities located there include: Springfield College, Springfield Technical Community College and Western New England University.

Top universities in Massachusetts 2021

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings profile

US College Rank 2021 Massachusetts Rank 2021 University City
1 1 Harvard University Cambridge
2 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge
=21 =3 Amherst College Amherst
=21 =3 Williams College Williamstown
29 5 Wellesley College Wellesley
31 6 Tufts University Medford
=40 7 Boston University Boston
=43 8 Smith College Northampton
54 9 Mount Holyoke College South Hadley
55 10 Boston College Chestnut Hill
=86 11 Northeastern University Boston
=114 12 Brandeis University Waltham
117 13 College of the Holy Cross Worcester
120 14 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester
=124 15 Babson College Babson Park
=129 16 Simmons University Boston
=133 17 Bentley University Waltham
=140 18 Wheaton College (Massachusetts) Norton
=151 19 University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst
=208 20 Clark University Worcester
238 21 Stonehill College Easton
=248 22 MCPHS University Boston
=285 23 Hampshire College Amherst
=318 24 Western New England University Springfield
=351 25 Suffolk University Boston
=355 26 Assumption University Worcester
=360 27 University of Massachusetts Boston Boston
401-500 =28 Berklee College of Music Boston
401-500 =28 Gordon College Wenham
401-500 =28 Merrimack College North Andover
401-500 =28 Springfield College Springfield
401-500 =28 Wentworth Institute of Technology Boston
501-600 =33 Emerson College Boston
501-600 =33 Emmanuel College Boston
501-600 =33 Endicott College Beverly
501-600 =33 Lesley University Cambridge
501-600 =33 Massachusetts College of Art and Design Boston
501-600 =33 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth North Dartmouth
501-600 =33 University of Massachusetts Lowell Lowell
> 600 =40 Bridgewater State University Bridgewater
> 600 =40 Curry College Milton
> 600 =40 Fitchburg State University Fitchburg
> 600 =40 Framingham State University Framingham
> 600 =40 Lasell University Newton
> 600 =40 Salem State University Salem
> 600 =40 Westfield State University Westfield
> 600 =40 Worcester State University Worcester

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