Best universities in Washington DC 2018

Find out all about Washington DC's top universities, and explore their positions in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings

October 31 2017
Washington, D.C.

Washington DC is the federal capital of the USA and sits at the beating heart of the nation’s political and cultural scene. The city is peppered with monuments to past triumphs and great leaders, many along the National Mall. The nation’s history is preserved in the city’s famous museums including the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress (the largest in the world) and the National Archives which house the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Washington DC is a bustling city which lives and breathes politics and its downtown restaurants buzz with the gossip of political aids and White House staffers. Many lobbying groups, professional organisations, trade unions and international organisations have their headquarters in the city.

But it’s not all history and politics, the district also has a vibrant arts scene. The National Symphony Orchestra is based here and Washington boasts strong local theatres. The historic Ford’s Theatre, site of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, still stages plays.

With so much history and culture, it is no surprise that the district also boasts some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Students wishing to study in Washington DC will find an exciting, student-friendly city to explore and all the opportunities that come with living and studying at the political heart of the United States. If you want to study in Washington DC it is important to find the right university for you.

These are the best universities in Washington DC based on the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education US College Rankings 2018

1. Georgetown University

Georgetown University is a private research university in the historic Georgetown district of Washington DC. Founded in 1889, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic university in the USA. The university has a prestigious reputation to match its historic roots and alumni include former US President Bill Clinton, as well as over a dozen foreign heads of state or government.

Georgetown has less than 20,000 students, with the majority studying at postgraduate level. The university is highly international with 11 per cent of its student body made up of international students and over 130 countries represented in the student population. The university has also opened campuses in Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

Undergraduate degrees are offered in 48 majors through the university’s four undergraduate schools. Masters degrees are offered through five of the university’s schools. Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service is renowned for its teaching in international affairs and about 50 per cent of Georgetown undergraduates across all subjects spend time studying overseas. The university’s prestigious law school sits on Capitol Hill alongside the Supreme Court and the White House.

Georgetown is also respected for the quality of its research. The institution’s focus on internationalisation extends into its research efforts as well, with $5.6 million donated by the US Department of Education to fund fellowships in international studies.

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2. George Washington University

Named after the first president of the USA, George Washington University is a private research university founded in 1821.The university was founded as a result of President Washington’s stated desire that there should be a world class institution of higher learning in the new nation’s capital. The university consistently ranks highly in the US and is respected for the quality of its teaching and research.

Academic subjects at the university are divided up into 10 colleges and schools: the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Elliott School of International Affairs, the Milken Institute School of Public Health, the College of Professional Studies, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, the Law School, the School of Nursing, and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

The university is popular with students, especially its business and international affairs courses and the university consistently appears high-up in the US rankings in these fields. The central location of the main campus, just minutes from the White House and the Lincoln Memorial put George Washington University at the heart of the political action.

Famous alumni include the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

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3. Howard University

Howard University was opened in 1867 as a non-sectarian institution open to people of both sexes and all races. A historically black university, Howard has always had a strong focus on inclusivity and equality. The university has over 10,000 students studying a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

Subjects are divided over 13 different schools and colleges and there are graduate schools in business, nursing, engineering, pharmacy, law, social work, education, communications, art, science, divinity, dentistry, and medicine.

The university campus covers 256 acres in the north west of Washington DC. The campus boasts several historical buildings as well as an art gallery, opened in 1928, housing over 4,000 works of art. The university has 10 residence halls on and off campus which provide housing for many students.

Among the many respected research institutions at Howard is The Beltsville Center for Climate System Observation, a NASA University Research Center which works in partnership with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. 

Top universities in Washington DC 2018 

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2018 profile

Washington DC Rank 2018 WSJ/THE US College Rank 2018 University City
1 31 Georgetown University Washington
2 64 George Washington University Washington
3 104 Howard University Washington
=4 =198 American University Washington
=4 =198 Catholic University of America Washington
=5 601-800 University of the District of Columbia Washington
=5 601-800 Trinity Washington University Washington

Read more: Best universities in the world

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