The top 50 universities by reputation 2018

Times Higher Education reveals the top universities with the best reputations, as determined by academics around the world

May 30 2018
Universities with the best reputations

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2018 rank the universities that academics believe excel in teaching and research. 

A questionnaire was sent to a selection of experienced published scholars, between January 2018 and March 2018, asking them to offer their views on the standards of teaching and research in their disciplines and in institutions that they are familiar with. The responses were then used to determine which universities were considered the most prestigious. The full methodology for the THE World Reputation Rankings 2018 can be found here.

Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University retain the top three places this year, with their positions unchanged since last year.

The top 10 is dominated by US universities except for the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, which take fourth and fifth place, respectively.

Although the results are based on academics’ views, students can also incorporate the reputation of a university into their decision-making process when choosing where to study.

Indeed, Raphaëlle Soffe, a British student who has just completed her first year at Harvard University, said that the “reputation of Harvard University did influence my choice to a certain degree”, adding that, “what distinguished it from other world-leading institutions was its focus on research, academic rigour and the creation of a community based on trust and respect.

“My intention to pursue a career in international relations also influenced my decision; Harvard provided the perfect political training ground, with presidents, United Nations secretary-generals and other leading politicians from around the world educated on Harvard’s campus,” she added.

Scroll down for more student perspectives on studying at some of the most prestigious universities in the world.

1. Harvard University

Harvard is the oldest higher education institution in the US and was established in 1636. It is considered one of the most prestigious universities in the world and has topped the THE World Reputation Rankings since 2011.

The institution has produced 47 Nobel laureates, 32 heads of state and 48 Pulitzer prizewinners, among many other academic accolades and prizes.

The central library is the one of the largest academic libraries in the world with 18.9 million volumes, while America’s oldest collection of maps and atlases are stored in the Pusey Library. 

2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT is a university based in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts, dedicated to the teaching of science and technology. The sheer number of Nobel laureates that the institution has generated (an impressive 85) reveals the calibre of MIT graduates.

Scientific discoveries and technological advances to come out of the college include the first chemical synthesis of penicillin, the development of radar, the discovery of quarks and the invention of magnetic core memory, which aided the development of digital computers.


Students discuss universities with strong reputations

Life at the University of Cambridge
The University of Toronto student perspective
Navigating Yale University
Studying at Princeton University
From a waiter working in Singapore to becoming a Harvard graduate
Women in STEM: stories from MIT students
Dispelling the myths around elite universities
Reflections from a University of Oxford foundation-year student


3. Stanford University

When Stanford University was founded in 1891, it was a co-educational institution, which was unheard of at a time when most universities were all-male affairs.

The research-intensive university has the largest number of Turing Award recipients for a single institution (18) as well as 21 Nobel laureates and four Pulitzer prizewinners. In addition, Stanford University has produced 30 living billionaires and 17 astronauts.

Stanford faculty and alumni have also founded many companies including Google, Hewlett-Packard, Nike, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Yahoo.

4. University of Cambridge

As well as being one of the most prestigious, the University of Cambridge can also count itself among the oldest universities in the world. The university is split into 31 autonomous colleges.

It is particularly known for its excellence in mathematics and a high number of Cambridge-affiliated mathematicians have won a Fields Medal, which is regarded as the Nobel prize for mathematics.

The institution is home to more than 100 libraries. One of the most well known is Wren Library, which is part of Trinity College, and holds A. A. Milne’s manuscript of Winnie the Pooh, one of Isaac Newton’s notebooks and some early editions of Shakespeare’s works.

5. University of Oxford

Rounding off the top five is the University of Oxford. It is also one of the oldest universities in the world and 30 world leaders, 26 British prime ministers, 26 Nobel prizewinners and more than 120 Olympic medallists have passed through its halls.

Entry standards are high and prospective students are expected to achieve top grades and pass an interview in order to study at the institution.

Notable alumni include Stephen Hawking, J.R.R. Tolkien and Oscar Wilde.

Like the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford follows a collegiate structure and is split into 44 colleges and halls. Nearly one-quarter of the city’s population is made up of students, meaning that it has the youngest population of any city in England and Wales.


The top 50 most prestigious universities

World Reputation Rank 2018 World Reputation Rank 2017 University Country/Region World University Rank 2018
1 1 Harvard University United States 6
2 2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States 5
3 3 Stanford University United States =3
4 =4 University of Cambridge United Kingdom 2
5 =4 University of Oxford United Kingdom 1
6 6 University of California, Berkeley United States 18
7 7 Princeton University United States 7
8 8 Yale University United States 12
=9 13 University of California, Los Angeles United States 15
=9 9 University of Chicago United States 9
11 10 California Institute of Technology United States =3
12 12 Columbia University United States 14
13 11 The University of Tokyo Japan 46
14 14 Tsinghua University China 30
15 15 University of Michigan United States 21
16 19 University of Pennsylvania United States =10
17 17 Peking University China =27
=18 23 Cornell University United States 19
=18 16 UCL United Kingdom 16
20 18 Imperial College London United Kingdom 8
21 21 Johns Hopkins University United States 13
=22 22 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland =10
=22 24 University of Toronto Canada =22
24 27 National University of Singapore Singapore =22
25 20 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom =25
26 =25 New York University United States =27
27 =25 Kyoto University Japan =74
28 =34 University of Washington United States =25
29 28 Duke University United States 17
30 37 Carnegie Mellon University United States 24
31 29 University of California, San Diego United States 31
32 36 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States 37
=33 30 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation 194
=33 =32 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States 43
35 =34 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom =27
36 =32 University of Texas at Austin United States 49
37 31 Northwestern University United States 20
38 40 University of British Columbia Canada =34
39 38 Paris Sciences & Lettres – PSL University France =72
40 39 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 40
41 =42 McGill University Canada 42
42 41 King’s College London United Kingdom 36
43 45 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland =38
=44 =42 University of California, San Francisco United States -
=44 48 Georgia Institute of Technology United States 33
46 =46 Seoul National University South Korea =74
=47 49 University of California, Davis United States =54
=47 =46 University of Melbourne Australia 32
49 =42 LMU Munich Germany =34
50 61–70 Pennsylvania State University United States 77

Explore the results of the World Reputation Rankings 2018 in full (top 100)

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