The best universities in New York

Find out what makes New York's universities some of the best in the world
December 8 2015

The state of New York is home to two Ivy League universities – more than any other state. But it doesn’t just deliver on prestige; university options include state schools and a number of specialised colleges.

If you’re thinking of studying abroad in New York, you’re certainly not alone. According to the 2015 Open Doors report, 8 per cent of all students in the state are international. Only Massachusetts and Washington D.C. have a higher proportion of international students.

While Columbia University, New York University and Yeshiva University are located in bustling New York City, a further six world-leading institutions can be found elsewhere in the state.

- See all the best universities in the United States

The very best universities in New York, as listed below, all feature in the world’s top 500 universities, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Specialist colleges, such as the Juillard School of Dance, Drama and Music, or small colleges that do not have a significant research output, are not included in the rankings.

Columbia University, NYC: Rank 15

Columbia University

As an elite Ivy League school, Columbia University is one of the most prestigious colleges in New York. Many notable alumni have graced its halls, including the Founding Fathers of the US, Supreme Court justices, Nobel prizewinners and almost 30 Academy Award-winners.

Columbia’s main campus at Morningside Heights occupies 32 acres and includes many student dorms. But the resources stretch even further. With almost 12 million books, Columbia’s library system is the eighth largest in the country.

The university has significant financial aid packages and endeavours to use them to promote diversity on campus.

Cornell University, Ithaca: Rank 18

 Cornell University McGraw clock tower                

Cornell University has always intended to provide a comprehensive education across all subjects, even when this went against common practice for universities. It opened as a co-educational institution, admitting women long before other Ivy Leagues would.

The university is based in Ithaca, some four hours away from New York City by road. The medical campus is based in New York City itself, and another satellite medical school is located in Qatar – the first American medical campus outside the US.

Students at Cornell are from more than 120 countries, and just over a quarter of the student population identify as an ethnic minority.  There are also international programmes that partner with universities in China, Philippines and India.

New York University, NYC: Rank 30

 New York University

Alumni of New York University are among the wealthiest in the world, and include award-winners across various industries. In fact, NYU claims more Oscar-winning alumni than any other university.

So what sets NYU graduates on the path to greatness? The university is highly selective to start with, but further encourages students with teaching by prominent academics and a range of recreational and cultural opportunities, with an emphasis on law, media and arts.

Last year, New York University enrolled more international students than any other university in the US, and is the most searched-for university on College Board, who administer the SAT exams.

University of Rochester, Rochester: Rank 158

 University of Rochester

It may not be as well-known among international students, but the University of Rochester has made pioneering advances across different subjects, including mathematics, social sciences, medicine and music.

The university has a distinct approach to studies: its own “Rochester Curriculum”. Unlike other university programmes, there are no required subjects and students must take courses in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

There are a number of competitive fifth-year programmes that allow undergraduates a tuition-free year to study a subject unrelated to their major, or pursue an innovative entrepreneurial project.

The main campus is next to the river that leads to Lake Ontario. About 6,000 full-time undergraduate students are enrolled at the university. This provides a smaller, more communal environment than found in city universities.

Yeshiva University, NYC: Rank 164

Yeshiva University Zysman Hall

Best known as a Jewish college, Yeshiva University also offers well-respected programmes in law, medicine and business, and is open to both Jewish and non-Jewish students.

It has produced prize-winning writers and scientists, and is particularly reputed for the law school’s work on intellectual property and dispute resolution.

The university has four campuses in New York City and dorms available on each. About 80 per cent of the student population live on campus.

Students are particularly active in media and sports activities, including newspapers, radio stations, baseball, basketball and wrestling.

See other world-leading universities in New York below, or explore the World University Rankings table to find more universities.

World University Rank 2015-16



Columbia University


Cornell University


New York University


University of Rochester


Yeshiva University


Stony Brook University


Syracuse University


Binghamton University, State University of New York


State University of New York Albany

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