Last year the University of Washington (UW) was ranked #2 among the best United States public institutions. This year my alma mater UW maintained its #2 spot, however, it moved up two spots to #8 in the US News & World Report’s (USN&WR) Best Global Universities rankings. The rankings are based on data and metrics from over 80 countries and the ranking is “based on 13 indicators that measure their academic research performance and their global and regional reputations.” [USN&WR, October 20, 2020]
This year USN&WR lists nearly 1,500 top institutions from 86 countries. How they come up with the rankings is explained in detail in this article. What I find very interesting is looking at the university data (number of students, doctoral degrees awarded, international students, research staff, etc.), the subject rankings (Computer Science, Immunology, Infectious diseases, Physics, etc.), and the indicator rankings (Publications, Books, Conferences, Total Citations, International Collaboration, etc.). The amount of work that goes into these rankings is mind boggling.
USN&WR publishes these rankings and details of research to help out students around the world. According to USN&WR “Students can use these rankings to explore the higher education options that exist beyond their own countries’ borders and to compare key aspects of schools’ research missions.” Obviously, the college ranking isn’t the only thing to consider, the students must also consider the total enrollment, city, climate, culture, tuition, cost of living, and a host of other things. There is a reason why so many famous people graduate from the top universities around the world. They are usually not famous when they are students. Most become famous because of the opportunities after they graduate.
Top Ten Best Global Universities
Here are the top ten best universities in the world.
- Harvard University (Cambridge, USA)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, USA)
- Stanford University (Stanford, USA)
- University of California–Berkeley (Berkeley, USA)
- University of Oxford (Oxford, UK)
- Columbia University (New York City, USA)
- California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, USA)
- University of Washington (Seattle, USA)
- University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
- Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA)
Interesting Facts About the Top Ten Universities
- The top two universities in the world are in the same city (Cambridge, MA).
- Three of the top seven universities are in California State.
- Eight of the top ten universities are in the US, 2 are in the UK.
- Harvard University (USA) is ranked #1 in 20 of the 38 subjects.
- Eight US presidents and three vice presidents graduated from Harvard University.
- University of Washington (USA) has the largest enrollment (46,258) among the top 10 universities.
- University of Oxford (UK) is so old that no one knows exactly when it was founded. Its roots are traced back to at least 1096.
Top University in Each Subject
You can use the filters to select country, city, subject, enrollment, etc. I searched for the universities that were rated #1 in each subject and this is what I came up with.
Harvard University is one of the oldest American universities and is ranked #1 in 53% of all the subjects. You will notice that eight out of the top ten universities are not ranked #1 in any subject, but some universities are ranked #1 in the world in several categories despite being ranked lower overall. For example, China’s Tsinghua University is ranked #1 in three engineering subjects, with a global ranking of #28. Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University is ranked #1 in three different categories with an overall ranking of #38. Besides Harvard University, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA is the only other top ten university that is ranked #1 in more than one subject. It’s ranked #1 in Geosciences and Space Science.
NOTE: Universities that are rated #1 in at least two or more subjects are color coded.
|#1||Agricultural Sciences||Wageningen University and Research||Netherlands|
|#1||Arts and Humanities||University of Oxford||United Kingdom|
|#1||Biology and Biochemistry||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Biotechnology and Applied Microbiology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Cardiac and Cardiovascular Systems||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Cell Biology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Chemical Engineering||Tsinghua University||China|
|#1||Chemistry||University of California – Berkeley||United States of America|
|#1||Civil Engineering||Tongji University||China|
|#1||Clinical Medicine||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Computer Science||Stanford University||United States of America|
|#1||Economics and Business||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Electrical and Electronic Engineering||Tsinghua University||China|
|#1||Endocrinology and Metabolism||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Energy and Fuels||Nanyang Technological University||Singapore|
|#1||Environment/Ecology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Gastroenterology and Hepatology||University of California – San Diego||United States of America|
|#1||Geosciences||California Institute of Technology||United States of America|
|#1||Immunology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Infectious Diseases||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Materials Science||Nanyang Technological University||Singapore|
|#1||Mechanical Engineering||Islamic Azad University||Iran|
|#1||Microbiology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Molecular Biology and Genetics||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Nanoscience and Nanotechnology||Nanyang Technological University||Singapore|
|#1||Neuroscience and Behavior||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Oncology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Pharmacology and Toxicology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Physics||Massachusetts Institute of Technology||United States of America|
|#1||Plant and Animal Science||University of California – Davis||United States of America|
|#1||Psychiatry/Psychology||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Public, Environmental and Occupational Health||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Social Sciences and Public Health||Harvard University||United States of America|
|#1||Space Science||California Institute of Technology||United States of America|
|#1||Surgery||Harvard University||United States of America|
Interesting Statistics About Harvard University
It’s quite obvious that Harvard University is by far the best university in the world.
- Founded in 1636, Harvard is the oldest higher education institute in the United States.
- Over 20% of its student body is international.
- More than 150 Nobel Prize winners have graduated from Harvard.
- Eight US presidents and three vice presidents have graduated from Harvard University.
US Presidents Who Graduated from Harvard
- John Adams
- John Quincy Adams
- Rutherford B. Hayes
- John F. Kennedy
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt
- Theodore Roosevelt
- George W. Bush
- Barack Obama
US Vice Presidents Who Graduated from Harvard
- John Adams (President George Washington)
- Elbridge Gerry (President James Madison)
- Al Gore (President Bill Clinton)
UW was ranked #8 overall in best global universities and ended up in the top ten in the following ten subjects.
|#6||Molecular Biology and Genetics|
|#7||Social Sciences and Public Health|
|#8||Pharmacology and Toxicology|
UW has been known for its contribution to the US and global community during the pandemic because of UW’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). The IMHE is an independent global health research center at the UW and its COVID-19 forecasts are used regularly by the major US news media and the White House.
My Fascination with the Institutes of Higher Learning
I love to learn. I also love the university campus atmosphere. I have graduated from universities a few times and may consider going back again in the future. I’ve been always involved with local colleges and universities in my community, whether it’s earning a degree, attending conferences, teaching, speaking, or serving on their advisory boards. I love to read about the universities around the world and am fascinated by their history. I am also enthralled by the university libraries. I’ve never been to Harvard University, but I understand it has the largest academic library in the world, which consists of 70 libraries and about 19 million volumes. Wow! That’s so cool.
I also find the building architecture, especially of older campuses, captivating. It’s like walking through a museum of ancient history. Some campuses, like the UW, retain their fabulous Collegiate Gothic Architecture even today. Here’s a recent picture I took of the Suzzallo library in Seattle. It’s construction started in 1926 and it was opened in 1963.
Reading room at the Suzzallo library. Click to zoom in to see the finer details of the architecture.
I used to think that UW was very old because it was founded in 1861, until I learned more about the educational institutes around the world and discovered that Al-Azhar University (Egypt) was established in 970 AD. Now that’s old. University of Bologna (Italy) was founded in 1088, University of Oxford (UK) in 1096, and University of Cambridge (UK) in 1209. Now the oldest university in the US (Harvard, established in 1636) doesn’t seem very old to me. 🙂
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