University rankings can focus on many different factors, including attractiveness of campus, satisfaction of students and alums, extracurricular benefits (such as top athletics programs), affordability of tuition, and expected income of graduates.
But if the focus is on academic prestige, scholarly excellence, and intellectual horsepower, this article provides the ranking you want. At the universities in this ranking, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with the brightest faculty and students in the world, developing your knowledge and skills so that you yourself will be in a position to join the world’s elite academics, scientists, and thinkers..
For this ranking, we looked to the Center for World-Class Universities operated by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (left). This center specializes in ranking universities around the world by academic performance.
Accordingly, we identified the 100 best universities in the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities, better known as the “Shanghai Ranking.” Taking the Shanghai Ranking as our point of departure, we researched the most important characteristics of each of the top 100 universities on the list in order to reveal why each university appears where it does.
See who makes the list—The 100 Best Universities in the World!How do American universities stack up against the competition overseas? Next to each university in our ranking is the country where the university resides. The country that you’ll find overwhelmingly represented is the United States. Indeed, over half of the world’s hundred best universities (52 to be exact) are in the U.S.
As you scan this list, you’ll notice some interesting things. Of the top ten universities in the world, the top eight are in the United States. Most of the Ivy League schools are on the list. Also, most of the University of California campuses are on this list as well.
To assist our readers in seeing how American universities compare to themselves, we also include, in brackets, the relative rankings of U.S. universities.
1Harvard University … [1st in U.S.]
(Cambridge, MA, USA)
Harvard University is the standard by which all other research universities are measured. No school has ever challenged its position as the world’s premier academic institution in the history of the Shanghai rankings.
Founded in 1636 (only 16 years after the Mayflower touched down at Plymouth Rock), Harvard is the oldest school in the world’s richest nation, and it has capitalized on the benefits this grants. Under manager Jack Meyer’s leadership, the school’s endowment fund grew from $4.6 billion to $25.8 billion in 15 years. Today, the university possesses over $36 billion, and its fortune is still growing.
But there is much more to Harvard than massive wealth. The school has produced 47 Nobel Laureates, 32 heads of state, and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners. It boasts the largest academic library in the world (Widener Library, home to some 6 million volumes), as well as leading medical, law, and business schools. It has an integrated alumni network that stretches around the globe.
It would be invidious to single out any of Harvard’s many academic departments for its excellence, for the school’s principal claim on the #1 position lies in the fact that it is at or very near the top in nearly every field across the entire spectrum of the sciences and the humanities!
Not only is Harvard dominant across a multitude of academic fields, it is also ideally situated to work alongside a variety of other schools. The most obvious example is MIT, but the greater Boston metropolitan area is also home to Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, Tufts, Brandeis, and several other research universities. This fact equips both students and faculty with endless opportunities for collaborative research.