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 best universities in the 2017 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 universities on the list in order to reveal why each university appears where it does.
It’s six years in a row at the top for MIT, with the US university continuing to show everyone else how its done. At the heart of its incredible record in our rankings is an extremely strong reputation among both fellow academics and employers, as well as the fact MIT is responsible for an impressive number of academic citations per faculty.
2. Stanford University
There’s no change at number two either, with the Silicon Valley-based Stanford University continuing to hold off the challenge from Harvard. Stanford goes toe-to-toe with MIT in multiple of the indicators used to compile the rankings (more details are available here), but loses ground because of the university’s low international student ratio.
3. Harvard University
Having been second two years ago, Harvard is now cemented in third place in the rankings. The US university can at least take comfort from the fact it’s ranked best in the world for its reputation among academics surveyed for this ranking, a title it retains from previous years.
4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Our first mover and shaker in the top 10 is Caltech, which rises one place from last year. At the heart of this improvement is a particularly good student to faculty ratio and an impressive number of citations produced per faculty.
5. University of Cambridge
Finally! After a clean sweep for the US in the top four, we eventually reach a university from another country. Cambridge was fourth last year so won’t be entirely happy with their slip down the ladder. It’s not all bad news though: the UK university is ranked best in the world for employer reputation and can at least enjoy bragging rights over a certain rival. Speaking of which…
6. University of Oxford
Still in sixth and still behind their arch-rivals Cambridge, the University of Oxford still has some ground to make up if they want to be the best in Britain. It does out-perform Cambridge in its ratio of international students and international faculty though, so maybe they can brag about that for the next year?
7. UCL (University College London)
Three UK universities in a row and it’s another non-mover from last year, suggesting fears British universities would suffer because of Brexit may have been overblown (for now). UCL has one of the most internationally diverse student bodies in the world.
8. Imperial College London
Climbing up the rankings one place is another London university, Imperial. The university is particularly well-regarded for its scientific and technical teaching, as well as its business school.
9. University of Chicago
It’s back to the US for ninth-placed University of Chicago, an improvement of one place from last year’s ranking. The university enjoys a particularly strong score for its reputation among academics.
10. ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology)
The UK-US duopoly is finally broken by the Swiss, and 10th-placed ETH Zurich. The university has fallen two places since last year and is let down by a poor student to faculty ratio, but out-performs at least one of the universities above it in every other category.
Top universities in the world by location
Obviously, the above top ten isn’t much use if studying in the UK, US or Switzerland either doesn’t interest you or isn’t practical. Fortunately for you, we’ve also rounded up the best university from each of the other 81 countries included in this year’s ranking. Find a top university near to you in the list below.
Argentina: Universidad de Buenos Aires – ranked 75th
Australia: Australian National University (ANU) – ranked 20th
Austria: Universität Wien – ranked 154th
Azerbaijan: Khazar University – ranked 701-750
Bahrain: Arabian Gulf University – ranked 411-420
Bangladesh: University of Dhaka – ranked 701-750
Belarus: Belarus State University – ranked joint 334th
Belgium: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven – ranked joint 71st
Brazil: Universidade de São Paulo (USP) – ranked 121st
Brunei Darussalam: University of Brunei Darussalam – ranked joint 349th
Bulgaria: Sofia University “St. Kliment Ohridski” – ranked 701-750
Canada: University of Toronto – ranked 31st
Chile: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile – ranked joint 137th
China: Tsinghua University – ranked 25th
Colombia: Universidad Nacional de Colombia – ranked joint 254th
Costa Rica: Universidad de Costa Rica – ranked 411-420
Croatia: University of Zagreb – ranked 601-650
Cuba: Universidad de la Habana – ranked 601-650
Czech Republic: Charles University – ranked joint 314th
Denmark: University of Copenhagen – ranked joint 73rd
Ecuador: Universidad de San Francisco de Quito – ranked 701-750
Egypt: American University in Cairo – ranked joint 395th
Estonia: University of Tartu – ranked joint 314th
Finland: University of Helsinki – ranked joint 102nd
France: Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (ENS Paris) – ranked 43rd
Germany: Technische Universität München – ranked 64th
Ghana: University of Ghana – ranked 801-1000
Greece: National Technical University of Athens – ranked 401-410
Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong (HKU) – ranked 26th
Hungary: University of Szeged – ranked 501-550
India: Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) – ranked 172nd
Indonesia: University of Indonesia – ranked joint 277th
Iran: Sharif University of Technology – ranked 471-480
Iraq: University of Baghdad – ranked 501-550
Israel: Hebrew University of Jerusalem – ranked 145th
Italy: Politecnico di Milano – ranked 170th
Japan: University of Tokyo – ranked joint 28th
Jordan: University of Jordan – ranked 551-600
Kazakhstan: Al-Farabi Kazakh National University – ranked joint 236th
Kenya: University of Nairobi – ranked 801-1000
Kuwait: Kuwait University – ranked 651-700
Latvia: Riga Technical University – ranked 651-700
Lebanon: American University of Beirut (AUB) – ranked 235th
Lithuania: Vilnius University – ranked 401-410
Macao, S.A.R., China: University of Macau – ranked 501-550
Malaysia: Universiti Malaya (UM) – ranked joint 114th
Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) – ranked joint 122nd
Morocco: Université Mohammed V de Rabat – ranked 801-1000
Netherlands: Delft University of Technology – ranked 54th
New Zealand: University of Auckland – ranked joint 82nd
Norway: University of Oslo – ranked joint 142nd
Oman: Sultan Qaboos University – ranked 451-460
Pakistan: National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Islamabad – ranked 431-440
Palestine: Birzeit University – ranked 801-1000
Peru: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú – ranked 431-440
Philippines: University of the Philippines – ranked joint 367th
Poland: University of Warsaw – ranked 411-420
Portugal: University of Porto – ranked joint 301st
Puerto Rico: Universidad de Puerto Rico – ranked 801-1000
Qatar: Qatar University – ranked joint 349th
Republic of Ireland: Trinity College Dublin (TCD) – ranked 88th
Romania: University of Bucharest – ranked 701-750
Russia: Lomonosov Moscow State University – ranked joint 95th
Saudi Arabia: King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) – ranked joint 173rd
Serbia: University of Belgrade – ranked 801-1000
Singapore: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) – ranked 11th
Slovakia: Comenius University in Bratislava – ranked 701-750
Slovenia: University of Ljubljana – ranked 651-700
South Africa: University of Cape Town – ranked 191st
South Korea: Seoul National University (SNU) – ranked joint 36th
Spain: Universitat de Barcelona (UB) – ranked 156th
Sri Lanka: University of Colombo – ranked 751-800
Sweden: Lund University – ranked joint 78th
Taiwan: National Taiwan University (NTU) – ranked joint 76th
Thailand: Culalongkorn University – ranked joint 245th
Turkey: Bilkent University – ranked 421-430
Uganda: Makerere University – ranked 801-1000
Ukraine: V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University – ranked 401-410
United Arab Emirates: United Arab Emirates University – ranked 390th
Uruguay: Universidad de Montevideo – ranked 501-550
Venezuela: Universidad Católica Andrés Bello (UCAB) and Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) – both ranked 651-700