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Think Big: The World's Top Universities

Oct 26, 2009

You already know that ''U.S. News and World Report'' publishes the leading rankings for American universities. Their popular lists include Best Colleges and Best Graduate Schools, broken down into categories like liberal arts colleges, national universities, engineering colleges, master's universities, law schools, business schools and medical schools. Now the magazine is weighing in on international education - they just published their second annual World's Best Universities listing.

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Top 5 Universities in the World

Love to travel? Looking for more information on studying abroad? U.S. News and World Report now has the perfect rankings for you. They just released their second annual World's Best Universities list, based on data from the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings. They used six basic criteria, variably weighted, to rank the best schools overall, by region and by subject. Here's how the criteria and their weights break down:

Ranking Indicator Weight Summary of Indicator
Academic Peer Review 40% Composite score from peer review survey. 2009 scores draw from three year 2007-2009 responses. This is the most important element of the U.S. News rankings.
Student to Faculty Ratio 20% Score based on the ratio of students to faculty members.
Citations Per Faculty Member 20% Score based on the faculty's research performance relative to the overall size of the research body.
Employer Review 10% Score drawn from 2007-2009 responses to a global online employer survey.
International Faculty 5% Score based on proportion of schools' faculty that's international.
International Students 5% Score based on the proportion of the student body that's international.

The magazine lists the top 200 schools worldwide ranked by the criterion above. We've given you a little more information about the top six (two schools tied for the #5 slot) here:

Harvard University campus

1. Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

American schools managed to stay on top of the list with Harvard. This legendary ivy league school received a perfect 100.0 score, only coming in low on the international faculty measure. Harvard is the oldest university in the U.S. - founded in 1636 - and currently shares the #1 spot in the U.S. News and World Report's top American colleges list with Princeton.

Cambridge campus

2. University of Cambridge, in Cambridge, England, UK

The British University of Cambridge came in a close second with a score of 99.6. One of the world's most well-respected and well-established schools, Cambridge is currently celebrating their 800 year anniversary (1209-2009). Their score was only brought down by a relatively low proportion of faculty citations.

Yale University campus

3. Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut, USA

The American ivy leagues come back strong with a 99.1 score for Yale. Like Harvard, they showed the most weakness in international diversity of faculty and student body. Founded in 1701, Yale is the third-oldest school in the U.S., and boasts five presidents, 19 Supreme Court justices and several heads of state among their alumni.

University College London campus

4. University College London, in London, England, UK

University College London, a constituent college of the University of London, scored an impressive 99.0, performing evenly across the board. The first university institution to be established in London (in 1826), UCL is widely considered to be one of the best schools in the United Kingdom. A British newspaper recently voted them 'University of the Year,' and they're very academically diverse: The school is particularly renowned for both its law school and its Slade School of Fine Art.

Imperial College London campus

5a. Imperial College London, in London, England, UK

The Imperial College London earned an overall score of 97.8, only dragged down by low faculty citations. With a full title of The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, the school is renowned for science, medicine, business and engineering. Their Institute of Biomedical Engineering recently won a prestigious Times Higher Education award for innovation and creativity.

Oxford campus

5b. University of Oxford, in Oxford, England, UK

Oxford tied the Imperial College with another 97.8 score, showing the same weakness in faculty citations. Oxford is another venerable British institution. It's founding date is unknown, but there's evidence of teaching at Oxford as far back as the 11th century, and the growth of the University is traced back to 1167 when King Henry II prohibited English students from attending the University of Paris. Oxford is the home of the prestigious Rhodes scholarship, which brings postgraduate students from other countries to study at the University of Oxford.

International Student

Top Universities By Region

As you can see above, the top of the world's best list is dominated by American and British universities. The list goes on in that manner, with the University of Chicago, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) rounding out the top 10. However, in spite of the English / American dominance at the top of the list, U.S. News and World Report did rank several schools from other countries quite highly. The top schools by region are:

Region Top School Overall Ranking
Continental Europe The top non-British school in the 'Britain & Europe' category is Switzerland's ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). 20
Canada McGill University in Montreal. 18
Australia & New Zealand Australian National University in Canberra, the federal capital city of Australia. 17
Asia The University of Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan. 22
The Middle East The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Jerusalem, Israel. 102


Sorted By Subject

Top Universities By Subject

If you're willing to go anywhere in the world to get the best education in your field, take note: another interesting way U.S. News and World Report broke down the World's Best Universities listing is by subject.

Subject #1 School #2 School #3 School
Arts & Humanities Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA University of Oxford in Oxford, England, UK University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, UK
Engineering & Information Technology Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, USA University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, CA, USA Stanford University in Stanford, CA, USA
Natural & Physical Sciences University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, UK Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA, USA University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, CA, USA
Life Sciences & Biomedicine Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, UK University of Oxford in Oxford, England, UK
Social Sciences Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA University of California at Berkeley in Berkeley, CA, USA University of Oxford in Oxford, England, UK
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