Top Universities in the World

Top Universities in the world


The golden left shoe on John Harvard’s statue stands out as an odd contrast to the rest of him – all dark and somber. Apparently rubbing it is considered to be a source of inspiration and good luck.

And over a hundred year’s worth of students and tourists going at it has sanded its way through the top coat. After all, what man woman or child doesn’t know the power of Harvard.

That’s how influential a university’s brand can be. Enough to create mystical myths about their greatness. And this world has some pretty formidable ones whose popularity have a life of their own.

Stay tuned to find out the universities that top as the most respectable, popular, reputable, and worthwhile centers of education in the world.

What makes a university great?

Some commonly upheld factors among the top universities in the world are as follows:

Academic Reputation

How well are the teaching and research quality regarded in academic circles. These encapsulate reputation, learning environment, research productivity, and the various inputs that capture the essence of a well-rounded education center.

International Outlook

An institute that plays out its global reach has far more influence than local powerhouses, quite obviously.
How much worldwide attention does it attract comes from parameters that measure presence of international students and even staff.

A great university ensures that the best domestic and international students have the opportunity to learn from the best domestic and international faculties and collaborations.

Industry Reputation

What are the future prospects for students graduating from one of these universities? As well as how well does the industry consider the university for investing in research.

A combination of these parameters and more have been the subject of study by many ranking bodies. All things considered, here are some of the candidates out there for the best pickins’.

Top Universities in the world


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The alma mater to the fictional genius from Avengers – Tony Stark aka The Iron Man – has quite a few very real reasons for its super magnetic charm.

It has alumni of the likes of Buzz Aldrin, Richard Feynman, Kofi Annan, Raghuram Rajan, to name a few with nearly a 100 Nobel laureate affiliations.

Though not an Ivy League University, MIT has managed to create a league of its own.

Extremely competitive, with acceptance rate of less than 8%, it is best known for its Engineering, Computer Science, the core Sciences, Economics, and Media Lab which is famous for unconventional research interests.

Location: Massachusetts (USA)
Founded: 1861
Undergraduates: 4,600
Postgraduates: 7,000
Nobel Prize winners: 95
Total Endowment: $16.5 billion

Stanford University

The star of the west coast is the proud alma mater of nearly 75 billionaires in the world. And what’s more, the net worth of those money-minters is the highest any university in the world has ever produced. Think Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, John F Kennedy, Tiger Woods.

Stanford is also one of the most research friendly universities in the world. Since its origin, there have been 83 Nobel prizes associated with Stanford.

But not just in academics, Stanford also has a rich tradition of winners in each and every Olympic since the beginning of last century. One of the best universities in the world indeed.

Location: California (USA)
Founded: 1891
Undergraduates: 7,000
Postgraduates: 9.500
Nobel Prize winners: 83
Total Endowment: $26.5 billion

Read: How to get into Stanford University

University of Oxford

Established even before the times of Genghiz Khan, the University of Oxford is the second oldest university in the world in continuous operation.

Made up of many colleges, Oxford is as prestigious as they come. Oxford has received accolades for the largest contribution to leading academic journals thus highlighting its research stronghold.

Alumni include stalwarts like Oscar Wilde, Stephen Hawking, J R R Tolkien, T S Eliot, and our very own Mr.Bean, or his much smarter alter ego Rowan Atkinson.

Location: Oxford (UK)
Founded: 1096
Undergraduates: 12,000
Postgraduates: 12,000
Nobel Prize winners: 72
Total Endowment: $8 billion

Read how to get into the University of Oxford.

California Institute of Technology

One of the most respected names in Science and Engineering, all around the world, California Institute of Technology or Caltech is a phenomenal school.

It shares a strong traditional rivalry with MIT which is also equally lauded for its prowess in Science and Engineering. This rivalry though has had many comical outcomes thanks to the shrewd pranks played by each school on the other.

Caltech has a much smaller student body as compared to other institutes. But its combined intellect is enough to send many larger universities to run for their money.

There is a total of 74 Nobel affiliations with Linus Pauling the only laureate to have won two unshared Nobels in the history of Nobels. Phenomenal school indeed.

Location: California (USA)
Founded: 1891
Undergraduates: 1,000
Postgraduates: 1,300
Nobel Prize winners: 74
Total Endowment: $3 billion

Harvard University

Harvard! Need we say more. Undoubtedly one of the most reputed names in and out of academia.

8 US presidents have walked its dorms. Harvard also has the highest number of Nobel laureates in the world. There are 161 of them and counting. It is famous for Social Sciences, Mathematics, General Sciences, Law and Business majors.

But even beyond its excellent academic record, it is very active in sports, social clubs, and its library holds 17 million books. You see, you cannot go wrong with Harvard!

Location: Massachusetts (USA)
Founded: 1636
Undergraduates: 7,000
Postgraduates: 13,000
Nobel Prize winners: 161
Total Endowment: $41 billion

Read how to get into Harvard University.

University of Cambridge

Often in a stiff competition with none other than Oxford, the University of Cambridge is the other ancient still running university in the world. It houses the Cambridge University Press which is the world’s oldest publishing house.

Besides its impressive and second highest Nobel affiliations, there are a significant number of winners of the prestigious Fields Medal in Mathematics, Turing award in Computation and numerous Olympic medals.

Also, 14 British Prime Ministers and Cambridge share a common past, crowning it as a center of academic, athletic, and political influence.

Location: Cambridge (UK)
Founded: 1209
Undergraduates: 8,000
Postgraduates: 3,600
Nobel Prize winners: 120
Total Endowment: $8.2 billion

Read how to get into the University of Cambridge.

ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich is dedicated to science, engineering, mathematics and technology. And it is one of the most respected institutes in those fields, having alumni of the likes of Albert Einstein who did his PhD there.

Apart from Nobels, ETH is famous for Fields as well and the Turing award winners. It is known for its research excellence.

And of course it is known for its quirky engineering chops like making music with transformers and wheelchairs that climb the stairs! Plus there are the Swiss Alps to add to its charm.

Location: Zurich (Switzerland)
Founded: 1855
Undergraduates: 9,300
Postgraduates: 6,100
Nobel Prize winners: 32
Total Endowment: $2 billion

Princeton University

Princeton, a private Ivy League research university is home to Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists and Turing winners.

This is where Einstein taught after the World War. Princeton still has his cottage where he lived out his life.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, John F Kennedy, the father of Computer Alan Turing, and The Beautiful Mind’s John Nash are among its notable alumni, among others. And that includes Batman by the way.

Location: New Jersey (USA)
Founded: 1746
Undergraduates: 5,400
Postgraduates: 3,000
Nobel Prize winners: 68
Total Endowment: $26 billion

Read how to get into Princeton University.

Imperial College London

Birthplace of penicillin, holography, fibre optics, and the rock band Queen. The Imperial College London is the product of the vision of British royalty about 150 years ago.

ICL is a premier institute for Science, Engineering, Medicine and Business. It has many Nobel laureates, Fields medalists, and Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Medicine associated with it.

Considered to be one of world’s most innovative universities, it has the largest depository of brain tissue for research and a massively funded centre dedicated to Climate Change study.

Location: London (UK)
Founded: 1907
Undergraduates: 9,500
Postgraduates: 8,000
Nobel Prize winners: 20
Total Endowment: $1.3 billion

University of Chicago

Birthplace of the first nuclear fission that ultimately led to the Manhattan project and atom bomb, the University of Chicago is the epicenter of excellence in research and application. The university provides a unique access to Chicago’s massive job network as well.

And with neighbors like the Obamas and the gorgeous Lake Michigan next door, it is truly an experience to live and study here.

Location: Illinois (USA)
Founded: 1890
Undergraduates: 6,300
Postgraduates: 10,200
Nobel Prize winners: 100
Total Endowment: $8 billion

University College London

It was the first university in England built to admit students who were excluded from university education.
It was also the first in the country to admit women.

The University College London is a major competitor to the likes of Oxford Cambridge and other powerhouses in the world.

With many Nobel laureates and research award winners, it is now one of Britain’s most global universities attracting international students from all over, including Mahatma Gandhi and the Fathers of the Nation from two other countries.

Location: London (UK)
Founded: 1826
Undergraduates: 18,600
Postgraduates: 19,300
Nobel Prize winners: 33
Total Endowment: $153 billion

Yale University

Full of secret societies, century old traditions, and a major hub for future American CIA operatives. Yale boasts a history that dates it as the third oldest university in America.

Many Nobel laureates and other prestigious academic award winners have been proudly associated with Yale. So are billionaires, supreme court justices, and political hotshots including US presidents.

The two George Bush’s, Bill and Hillary Clintons, PepsiCo’s Indira Nooyi and the founder of Morgan Stanley are some of its notable alumni. A center of education and influence tidily rolled in one impressive institution.

Location: Connecticut (USA)
Founded: 1701
Undergraduates: 6,000
Postgraduates: 7,500
Nobel Prize winners: 31
Total Endowment: $29 billion

Read how to get into Yale University.

University of Pennsylvania

Founded by none other than the man whose face is the hundred dollar bill, Benjamin Franklin, came about even before America’s declaration of independence. In fact, its alumni include many who signed the declaration and its constitution.

Clearly, it has had a major influence in making the country as we know it. Even Trump has walked its hallways as a younger, full-haired, version of himself.

Famous, especially for its business school Wharton, it also has many Rhodes and Fulbright scholars, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners, CEOs and billionaires. Did we mention it is also where the first general purpose electronic computer was built?

Location: Pennsylvania (USA)
Founded: 1740
Undergraduates: 10,600
Postgraduates: 11,400
Nobel Prize winners: 17
Total Endowment: $15 billion

Columbia University

Built on the grounds of what formerly was an insane asylum, Columbia is the home to the famous literary award – the Pulitzer prize.

A first for many commendable feats, it is where the first medical degree was ever awarded in the United States, the first to develop FM Radio, laser, and the first ever student run gay rights group, it has also maintained its rank in the top for research, education, journalism, and sports.

It is conveniently located in New York City with access to excellent networking opportunities for jobs or otherwise. And its crowning jewels include Nobel winners, and various prestigious Science, Medicine, Architecture, and creative arts awards.

Both Teddy and Franklin D Roosevelt, the 26th and 32nd US Presidents, Barack Obama, its 44th, and B R Ambedkar are among its notable alumni, among others.

Location: New York (USA)
Founded: 1754
Undergraduates: 9,000
Postgraduates: 24,000
Nobel Prize winners: 96
Total Endowment: $11 billion

Read how to get into Columbia University.

Cornell University

Home to nearly a 1000 student bodies and secret clubs, Cornell came to be founded by visionaries Andrew Dickinson White and Ezra Cornell who is also the father of Western Union.

Full of Nobel laureates, Turing Award winners, Fields medalists, Rhodes scholars, Olympic medalists and a countless other title holders, it clearly has a rich history of intellectual and athletic pursuits.

It was founded on the principle of being an excellent resource for education in any field, a quality it still holds proudly.

Cornell happens to be the only public Ivy League university in America and has alumni you surely must have heard of.
Does Bill Nye the Science guy, Bill Maher, and Superman’s Christopher Reeve ring any bells?

Location: New York (USA)
Founded: 1865
Undergraduates: 15,200
Postgraduates: 8,500
Nobel Prize winners: 58
Total Endowment: $7.3 billion

Read how to get into Cornell University.

National University of Singapore

Irrelevant to its immensely popular status as one of Asia’s as well as the world’s best universities, the National University of Singapore has a ‘Hug-Me’ Coca Cola machine that dispenses said bottle when you hug it!

So, with your thirst adequately quenched, you can appreciate certain more relevant facts.

Despite its young age this research university has received accolades for its excellence in scientific research, medicine, its law and business programs.

It also hosts various interdisciplinary and inter-collegiate programs in collaboration with other stalwarts like Yale, Harvard and the University of Michigan.

Plus, its location in the cosmopolitan city-country of Singapore makes it one of the most favorite destinations for international students.

Location: Singapore (Singapore)
Founded: 1905
Undergraduates: 27,600
Postgraduates: 8,300
Total Endowment: $3 billion

Johns Hopkins University

Yes, there is an “s” at the end of John. A philanthropist, Johns Hopkins gave away a sum of $144 million in today’s dollars to establish a hospital and a university in 1876.

Quite a large amount even in these times, it led to the foundation of America’s first ever research university. With 39 Nobel laureates, it is currently NASA’s leading research fund recipient. The only US president with a PhD, Woodrow Wilson, was a Johns Hopkins graduate.

Pioneering in equal rights in all respects, the university enrolled African American students when it was still not readily accepted elsewhere.

This is also the same school that began accepting women to medical school on an equal footing, way back in 1892.

Location: Maryland (USA)
Founded: 1876
Undergraduates: 5,600
Postgraduates: 20,000 plus
Nobel Prize winners: 39
Total Endowment: $4.3 billion

Tsinghua University

Often referred to as the “MIT of China”, Tsing Hua University has recently overcome its moniker. It has now surpassed MIT in reputation as the best Engineering school in the world.

A leading research university in various disciplines, it has become a major attraction for international students.

Its budget, crossing $3.5 billion, is the largest in China. In fact, it is quite high even in Asia, placing Tsing Hua as a center of education committed to excel in research and education.

Location: Beijing (China)
Founded: 1911
Undergraduates: 15,600
Postgraduates: 19,300
Total Endowment: $1 billion

University of California Berkeley

The Free Speech Movement began on the steps of Berkeley in protest to political and academic censors on campus, back in the early 60s. Related to the Anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, it has shaped the current attitude of freedom of political views in the American society.

Besides its political influence, University of California Berkeley is a major hub for research, with connections to all major national laboratories in the US.

It claims the origin of the atomic bomb, the cyclotron and its contribution to the discovery of a major number of elements in the periodic table.

An extraordinary number of Nobel laureates, Fields medalists, Pulitzer award winners and over 200 Olympic medals crown its glory.

Location: California (USA)
Founded: 1868
Undergraduates: 39,000
Postgraduates: 11,700 plus
Nobel Prize winners: 107
Total Endowment: $4.6 billion

University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Alma Mater of the voice of Darth Vader, the University of Michigan has more than one reason to celebrate its fame.
Conferred the status as a Doctoral University with Very High Research, it has one of the largest annual research expenditures of about $1.5 billion dollars.

It also has a well-known college football team where former US president, Gerald Ford once played. Its notable alumni include Google’s Larry Page, Michael Phelps, and none other than Madonna!

Of course, beyond its pop iconic image, there are Nobels, Turings and Fields medals to boast as well.

Location: Michigan (USA)
Founded: 1817
Undergraduates: 30,000
Postgraduates: 16,200 plus
Nobel Prize winners: 25
Total Endowment: $12 billion

Duke University

Beating Harry Potter’s fantasy invisible cloak, scientists at Duke have actually managed to construct centimeter level invisibility.
But Duke itself is far from invisible to the world of academic athletic success. It has among the highest number of Rhodes, Truman and other academic scholars. Not to mention Nobel and Turing award winners.

Its notable alumni include Melinda Gates, Apple’s Tim Cook, US President Richard Nixon, journalist Charlie Rose and the Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein.

Location: North Carolina (USA)
Founded: 1838
Undergraduates: 7,000
Postgraduates: 9,000 plus
Nobel Prize winners: 15
Total Endowment: $8.5 billion

Do you see yourself strolling the hallways of one of these prestigious institutions of education?
At MBA Crystal Ball, our admission consultants have helped many applicants get into the top universities.
If you need professional help with your applications, drop us an email.

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How to get into the top universities in the world