University Ranking: Top universities in the world

Best universities in USA, Europe, Asia, Australia

The concept of using certain parameters to list universities in a ranking order began way back in the early 1900s. Back then, they focused on the outcome and the number of eminent men who graduated from specific institutions. The process, over time, graduated to include peer-reviews, and reputation, to the current methodologies that encompass a combination of alumni perspectives, recruiter opinions, academician reviews, research quality etc.

There are many global and regional university ranking bodies, around the world, and each ranking uses its own methodology to stand apart from the others, striving to find the right mixture of factors that best represent the interests of the students.

On an average, as many as nearly 20 million students head to college for their undergraduate studies. Universities reap in an average of nearly $20,000 for tuition fees in public universities and about $45,000 in private universities, in the US alone.

The main purpose of such rankings is to inform students the worthiness of their investment in education, from past record. (A) What are the qualities of the university that would make their education reap benefit for the future? (B) How would they compare this quality between various universities?


How to use Rankings for Undergraduate Studies?

The system of university rankings is not above criticism. There are opponents to the methodologies that rely heavily on research rather than teaching quality. A lot of these methodologies rely on academician and scholar reviews who rate the research output. Even research citations and teacher to student ratio directly measure the attention to research output of a university.

Moreover, smaller institutes are usually at a disadvantage and most students don’t get information about department specific listings. Teaching quality may not be satisfactorily represented in the rankings. Many methodologies are, however, adopting means to counteract these drawbacks.

One can view these rankings as a starting point to refine their research into their choice of universities for pursuing their higher education.
The other factors to consider are location, cost of education, and future education or career goals. To that effect, read the following articles.


World University Rankings for 2019 – 2020

There are quite a few well-known university ranking schemes in the internet-verse. Among the many different ranking lists available, certain names pop out as the more popular goto sites for obtaining a quick glimpse of which university stands where, in the general scheme of reputation.

Some of them are – QS World University Rankings, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, US News & World Report’s Best Global University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities compiled by Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, Princeton Review, and many more.

There are also region-specific rankings available like the National Institutional Ranking Framework provisioned by the Government of India for ranking higher education institutes in India. Similar rankings are issued by the European Commission for universities under the European Union. Germany, Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland subscribe to the CHE university Rankings and its various flavours.

In this page, we have collated the lists from two of the popular global university rankings – QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Here are their methodologies.
QS World University Rankings: It has been published by Quacquarelli Symonds, since 2004, and is one of the most recognized world university rankings. It uses peer reviewed data from scholars and recruiters, research citations per faculty, faculty to student ratio, and international student population. More on its methodology in the references section below.
Times Higher Education World University Rankings: THE, a British publication, began its journey, in 2004, with QS but broke off in 2009 to publish its own world university rankings with Reuters. Its methodology includes Teaching (learning environment) through reputation survey, staff to student ratio, degrees awarded, and institutional income. Research is measured through publications, research income, citations, and reputation survey. Global impact is measured using international collaborations, and student/staff populations. And finally, industry income forms the basis of quantifying the knowledge transfer.

Asian and Australian Universities in Global University Rankings (Overall)

University Country QS World University Ranking (2018) THE World University Ranking (2018)
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Singapore 11 52
National University of Singapore (NUS) Singapore 15 22
Australian National University Australia 20 48
Tsinghua University China 25 30
The University of Hong Kong Hong Kong 26 40
The University of Tokyo Japan 28 46
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong 30 44
Kyoto University Japan 36 74
Seoul National University South Korea 36 74
Peking University China 38 27
Fudan University China 40 116
University of Melbourne Australia 41 32
KAIST Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology South Korea 41 95
The University of New South Wales Australia 45 85
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Hong Kong 46 58
The University of Queensland Australia 47 65
The University of Sydney Australia 50 61
Tokyo Institute of Technology Japan 56 251-300
Monash University Australia 60 80
Shanghai Jiao Tong University China 62 188
Osaka University Japan 63 201-250
Pohang University of Science and Technology South Korea 71 137


European Universities in Global University Rankings(Overall)

University Country QS World University Ranking (2018) THE World University Ranking (2018)
University of Cambridge UK 5 2
University of Oxford UK 6 1
University College London UK 7 NA
Imperial College London UK 8 8
ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland 10 10
EcolePolytechniqueFederale de Lausanne Switzerland 12 38
The University of Edinburgh UK 23 27
King’s College London UK 23 36
The University of Manchester UK 34 54
London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) UK 35 25
EcoleNormaleSuperieure France 43 182
University of Bristol UK 44 76
Delft University of Technology Netherlands 54 63
The University of Warwick UK 57 91
University of Amsterdam Netherlands 58 59
EcolePolytechnique France 59 115
Technical University of Munich Germany 64 41
University of Glasgow UK 65 80
Ludwig MaximiliansUniversitatMunchen Germany 66 34
RuprechtKarlsUniversitat Heidelberg Germany 68 45
KU Leuven Belgium 71 47
University of Copenhagen Denmark 73 109
University of Zurich Switzerland 73 136


North American Universities in Global University Rankings(Overall)

University Country QS World University Ranking (2018) THE World University Ranking (2018)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA 1 5
Stanford University USA 2 3
Harvard University USA 3 6
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) USA 4 3
University of Chicago USA 9 9
Princeton University USA 13 7
Cornell University USA 14 19
Yale University USA 16 12
Johns Hopkins University USA 17 13
Columbia University USA 18 14
University of Pennsylvania USA 19 10
Duke University USA 21 17
University of Michigan USA 21 21
University of California, Berkeley (UCB) USA 27 18
Northwestern University USA 28 20
University of Toronto Canada 31 22
McGill University Canada 32 42
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) USA 33 15
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) USA 38 31
Carnegie Mellon University USA 47 24
University of British Columbia Canada 51 34
New York University (NYU) USA 52 27
Brown University USA 53 50
University of Wisconsin Madison USA 55 43
University of Washington USA 61 25
University of Texas at Austin USA 67 49
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign USA 69 37
Georgia Institute of Technology USA 70 33


Subject Specific University Rankings

Though nearly impossible to list the rankings for each subject, we have reflected the subject specific rankings, here, for Engineering, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Life Sciences.

Here is a list of some of the best universities in the following broad subject areas.

Best Universities in the world for Sciences – Natural Sciences

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • University of Cambridge
  • Stanford University
  • University of Oxford
  • Harvard University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • ETH Zurich
  • The University of Tokyo
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • Imperial College London

Also read List of STEM degree programs in the US

Best Universities in the world for Arts and Humanities

  • University of Oxford
  • Harvard University
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Stanford University
  • Yale University
  • Princeton University
  • The University of Tokyo
  • Columbia University
  • University College London


Best Universities in the world for Social Sciences

  • Harvard University
  • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Cambridge
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • National University of Singapore
  • The University of Melbourne
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • The University of Hong Kong


Best Universities in the world for Engineering and Technology

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Stanford University
  • University of Cambridge
  • ETH Zurich
  • Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
  • Imperial College London
  • National University of Singapore
  • The University of Tokyo
  • University of Oxford
  • Tsinghua University


Best Universities in the world for Life Sciences & Medicine

  • Harvard University
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Oxford
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Stanford University
  • Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
  • University College London
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, San Francisco

Also read

Clearly, there is a lot of drill down that we are unable to proceed with in the capacity of this article. However, if you have sufficiently familiarized yourself with the structure of college rankings, you should be able to figure out your best match using information on particular ranking methodologies and your specific subject choice.

We hope you have a fruitful search and an even more rewarding education journey ahead of you.

Good Luck.

Some related links.
How to get into Harvard University
How to get into Yale University
How to get into Stanford University
How to get into Columbia University
How to get into Oxford University
How to get into Cornell University
Choice between Harvard/Stanford or Oxford/Cambridge – How would you decide?

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7