The Most Influential Universities in the World Today
True influence is embodied by the professors and students who make lasting contributions to their fields, professions, and the world at large. The most influential universities throughout history are those which - through the excellence and achievement of their most noteworthy students, alumni and educators - have had the most profound impact on our collective knowledge across time, space, and discipline. Read on to learn more about the most influential universities in the world today.
What are the most influential universities in the world? Which schools have had the most profound impact on the academic landscape, and on the world at large? And what exactly makes a university so influential?
True influence is created by innovative professors and elite students, by the individuals who have made lasting contributions to their universities, their professions, and to civilization. The most influential universities throughout history are those whose students, alumni and educators have achieved the greatest degree of influence across the widest range of disciplines and time periods.
AcademicInfluence.com quantifies this influence, using machine learning and human quality control to provide an objective and dynamic ranking of the world’s universities. Our Influence Ranking algorithm (IRTM) is based on the influence of the individuals who have taught and learned at each institution. The following ranking of the most influential universities in the world spotlights the U.S. Presidents and Oscar-winning actors, the Supreme Court Justices and Nobel Laureates, the philosophers and chemists who have elevated their schools and left a lasting influence on the world. Our ranking engine identifies influential faculty and alumni associated with schools as well as with specific degree programs, departments, and disciplines. The result is both an illuminating look at the categorical impact of elite universities like Harvard and Columbia and a well-deserved spotlight on highly influential public universities like the University of Iowa and the University of Illinois.
Read on for a dynamic and objective ranking of schools that have produced the most widely-cited faculty and students across time — The 50 Most Influential Universities in the World Today.
NOTE: Celebrated, pioneering thinkers are highly sought-after commodities, which is why the competition for them among universities can be stiff. It is also why the top people in a given academic discipline tend to move around a lot — which, in turn, explains why many of the names mentioned below show up more than once, in association with multiple universities.
For a look at the most influential universities today or to rank universities for a specific set of years, visit our Custom College Ranking tool.
See also: The Richest Schools in North America
THE 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL UNIVERSITIES IN THE WORLD TODAY
1. Harvard University
Harvard University is almost universally acclaimed as the world’s most prestigious university. There is little doubt that its towering reputation is well earned.
For starters, some 150 Nobel laureates have either studied or taught at the school — more than at any other university in the world.
Moreover, over 40 international heads of state or government have passed through its gates. Of these, eight were US Presidents (the most of any college or university):
- John Adams
- John Quincy Adams
- Rutherford B. Hayes
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Franklin D. Roosevelt
- John F. Kennedy
- George W. Bush
- Barack Obama
2. University of London
An institution of higher education named University College London (UCL) was founded in the UK’s largest metropolis and capital city in 1826. A mere three years later, in 1829, a second, similar institution named King’s College London (KCL) opened its doors. Then, a mere decade after the founding of UCL, a third institution known simply as University of London (UL) was founded in 1836 by the merger of UCL and KCL.
Both UCL and KCL continued to operate, each with its own distinctive identity, under the UL administrative umbrella, and have continued to do so until today. However, over the years many other institutions have joined what has now become a vast educational conglomerate (resembling in this respect the University of Paris). Altogether, UL at present comprises some 17 semi-autonomous universities, colleges, schools, and institutes.
3. Stanford University
Stanford University was founded by Leland Stanford, a wealthy railroad magnate and erstwhile US Senator from California, as well as a former Governor of the Golden State. He placed the university in an unincorporated area about 30 miles south of San Francisco, adjacent to the town of Palo Alto (which he also founded). The campus lies in what is now known as Silicon Valley, which contributes greatly to the immense intellectual and economic influence of the private, research university that still bears the Stanford family name. Today, Stanford University is perhaps the closest thing to a true Ivy League school on the West Coast.
The university can claim more than 80 Nobel laureates among its alumni and its full-time or visiting faculty, including:
- Carl Wieman in physics
- Roger Kornberg in chemistry
- Thomas Südhof in physiology or medicine
- Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz in economics
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded shortly before the American Civil War and universally known as “MIT,” is located just across the Charles River from downtown Boston. Starting from the MIT campus, if you walk, cycle, or drive in a westerly direction along Massachusetts Avenue (“Mass Ave,” to the locals), or ride the Red Line underneath it, you soon arrive at Harvard Square, with the bulk of the town of Cambridge sandwiched in between. Thus, MIT is not unlike a bookend paired with Harvard, geographically speaking, and academically speaking, as well, it looks upon itself very much as the equal of the older school.
The main difference, of course, is MIT’s greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. This may be seen, above all, in the whopping 96 Nobel Laureates associated with the school, including such stellar names in physics as:
5. Columbia University
Columbia is the eleventh-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. After New Jersey founded its college (now Princeton University) in 1746, New Yorkers, not wishing to be outdone, established their own college just eight years later. Its original name was King’s College.
However, following the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and George Washington’s final victory at Yorktown in 1781, King George III found himself in bad odor throughout the former colonies. So, in 1784 King’s College was formally rechristened in honor of Christopher Columbus. (With that doughty explorer being in equally bad odor today, a second rebranding sometime soon would not surprise us.)
6. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California (UC) was founded by state charter in 1868. Its first operating facility was created through a merger with the private, religiously based College of California, which had been established in 1855 in the city of Oakland, directly across the bay from San Francisco. The College of California itself had grown out of Contra Costa Academy, a private boys’ school already functioning in Oakland since 1853. For historical context, recall that California had achieved statehood just three years earlier, in 1850, and the height of the famous Gold Rush (“the ’49ers”) had come the year before that.
At the time of the merger, the regents of the College of California had already purchased land in an unincorporated area immediately to the north of Oakland, with a view to future expansion. UC began operation in 1868 at the old location while ground was being broken and a new town built at the new one. The transfer of UC from Oakland to the new site occurred in 1873. The new town was dubbed “Berkeley” after George Berkeley, the celebrated idealist philosopher and Anglican Bishop of Cloyne, County Cork, in Ireland (note, however, that the philosopher’s name is pronounced as though it were written “Barclay”). In this way, the lofty ideals of the new university were sharply distinguished from the feverish gold-grubbing going on all around it.
7. Yale University
Yale was originally founded under the name of Collegiate School by Connecticut Colony in 1701. It is the fourth-oldest institution of higher learning in the US, after Harvard, the College of William & Mary (in Williamsburg, Virginia), and St. John’s College (in Annapolis, Maryland). Called the “Collegiate School,” its original mission was to train future ministers for the Congregational Church.
Yale is known as an all-around powerhouse, not unlike Harvard, with strength in a wide variety of fields. For one thing, five US presidents have passed through Yale, the second-highest number after Harvard. Three of them attended as undergraduates (Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush), while two attended Yale Law School (Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton).
8. Princeton University
Although only the ninth-oldest university in the country, Princeton is one of the most historic. Originally founded as the College of New Jersey, the school’s sixth presidents, the Scottish theologian and educator John Witherspoon, signed the Declaration of Independence — the only college leader to do so. The next year, George Washington’s colonials dealt a small but significant blow to Lord Cornwallis’s superior forces at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777. The victories at the earlier Battle of Trenton and at Princeton had an important positive effect on American morale, leading to increased enlistments in Washington’s army.
Princeton has pursued a different strategy over the years from its Ivy League confrères. For example, it has no law school, medical school, or business school. It has only loose academic connections to the nearby Princeton Theological Seminary and Institute for Advanced Study. In spite of its seemingly narrow focus on the arts and sciences to the detriment of professional training, Princeton nevertheless maintains a towering reputation for the cutting-edge academic research of its faculty, as well as for their teaching prowess (all professors are expected to teach undergraduates). Perhaps due to this focus, Princeton has also developed a reputation for academic “toughness,” resisting the grade inflation trend rampant elsewhere in American academia and insuring a challenging intellectual experience to even its very best incoming students.
9. University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is one of the foremost universities in the world academically, albeit one of the youngest in that august company. In spite of its relatively recent founding, the school has been associated with some of the world’s most important scientific achievements, above all, the first controlled, self-sustaining, nuclear chain reaction (atomic fission), which was achieved in late 1942 by a team led by the legendary Italian physicist, Enrico Fermi, in a laboratory beneath a football field on the Chicago campus.
In another first, in 1952 then-graduate student Stanley Miller, with the assistance of his adviser, the distinguished University of Chicago chemist Harold Urey, demonstrated that organic molecules such as amino acids can be artificially produced in vitro from only inorganic precursor compounds. It is also worth noting that James D. Watson, the co-discover with Francis Crick of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule at the University of Cambridge — also in 1952 — completed his undergraduate education at Chicago.
10. University of Cambridge
Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world (or, at least, in Europe, not to prejudge the claims of several Islamic institutions to that title).
It was founded only a little more than a century after the University of Bologna (1088) and the University of Oxford (1096) — which are the oldest and second-oldest universities in Europe — and about half a century after the University of Paris (1150). Cambridge is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world, after Oxford.
11. New York University
As the cultural mecca of the US, New York City naturally contains many fine colleges and universities. One of the very best is New York University (NYU), located in Washington Square in Lower Manhattan’s Greenwich Village neighborhood. While NYU is a quintessentially urban school lacking a conventional, pastoral college campus setting, its site is immediately recognizable thanks to Washington Square Arch, which is a replica of the ancient Roman Arch of Titus and very similar in appearance to Paris’s celebrated Arc de Triomphe (though only half its size).
One of the principal founders of NYU was Albert Gallatin, president of the National Bank of New York, former US diplomat, and Secretary of the Treasury under Thomas Jefferson. At the center of Gallatin’s vision for NYU was that the school would accept students from a wider variety of social and family backgrounds, thus making a college education available to young men who showed outstanding academic or personal merit.
12. Cornell University
Cornell University was founded in turbulent times. With the Civil War winding down, and less than two weeks after President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the Governor of New York signed the school’s official charter in the state capital, Albany, where only the day before Lincoln’s funeral procession had passed through the city’s streets.
Two men were behind the drive to establish a first-class university in upstate New York: wealthy businessman Ezra Cornell, the founder of Western Union, who was originally from Ithaca (where the new school was to be located), and Andrew Dickson White, a prominent historian and educator, who hailed from nearby Syracuse. Later on, White would be best remembered as the author of A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), and from the beginning he envisioned Cornell as a rigorously secular institution with a special emphasis on the natural sciences.
13. University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world, which affords it an aura of awe and respect that no amount of money can buy.
If Cambridge was preeminent in the analytical philosophy tradition during the twentieth century, Oxford was far more important for the Scholastic philosophical tradition during the High Middle Ages. For example, the great Scottish metaphysician John Duns Scotus (his name means, roughly, “John, of the village of Duns, in Scotland”) was in residence here during the 1290s, and again briefly between 1302 and 1304, between stays at the University of Paris. He fell out of favor in Paris, though, ending his days in Cologne.
14. University of Michigan
The flagship campuses of many of the state university systems have superb faculties and excellent academic reputations. However, setting aside Berkeley as a special case, by our criteria the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is the most distinguished of all these many fine institutions. That is, Michigan has a strong claim to be considered (after Berkeley) the best public research university in the US.
One thing in Michigan’s favor is its sheer size (more than 46,000 students and 6,000 academic staff members) and corresponding wealth (an annual research budget of around $1.5 billion). Administratively, the university is subdivided into 17 schools and colleges offering some 600 undergraduate and graduate major programs.
15. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (commonly known as “Penn”) is a leading private research university (note that nearly all US universities named after their state are public-supported — Penn is an exception to this rule).
The sixth-oldest institution of higher learning in the country, Penn was the brain child of American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who also served as its first president. Franklin’s educational ideas were highly innovative for the time, inclining more towards the teaching of practical skills and preparation for the learned professions, in contrast to the traditional curriculum based on the Classical languages, literature, and history, which aimed primarily to produce ministers and “gentlemen.”
16. University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) is the fourth-oldest school in the 10-campus University of California System. Having begun as a modest, two-year teacher training program, it has grown into the largest of all UC campuses today, with a student body slightly in excess of that of the flagship campus, UC-Berkeley.
UCLA also receives more than 72,000 admission applications annually, making it the most sought-after university in the nation. It is subdivided into six undergraduate colleges, 11 professional schools (four of which are health-related).
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the university from the point of view of curriculum is its highly esteemed School of Theater, Film and Television, which functions as a sort of feeder school for the gigantic Hollywood film industry. Well-known actors like:
17. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins was designed from its origin to contribute to the cutting edge of scientific discovery. With time, this goal has been fully achieved, leading to the top-tier research institution that the university is today. The school is named after its founding benefactor, the entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins, who contributed $7 million (approximately $145 million in today’s money) to create both the university and an associated hospital.
The educational philosophy of Hopkins (who had also been a noted abolitionist) and the university’s first president, the distinguished educator Daniel Coit Gilman, was heavily influenced by the model of the recently established German research universities, especially Heidelberg University, which had pioneered the concept of an arts and sciences graduate school analogous to the traditional professional schools for divinity, law, and medicine. For this reason, Johns Hopkins is often referred to as the first “research university” in the United States.
18. Northwestern University
The founding of Northwestern University was spearheaded by the physician and politician John Evans, for whom the town of Evanston, Illinois, is named. The school is a private institution whose campus lies along Lake Michigan, just north of Chicago.
Northwestern was originally intended to serve the needs of the geographical area corresponding to the former Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota) — hence the school’s name.
The university is particularly renowned for its many distinguished professional schools, including the:
19. University of Toronto
The University of Toronto received its royal charter in 1827 from King George IV. Originally known as King’s College, it was the first institution of higher learning in the colonial Province of Upper Canada (consisting of mostly what is now southern Ontario).
King’s College was a religious institution, operating under the auspices of the Church of England. In 1850, the university was transferred to a secular administration, at which time it also assumed its present name.
Today, the university comprises 11 schools at its principal location in downtown Toronto’s Queen’s Park neighborhood, as well as two satellite campuses.
20. Duke University
Duke began life as Brown’s Schoolhouse, on a site in what is now the town of Trinity in Randolph County, North Carolina, a little over 70 miles west of its current location in the city of Durham.
The small school experienced rapid growth in the years leading up to the Civil War, and underwent a succession of name changes: to Union Institute Academy (1841), Normal College (1851), and Trinity College (1859). In its cultural roots, the Methodist and Quaker faiths both loom large.
Finally, in 1892 the still-growing college was gifted with a major endowment from the wealthy tobacco entrepreneur, philanthropist, and devout Methodist, Washington Duke. It was at this time that its location was transferred to Durham.
21. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California (USC) was founded as the first private research university in the state (five years before Stanford) largely through the efforts of Judge Robert Widney, one of the most prominent citizens of Los Angeles at that time.
Widney’s vision was of an inclusive institution that would serve all sectors of the already-diverse LA community. Accordingly, the board of trustees he assembled included a wealthy Protestant businessman, a Catholic former-governor, and a Jewish banker. While USC was officially affiliated with the Methodist church during its early years, from the beginning its charter provided that no student would be denied admission on the basis of race.
22. University of California San Diego
The University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) was founded in 1956. (For the earlier history of the UC system, see the article on UC Berkeley.) At the same time, the pre-existing San Diego-based Scripps Institution of Oceanography was attached to the new university.
The university is organized into seven residential undergraduate colleges and four academic divisions. In addition, there are seven graduate and professional schools, and 19 specialized research units, not to mention a respected medical school and an extensive system of university-sponsored public healthcare facilities.
23. California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology (universally known as “Caltech”) is located in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena. It was originally founded as a vocational school, but took on the complexion of an institute at the cutting edge of scientific discovery quite early in its history.
The inflection point probably came with the move of Alfred Amos Noyes from MIT (where he had been serving as acting-President) to Caltech in 1919. Noyes, who had studied chemistry under Wilhelm Ostwald at the University of Leipzig, taught chemistry at Caltech for 17 years, until his death in 1936.
During his tenure at Caltech — which assumed its present name in 1921 — Noyes was responsible for revising the science curriculum in line with the latest advances in Germany, whose universities were the best in the world at that time. Noyes was also very active in institution-building at the national level (he was one of the founders of the National Research Council) and in recruiting both distinguished older and promising younger science faculty for Caltech.
24. Carnegie Mellon University
In 1900, the Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, donated the funds to establish a vocational college called the Carnegie Technical Schools. In 1912, the Technical Schools’ name was changed to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT).
Carnegie based CIT in Pittsburgh, where he had worked as a messenger boy for the Ohio Telegraph Company not long after arriving with his family in the US. By the turn of the twentieth century, that thriving industrial city had become the main base of operations for Carnegie’s vast steel factories. CIT’s site was adjacent to that of the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.
25. University of Manchester
With more than 40,000 students, Manchester is the largest single-site university in the United Kingdom. While it traces its roots back to the Manchester Mechanics’ Institute founded in 1824, the present university was formed by the merger of University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and Victoria University of Manchester in 2004.
Manchester can boast of some 25 Nobel laureates (including four who are on staff today) among its faculty and students, including such great physicists as J.J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Niels Bohr, and Hans Bethe. In fact, it was at Victoria University of Manchester, in 1911, that Rutherford performed one of the most celebrated experiments in the history of science.
26. Boston University
Boston University (universally known as “BU”) traces its roots to a Methodist Church training college, the Newbury Biblical Institute, founded in Newbury, Vermont, by a group of Boston-based Methodist ministers and elders. Ten years later, in 1849, the school was transferred to the much larger town (and state capital) of Concord, New Hampshire, where it operated as the Concord Biblical Institute for 20 more years. Finally, in 1869, it moved again, this time to Boston itself, under the new name of the Boston Theological Institute.
Just two years after that, in 1871, the school’s name was changed one last time — to Boston University. BU was built up piecemeal over a period of many years, in several different Boston locations, including the Beacon Hill and Copley Square neighborhoods. It only came to occupy its present main campus — in the Back Bay neighborhood along the south bank of the Charles River across from MIT — during the 1930s.
27. University of Edinburgh
In spite of dating back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the University of Edinburgh is only the fourth-oldest university in Scotland (after St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen), hence the sixth-oldest in the English-speaking world (with Oxford and Cambridge, of course, in first and second positions).
As the city of Edinburgh itself grew in importance, however, its university also came to dominate its Scottish rivals. That is why, for such a relatively “young” university, Edinburgh is associated with a quite remarkable list of intellectual luminaries, including the following, including, during the seventeenth century, the well-known Presbyterian theologian, Samuel Rutherford.
28. University of Texas
By rights, the University of Texas (known within Texas itself as “UT,” for short) ought to be 40 years older than it is. In 1839, the Republic of Texas officially set aside 40 acres of prime real estate in the center of the new country’s capital city, Austin, as the site for the campus of a national university. The Texas Congress also granted 288,000 acres of land, mainly in the western regions of the Republic, as a financial endowment for the future university.
Much later, oil was discovered beneath a lot of that land. As a result, UT’s endowment is now worth a little more than $30 billion, making the school by far the wealthiest public university in the country. Indeed, among all American universities, UT is second only to Harvard (see above) in the size of its endowment.
29. Imperial College London
The origins of Imperial College London (ICL) can be traced back to the Royal College of Chemistry, founded in 1845. In 1853, this school was merged with the Royal School of Mines, established two years previously.
The modern Imperial College of Science, Technology, and Medicine (ICL’s official name) was established by royal charter in 1907 through merger of the Royal School of Mines with the Royal College of Chemistry and the City and Guilds College.
Imperial College Medical School was formed in 1988 through merger with St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School (itself dating back to 1845), while in 2004 a brand-new Imperial College Business School opened its doors.
30. Brown University
Brown began life as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (officially) or Rhode Island College (unofficially). It is the twelfth-oldest institution of higher learning in the US.
Rhode Island College was established in the town of Warren on the eastern shore of Narragansett Bay, a few miles south of the city of Providence. The school moved to Providence in 1770.
The College was established by a group of Baptist ministers (that being the religious affiliation of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams), working in close cooperation with Quakers (Friends), Congregationalists, and Anglicans (Episcopalians). The College’s charter stated that there was to be no religious test for entrance.
31. University of Washington
In the 1850s, the Governor of Washington Territory and some of his Seattle-based friends and business associates, including a prominent Methodist minister, put their heads together to figure out a way to advance two causes close to their hearts: the prospect of statehood for the territory and the economic welfare of the city of Seattle.
At first, the Seattle city fathers argued in favor of moving the territorial capital from Olympia to their own city. However, a better plan was eventually decided upon: they would build a university in Seattle. The idea was that an institution of higher education would function both as evidence of Washington Territory’s readiness for statehood and as a stimulus to Seattle’s economic development.
32. University of Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin was founded at the same time that the eastern part of the Wisconsin Territory became the new state of Wisconsin and entered the union. In accord with its charter, the new state university was physically located in the state capital, Madison.
Today, the University of Wisconsin System has grown into an immense network of more than 180,000 students distributed across some 26 campuses. However, the original Madison location still remains the flagship campus with the largest student body (around 44,000 students) and the most distinguished faculty. The university’s $3 billion endowment allows it to rank third in the US for expenditures on fundamental research.
33. McGill University
McGill University is the direct descendent of McGill College, founded by royal charter in 1821 and largely funded by a bequest from the Scottish-born Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, James McGill. The university took its present name in 1885.
Though situated on the slopes of Mount Royal in the heart of French-speaking Montreal (with a satellite campus on the westernmost tip of Montreal Island), McGill was founded as an English-speaking institution, and remains so to this day.
Today, McGill is a flourishing, internationally focused university with a student body of around 40,000 — one of the largest in Canada.
34. George Washington University
George Washington University (GWU) was founded in 1821, under the name of Columbian College, by an act of the US Congress, signed by President James Monroe.
In 1873, the university underwent an expansion, changing its name to Columbian University. In 1904, it assumed its present name, and in 1912 it moved its campus to its present location in the Washington neighborhood of Foggy Bottom.
35. University of Minnesota
The University of Minnesota (UM) traces its roots to a college preparatory school established in the city of Minneapolis seven years before Minnesota entered the Union in 1858. This school closed its doors during the Civil War, but reopened in 1867.
In 1869, the prep school was reconfigured as an institution of higher learning. Today, that modest college has grown into one of the largest universities in the country, with a student population of around 52,000.
During the 1880s, UM expanded to another campus located in St. Paul, the state capital and the city immediately adjacent to Minneapolis to the east. However, the Minneapolis campus remains by far the larger of the two, sprawling nowadays astride both banks of the Mississippi River as it flows through the heart of the city.
36. University of Virginia
The University of Virginia (UVA) was very much the personal project of the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Virginia already had a venerable and distinguished university, the College of William & Mary, which is the second-oldest in the country — founded right after Harvard — and was Jefferson’s own alma mater.
However, in Jefferson’s day, William & Mary continued to require its students to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, whereas Jefferson had become a deist — not an atheist, but not a Christian, either, and certainly not a friend to the C of E.
37. University of Illinois
The University of Illinois began life as the Illinois Industrial University, located in the city of Urbana. Although the original intention of lawmakers and the preference of many state residents was for the new school to concentrate on vocational training, the university’s first president, John Milton Gregory, wisely insisted on offering a full spectrum of liberal arts and science courses.
With time, the university grew considerably, causing the original campus to spread across the dividing line between Urbana and its sister city of Champaign, to the west. That is why the flagship campus of the University of Illinois System is now officially known as the “University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign” to distinguish it from two other satellite campuses — one in Chicago and the other in the state capital of Springfield — that were incorporated into the System in 1913 and 1995, respectively.
38. Georgetown University
Georgetown University is a Catholic institution of higher learning that was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore.
Carroll was the first Catholic bishop in what is now the United States, and cousin of Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Since 1805, Georgetown has been strongly associated with the Jesuit order. However, the governance of the school has always been independent of the Catholic Church. Today, the majority of Georgetown students are not Catholic.
39. University of British Columbia
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908.
For the first several decades of its existence, the university’s activities were modest in scope. In 1925 a bold program to transform UBC into a modern research university was put into effect. At this time the main campus was transferred from the Fairview neighborhood just south of downtown Vancouver, to a larger campus at Point Grey about six miles to the west.
Today, UBC is the third-largest university in Canada. In addition to the main campus there is a satellite campus in the city of Kelowna. In all, the UBC student body tops 66,000 souls.
40. Rutgers University
Rutgers University’s full official name is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Rutgers traces its roots to Queen’s College, which was founded in 1766, making it the thirteenth-oldest university in the US.
In 1825, Revolutionary War hero and philanthropist Henry Rutgers made a large financial contribution to the school, which in turn changed its name to Rutgers College.
Rutgers College was upgraded to full university status in 1924, and in 1945 Rutgers was officially designated The State University of New Jersey.
41. University of Maryland
The University of Maryland is a system comprising 15 campuses. The system has a rather complicated history.
The oldest component of the system is the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), which traces its roots to the Maryland College of Medicine, founded in 1807.
In 1812, the medical college was rechartered as the University of Maryland. In 1920, the University of Maryland System was created through a merger between the Baltimore school — renamed the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) — with a pre-existing agricultural school that then became the flagship campus of the overall system under the name of the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP).
42. University of Bristol
The University of Bristol traces its roots to a Merchant Venturers’ school (later the Merchant Venturers’ Technical College) founded in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers, a Bristol-based charitable organization.
In 1876, a group of businessmen and religious leaders gathered to discuss the founding of a “College of Science and Literature for the West of England and South Wales.” This idea was brought to fruition in the form of University College, Bristol, that same year. A third institution, the Bristol Medical School, was founded in 1833.
43. Purdue University
Purdue University was founded in 1869 with substantial financing provided by industrialist John Purdue. Its purpose was to train students in agriculture and engineering. The school officially opened for business in 1874 and grew quickly.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Purdue had been organized into five schools: agriculture, mechanical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and pharmacy. Later, schools of education and home economics were added. An early attempt at creating a medical school was later abandoned.
In other respects, Purdue was spectacularly successful. By 1925 the university was home to the largest number of engineering students in the US. It remained the nation’s largest engineering school for the next half-century.
44. Tufts University
Tufts University was founded as Tufts College in 1852 in the Boston Metropolitan Area-suburb of Medford, north of Cambridge. The school was built under the auspices of the Universalist Church of America on 20 acres of land donated by businessman and philanthropist Charles Tufts. Today, the university also has a satellite campus located in downtown Boston.
When Charles Tufts first purchased the land, it was an undeveloped parcel on the top of a barren hill, and when his family asked him what he intended to do with it, he is said to have replied: “I will put a light on it.”
45. Pennsylvania State University
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
In 1862, the school’s name was changed to the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. In 1874 it was changed once again, this time to Pennsylvania State College, at which time a classical liberal arts curriculum was married to the agricultural training program.
In 1953, under the presidency of Milton S. Eisenhower — the brother of former US Army Supreme Commander and then-US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower — the college was upgraded to Pennsylvania State University.
46.University of Warwick
The University of Warwick (pronounced “Warrick”) was founded in 1965 near the West Midlands market town of the same name, which lies approximately halfway between Coventry and Stratford-upon-Avon, and has a population of a little over 30,000. However, the university campus does not lie in Warwick proper, but rather in a rural area to the north of the old town center, virtually on the outskirts of Coventry.
Despite the youth of its university, Warwick itself has a venerable heritage. Its most famous landmark, Warwick Castle, was built by William the Conqueror in 1068, while Warwick School---an independent “public school” (that is, private boys’ school)---is older still, dating to the early tenth century.
47.Australian National University
Though officially established in 1946, Australian National University in the Canberra suburb of Acton actually traces its origins all the way back to a 1905 proposal for an Australian solar observatory. The observatory, known as the Oddie Dome, was established on the site of Mt. Stromlo in 1911. This in turn led to the development of the Commonwealth Solar Observatory in 1924, and the founding of Canberra University College in 1930, all of which would eventually become part of ANU in 1960. There were discussions during this period about establishing Australian National University. However, WWII put these discussions on hold. Finally, ANU was realized with the passage of the Australian National University Act 1946.
Rice University is regarded as a world-class institution. This highly influential private research university comes with a storied history. Rice was established in 1912, as per the will of its namesake and benefactor, William Marsh Rice. In 1891, Rice chartered the university, and wrote in his will that upon his death, his entire fortune of $4.6 million ($131 million in today’s money) should be used to build a world-class university. Rice decreed that the school should be free to Houston residents, though his will specified that Rice University was exclusively for white students. Rice was murdered in 1900 as part of a false-will conspiracy. After the ensuing trial concluded and the dust settled, the university was established.
49.University of California, Santa Barbara
Dating all the way back to the 1891 founding of a small, vocational institution called the Anna Blake School, the University of California, Santa Barbara is now a full-blown public research university, and among the most influential schools in the world.
The Anna Blake school was initially established for the purpose of teaching trades and skills, particularly home economics and industrial arts. In 1909, it became the Santa Barbara State Normal School, focusing on teacher training. By 1921, it had grown into the Santa Barbara State College. Finally, in 1944, after much lobbying and debate, the institution became the third member of the University of California System, where it remains today.
50.University of Arizona
With an endowment of over $1.03 billion, and a student population of over 45,000 students, the University of Arizona is one of the biggest and richest universities in the world today. It is also a public research university, and has built its fortune and fame upon land- and space-grants. It is the oldest university in the state, and its 1885 founding actually precedes Arizona statehood, which was granted in 1912.
Like many institutions of the time, the University of Arizona was established with help from the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. The Territory Legislature selected Tucson as its founding site. What was once a solitary institution surrounded by desert now encompasses 19 distinct colleges and schools. Recognized by Carnegie Foundation for Very High Research Activity, UA is home to numerous research centers and institutes, and works closely with NASA.