North Carolina’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Interested in attending a STEM school in North Carolina? Our ranking of top research universities for bachelor’s degrees displays schools that will best prepare you for STEM careers.

North Carolina’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Among these schools are over 60 public colleges and universities, including the state’s largest school, North Carolina State University, which serves almost 30,000 students. Tuition costs average about $9,000, just below the national average, and students also have the option to enroll in over 1,000 online courses. Another notable public school is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is one of the country’s oldest universities.

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The 25,000 students who attend UNC will walk the same halls as Francis Collins, Thomas Wolfe, and former president James K. Polk. North Carolina’s private schools have also made a name for themselves, including the well-known Duke University located in Durham. Here, students can earn degrees in some of the top programs, like nursing, political science, and business. Additionally, students can attend one of the many small schools which serve less than 5,000 students, like Campbell University in Buies Creek, or a religiously affiliated school, like Mid-Atlantic Christian University in Elizabeth City.

From its coastal beaches to its lush forests, it’s no wonder the Wright Brothers dreamed of taking flight over North Carolina. This state is rich with history, scenic views, and famous people who once called it home, like John Coltrane and Nicholas Sparks. Students hoping to earn their associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree also have the option of choosing from over 100 schools in the Tar Heel State.

Whether you prefer ocean views or wooded forests, North Carolina has something for everyone. Discover more about the state’s higher learning options.

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What are North Carolina’s Colleges & Universities?

North Carolina’s Best Overall

Related: Differences between research universities and teaching colleges

A research university is a great option for students interested in obtaining STEM degrees. Research universities invest heavily in research, which consequently provides meaningful and extensive opportunities for its students and faculty to participate in research. There are 13 research universities in North Carolina, 11 of which meet our criteria. The list below of the best research universities in the state satisfies the following four conditions:

  1. It must be a fully accredited university.
  2. It must offer doctoral degrees across the range of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
  3. It must report high levels of research activity based upon the number of research and/or practice doctorates awarded each year.
  4. It must have a graduation rate of greater than 50%.

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How do we determine North Carolina's best colleges and universities?

The best colleges pound for pound!

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why, at the undergraduate level, we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call Concentrated Influence. Concentrated Influence takes the combined influence score of a college or university’s top academic influencers (including faculty and alums) and divides it by the school’s total number of undergraduates.

Using concentrated influence gives small and mid-sized schools an opportunity to shine by taking away the size advantage of larger universities. A small school with proportionately more influential faculty than a large school, whose influence in absolute terms may be bigger, will nonetheless score higher in a concentrated influence ranking. Our approach highlights undergraduate schools that truly rank for excellence, regardless of size.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities for a bachelor’s degree, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching and whether their graduates are themselves advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence.

Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and arbitrary performance metrics. Concentrated Influence provides a ranking that is free from bias, insulated from manipulation, and reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Find out more about our ranking methodology here.

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Best Research Universities in North Carolina for Undergraduates

  1. #1

    Duke University

    #28 institution's historical influence
    #12 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1525/34

    Durham, NC

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    What is Duke University known for?

    Duke University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Medical
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    #63 institution's historical influence
    #38 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1405/30

    Chapel Hill, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Law
    • Medical
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    Wake Forest University

    #322 institution's historical influence
    #48 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    32%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    8K

    Winston-Salem, NC

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    What is Wake Forest University known for?

    Wake Forest University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Law
    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  4. #4

    North Carolina State University

    #230 institution's historical influence
    #176 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    46%

    Graduation

    84%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/29

    Raleigh, NC

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    What is North Carolina State University known for?

    North Carolina State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Education
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte

    #767 institution's historical influence
    #1385 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1205/24

    Charlotte, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Charlotte known for?

    University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Communications
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Elon University

    #1788 institution's historical influence
    #1234 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    72%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    7K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    Elon, NC

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    What is Elon University known for?

    Elon University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Education
    • History
    • Law
    • Communications
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Literature
    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. #7

    East Carolina University

    #598 institution's historical influence
    #1186 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    65%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1115/22

    Greenville, NC

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    What is East Carolina University known for?

    East Carolina University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Business
    • Education
    • Biology
    • History
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    #881 institution's historical influence
    #1364 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    88%

    Graduation

    59%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/22

    Greensboro, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina at Greensboro known for?

    University of North Carolina at Greensboro’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Campbell University

    #1559 institution's historical influence
    #486 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    81%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/22

    Buies Creek, NC

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    What is Campbell University known for?

    Campbell University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Engineering
    • Communications

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    University of North Carolina Wilmington

    #3065 institution's historical influence
    #1260 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    74%

    Student body

    15K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1245/24

    Wilmington, NC

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    What is University of North Carolina Wilmington known for?

    University of North Carolina Wilmington’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Education
    • Literature
    • Business
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. #11

    Wingate University

    #3638 institution's historical influence
    #1100 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Acceptance

    73%

    Graduation

    49%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Wingate, NC

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    What is Wingate University known for?

    Wingate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Criminal Justice
    • Biology
    • Mathematics
    • Communications

Find the Best Research Universities in North Carolina for your Major

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