Tennessee’s Best Research Universities of 2021

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

Tennessee’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Tennessee

About one third of the higher learning institutes in Tennessee are public schools. Students who attend these schools can expect to pay anywhere between $4,000 to $13,000 in tuition and have the option to pursue degrees in fields such as economics, history, nursing, literature, education, and criminal justice. Tennessee’s largest public school, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, boasts some impressive alumni, including Oprah Winfrey, Kurt Vonnegut, and Cormac McCarthy. The private school alumni are equally as notable. For example, author James Patterson and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus both attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

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Tennessee also offers nearly 30 religiously affiliated schools, the largest being Belmont University in Nashville, located just blocks from the famous Music Row. Here, students can study a wide range of fields including Christian leadership, audio engineering technology, and biophysics. Additionally, Tennessee offers students several loan forgiveness programs. Math and science teachers, minority teachers, and registered nurses interested in becoming teachers or administrators who meet certain requirements may be eligible.

Tennessee is home to mouthwatering barbecues, electrified blues, and the sweeping majesty of the Smoky Mountains National Park. And with access to countless historic sites, unique museums, and lush green spaces, students attending one of the more than 60 colleges and universities in The Volunteer State will have plenty to do and see in their downtime.

Discover more about the top programs and higher education learning opportunities available in Tennessee.


What are Tennessee’s Colleges & Universities?

Tennessee’s Best Overall

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How do we determine Tennessee's best colleges and universities?

Methodology

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.

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 14 research universities in Tennessee, all of which satisfy 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%.

Best Research Colleges & Universities in Tennessee

  1. #2

    University of Tennessee

    Knoxville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What is University of Tennessee known for?

    University of Tennessee’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Biology
    • Engineering
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History
    • Education
    • Chemistry
    • Law
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

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  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Graduation

    26%

    Student body

    7K

    What is Tennessee State University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  3. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    51%

    Student body

    18K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1135/23

    What is Middle Tennessee State University known for?

    Middle Tennessee State University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Chemistry
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Communications
    • Medical

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  4. #5

    University of Memphis

    Memphis , TN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    17K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1120/22

    What is University of Memphis known for?

    University of Memphis’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Education
    • Computer Science
    • Law
    • Medical
    • History
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  5. Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    69%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    What is Lincoln Memorial University known for?

    Lincoln Memorial University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Business
    • Law
    • History
    • Literature
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Mathematics
    REQUEST INFO
  6. #7

    Carson–Newman University

    Jefferson City , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $30K

    Acceptance

    79%

    Graduation

    52%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1050/24

    What is Carson–Newman University known for?

    Carson–Newman University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Political Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  7. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    10K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1130/23

    What is University of Tennessee at Chattanooga known for?

    University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

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  8. #9

    Lipscomb University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $35K

    Acceptance

    62%

    Graduation

    69%

    Student body

    4K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1185/26

    What is Lipscomb University known for?

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

    • Psychology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Religious Studies
    • Medical
    • Law
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  9. #10

    Union University

    Jackson , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    58%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1170/26

    What is Union University known for?

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

    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Philosophy
    • Engineering
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  10. Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    80%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    9K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1125/24

    What is Tennessee Technological University known for?

    Tennessee Technological University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  11. Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    78%

    Graduation

    50%

    Student body

    12K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1075/23

    What is East Tennessee State University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Education
    • Business
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • History
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    REQUEST INFO
  12. Tuition + fees

    $27K

    Acceptance

    63%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1179/23

    What is Trevecca Nazarene University known for?

    Trevecca Nazarene University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Psychology
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Medical
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    REQUEST INFO
  13. #14

    Belmont University

    Nashville , TN

    Tuition + fees

    $37K

    Acceptance

    83%

    Graduation

    71%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1225/26

    What is Belmont University known for?

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

    • Business
    • Education
    • Literature
    • History
    • Medical
    • Engineering
    • Communications
    • Law
    • Political Science
    • Nursing
    REQUEST INFO

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