Virginia’s Best Research Universities of 2021

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

Virginia’s Best Research Universities of 2021

Colleges and Universities in Virginia

Liberty University, a private Christian school in Lynchburg, is the largest school in Virginia, serving over 60,000 students. The largest public university, Virginia Tech, has a student population of about half that but offers many in-person degree programs as well as eight master’s programs and 19 certificate programs online. Students who attend Virginia Tech can pursue fields like engineering, criminal justice, education, and business.

Find college admissions consultants in your state.

The majority of Virginia’s universities and colleges could be considered small schools, serving populations of less than 5,000 students. Included on this list are public schools, like Christopher Newport University in Newport News, and private schools, like Hampton University, a historically black university in Hampton. Though most of its higher education institutes charge tuition fees above the national average, Virginia offers several loan forgiveness programs for qualifying attorneys and medical, dental, behavioral health, and pharmaceutical professionals.

Virginia is perhaps most famous for its rich history — but the state is also home to many unique museums and famous landmarks. For example, those who love the classics can visit the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond. Those who harbor romantic dreams of espionage and intrigue might visit the CIA Museum in McLean. And, if you like your attractions random, you could check out Virginia’s 300-yard-long natural tunnel or its 29-ton spinning granite ball. While you’re here, you might consider attending one of the 78 colleges located in the state.

Learn more about Virginia’s higher education opportunities by checking out the state’s many colleges and universities.

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What are Virginia’s Colleges & Universities?

Virginia’s Best Overall

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How do we determine Virginia'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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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 11 research universities in Virginia, 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.

Best Research Universities in Virginia for Undergraduates

  1. #1

    University of Virginia

    #36 institution's historical influence
    #40 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $18K

    Acceptance

    23%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

    Charlottesville, VA

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    What is University of Virginia known for?

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

    • Law
    • Literature
    • Medical
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Philosophy
    • Education
    • Political Science
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering

    Most Influential Alumni

  2. #2

    William & Mary

    #274 institution's historical influence
    #53 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $23K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    8K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    Williamsburg, VA

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    What is William & Mary known for?

    William & Mary’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Law
    • Literature
    • History
    • Business
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Physics
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

  3. #3

    George Mason University

    #208 institution's historical influence
    #548 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $13K

    Acceptance

    89%

    Graduation

    72%

    Student body

    31K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1215/27

    Fairfax, VA

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    What is George Mason University known for?

    George Mason University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Business
    • Law
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Education
    • Philosophy
    • Biology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

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  4. #4

    Virginia Tech

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

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    66%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    35K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1285/28

    Blacksburg, VA

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    What is Virginia Tech known for?

    Virginia Tech’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  5. #5

    Hampton University

    #655 institution's historical influence
    #666 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $28K

    Acceptance

    36%

    Graduation

    57%

    Student body

    4K

    Hampton, VA

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    What is Hampton University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  6. #6

    Regent University

    #1533 institution's historical influence
    #554 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $19K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1105/22

    Virginia Beach, VA

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    What is Regent University known for?

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

    • Law
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Education
    • Business
    • Medical
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Communications
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

  7. #7

    Virginia Commonwealth University

    #405 institution's historical influence
    #994 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $15K

    Acceptance

    91%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    26K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1165/24

    Richmond, VA

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    What is Virginia Commonwealth University known for?

    Virginia Commonwealth University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  8. #8

    Mary Baldwin University

    #4640 institution's historical influence
    #1238 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $31K

    Acceptance

    87%

    Graduation

    42%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1030/20

    Staunton, VA

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    What is Mary Baldwin University known for?

    Mary Baldwin University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Education
    • Business
    • Mathematics
    • Medical
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Communications
    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Nursing

    Most Influential Alumni

  9. #9

    Old Dominion University

    #794 institution's historical influence
    #709 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    95%

    Graduation

    53%

    Student body

    19K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1080/21

    Norfolk, VA

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    What is Old Dominion University known for?

    Old Dominion University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  10. #10

    Liberty University

    #976 institution's historical influence
    #116 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    50%

    Graduation

    54%

    Student body

    67K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1150/24

    Lynchburg, VA

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    What is Liberty University known for?

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

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

    Most Influential Alumni

  11. #11

    Shenandoah University

    #3888 institution's historical influence
    #858 overall school desirability

    Tuition + fees

    $33K

    Acceptance

    74%

    Graduation

    61%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1100/22

    Winchester, VA

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    What is Shenandoah University known for?

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

    • Medical
    • Education
    • Business
    • History
    • Nursing
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

Find the Best Research Universities in Virginia for your Major

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