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Which colleges and universities are the most influential in the world? And, in what do they excel?

Find the colleges and universities that have made the biggest historical impact in the discipline, country, and timeframe of your choice! We rank universities and colleges from around the world based on the scholarly work of their faculty and alumni, i.e., influence.

Note: The schools featured using this tool are influential in the disciplines selected. This does not necessarily mean that they offer a degree in the selected discipline. For example, Princeton University ranks highly for its influence in law. Given that Princeton is the alma mater of three former US presidents (James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and John F. Kennedy) and three Supreme Court Justices (Samuel Alito, Elena Kagan, & Sonia Sotomayor), among many other prominent statespeople and law makers, Princeton’s influence in the field of law is undeniable. Nevertheless, they offer degrees in politics and public policy, but not in law specifically.

To find influential schools in the US that offer degrees in your area of interest, use our Custom College Rankings tool.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

What is Desirability?

List of the most influential schools in Computer Science, for the years 2000 – 2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
#1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

#9 institution's overall influence
#3 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

93%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1535/35

Cambridge, MA

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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 mu...
Stanford University
#2

Stanford University

#10 institution's overall influence
#1 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$51K

Acceptance

4%

Graduation

94%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1495/33

Stanford, CA

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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 Iv...
Carnegie Mellon University
#3

Carnegie Mellon University

#46 institution's overall influence
#35 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

90%

Student body

16K

Median SAT/ACT

1500/34

Pittsburgh, PA

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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).
Harvard University
#4

Harvard University

#1 institution's overall influence
#2 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$50K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

97%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Cambridge, MA

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Harvard University is almost universally acclaimed as the world’s most prestigious university. There is little doubt that its towering reputation is well earned.
University of California, Berkeley
#5

University of California, Berkeley

#6 institution's overall influence
#29 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

15%

Graduation

92%

Student body

41K

Median SAT/ACT

1425/33

Berkeley, CA

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The University of California, Berkeley is a public research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the state's first land-grant university, it is the oldest campus of the University of California system and a founding member of the Association of American Universities. Among its 14 colleges and schools, the university employs over 2,500 faculty and enrolls some 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students, and its 180 academic departments and 80 interdisciplinary research units offer over 350 degree programs. Berkeley is ranked among the world's top universities by ma...
Princeton University
#6

Princeton University

#8 institution's overall influence
#5 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$50K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

97%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/33

Princeton, NJ

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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 ...
University of Michigan
#7

University of Michigan

#15 institution's overall influence
#37 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$16K

Acceptance

23%

Graduation

91%

Student body

42K

Median SAT/ACT

1420/32

Ann Arbor, MI

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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.
Cornell University
#8

Cornell University

#14 institution's overall influence
#14 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

94%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1465/33

Ithaca, NY

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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.
University of Cambridge
#9

University of Cambridge

#4 institution's overall influence
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).
University of London
#10

University of London

#2 institution's overall influence
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.
Columbia University
#11

Columbia University

#3 institution's overall influence
#6 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

95%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

New York, NY

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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.
New York University
#12

New York University

#16 institution's overall influence
#44 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

20%

Graduation

85%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1410/31

New York, NY

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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).
California Institute of Technology
#13

California Institute of Technology

#27 institution's overall influence
#9 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1555/35

Pasadena, CA

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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.
Yale University
#14

Yale University

#7 institution's overall influence
#4 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

98%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1515/34

New Haven, CT

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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.
University of Washington
#15

University of Washington

#42 institution's overall influence
#69 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

49%

Graduation

84%

Student body

46K

Median SAT/ACT

1340/29

Seattle, WA

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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.
University of Toronto
#16

University of Toronto

#24 institution's overall influence
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).
University of California, Los Angeles
#17

University of California, Los Angeles

#23 institution's overall influence
#31 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

14%

Graduation

91%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1405/32

Los Angeles, CA

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The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university in Los Angeles, California. UCLA traces its early origins back to 1882 as the southern branch of the California State Normal School . It became the Southern Branch of the University of California in 1919, making it the second-oldest of the 10-campus University of California system.
University of Manchester
#18

University of Manchester

#34 institution's overall influence
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.
University of California, San Diego
#19

University of California, San Diego

#48 institution's overall influence
#71 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

30%

Graduation

87%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1365/30

La Jolla, CA

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The University of California, San Diego is a public research university in San Diego, California. Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is one of the ten campuses of the University of California, and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling approximately 30,800 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students. The university occupies near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, with the main campus resting on approximately .
Brown University
#20

Brown University

#36 institution's overall influence
#7 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

96%

Student body

9K

Median SAT/ACT

1485/33

Providence, RI

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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.
University of Chicago
#21

University of Chicago

#5 institution's overall influence
#8 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

12K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

Chicago, IL

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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.
University of Pennsylvania
#22

University of Pennsylvania

#17 institution's overall influence
#10 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

95%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1485/33

Philadelphia, PA

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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).
University of Texas at Austin
#23

University of Texas at Austin

#43 institution's overall influence
#43 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

39%

Graduation

81%

Student body

45K

Median SAT/ACT

1355/30

Austin, TX

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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.
University of Waterloo
#24

University of Waterloo

#179 institution's overall influence
The University of Waterloo traces its roots back to the Waterloo College School, founded in 1914.
University of Southern California
#25

University of Southern California

#39 institution's overall influence
#30 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

13%

Graduation

92%

Student body

37K

Median SAT/ACT

1440/32

Los Angeles, CA

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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.
Georgia Institute of Technology
#26

Georgia Institute of Technology

#145 institution's overall influence
#39 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

22%

Graduation

86%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1465/32

Atlanta, GA

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Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) was founded in 1885. A component part of the University System of Georgia, today Georgia Tech has five satellite campuses: in Savannah, Georgia; Metz, France; Athlone, Ireland; Shenzhen, China; and Singapore.
University of Oxford
#27

University of Oxford

#11 institution's overall influence
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.
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
#28

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

#45 institution's overall influence
#162 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

62%

Graduation

85%

Student body

52K

Median SAT/ACT

1330/29

Champaign, IL

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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.
University of Edinburgh
#29

University of Edinburgh

#12 institution's overall influence
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).
Purdue University
#30

Purdue University

#54 institution's overall influence
#1204 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$10K

Acceptance

58%

Graduation

77%

Student body

40K

Median SAT/ACT

1295/28

West Lafayette, IN

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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.
Duke University
#31

Duke University

#31 institution's overall influence
#12 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

9%

Graduation

95%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1510/34

Durham, NC

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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.
Rice University
#32

Rice University

#90 institution's overall influence
#15 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$47K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

93%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

Houston, TX

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Rice University was founded in 1912 as the William M. Rice Institute for the Advancement of Literature, Science, and Art. Long known simply as the Rice Institute, the school acquired its present name in 1960.
University of Maryland
#33

University of Maryland

#77 institution's overall influence
#214 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

47%

Graduation

87%

Student body

35K

Median SAT/ACT

1380/31

College Park, MD

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The University of Maryland is a system comprising 15 campuses. The system has a rather complicated history.
University of Utah
#34

University of Utah

#74 institution's overall influence
#1235 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

67%

Graduation

65%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1240/25

Salt Lake City, UT

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The University of Utah was established as the University of Deseret in 1850. Like all “Deseret” (the original name for Utah) institutions, it was originally closely associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”).
Technische Universität Darmstadt
#35

Technische Universität Darmstadt

#296 institution's overall influence
The Technische Universität Darmstadt , commonly known as TU Darmstadt, is a research university in the city of Darmstadt, Germany. It was founded in 1877 and received the right to award doctorates in 1899. In 1882, it was the first university in the world to set up a chair in electrical engineering. In 1883, the university founded the first faculty of electrical engineering and introduced the world's first degree course in electrical engineering. In 2004, it became the first German university to be declared as an autonomous university. TU Darmstadt has assumed a pioneering role in Germany. Com...
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
#36

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

#80 institution's overall influence
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded in 1918 in the ancient city of Jerusalem. At the time the city, as well as the entire surrounding region of Palestine, was under British military control.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
#37

University of Wisconsin–Madison

#25 institution's overall influence
#216 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

85%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1365/29

Madison, WI

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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.
Johns Hopkins University
#38

Johns Hopkins University

#20 institution's overall influence
#21 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

92%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

Baltimore, MD

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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.
University of California, Irvine
#39

University of California, Irvine

#102 institution's overall influence
#87 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

29%

Graduation

87%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1300/29

Irvine, CA

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The University of California, Irvine is a public research university in Irvine, California. UCI is one of the ten campuses of the University of California system, and offers 87 undergraduate degrees and 129 graduate and professional degrees, enrolling roughly 30,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students as of Fall 2019. The university is classified as an R1 University, and had $436.6 million in research and development expenditures in 2018. UCI became a member of the Association of American Universities in 1996. The university is considered one of the "Public Ivies," meaning that it is a...
University of Warwick
#40

University of Warwick

#165 institution's overall influence
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.
Imperial College London
#41

Imperial College London

#50 institution's overall influence
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.
Northwestern University
#42

Northwestern University

#28 institution's overall influence
#24 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

94%

Student body

19K

Median SAT/ACT

1490/34

Evanston, IL

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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.
Tel Aviv University
#43

Tel Aviv University

#155 institution's overall influence
In 1931, a Biological-Pedagogical Institute (later, the Institute of Natural Sciences) was established in the city of Tel Aviv in British Mandatory Palestine.
McGill University
#44

McGill University

#40 institution's overall influence
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.
University of British Columbia
#45

University of British Columbia

#60 institution's overall influence
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908.
University of Virginia
#46

University of Virginia

#44 institution's overall influence
#40 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

26%

Graduation

94%

Student body

24K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/32

Charlottesville, VA

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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.
Boston University
#47

Boston University

#37 institution's overall influence
#56 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

22%

Graduation

87%

Student body

30K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/31

Boston, MA

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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.
#48

Weizmann Institute of Science

#334 institution's overall influence
The Weizmann Institute of Science is a public research university in Rehovot, Israel, established in 1934, 14 years before the State of Israel. It differs from other Israeli universities in that it offers only graduate and postgraduate degrees in the natural and exact sciences.
University of Pittsburgh
#49

University of Pittsburgh

#71 institution's overall influence
#987 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$19K

Acceptance

59%

Graduation

81%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1350/30

Pittsburgh, PA

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University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”) traces its roots to the Pittsburgh Academy, a preparatory school founded in 1787, when Pittsburgh was still a frontier outpost. Defined in this way, Pitt is the oldest continuously chartered educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.
University of Essex
#50

University of Essex

#271 institution's overall influence
The University of Essex is a public research university in Essex, England. It was established in 1963, welcomed its first students in 1964 and received its royal charter in 1965. Essex is a plate glass university, a group of universities which were established in the 1960s. Essex's motto, ’Thought the harder, heart the keener’, is adapted from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon.