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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.

Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …

What is Desirability?

List of the most influential schools in Earth Sciences, for the years 2000 – 2020

University of Cambridge
# 1

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 Bristol
# 2

University of Bristol

#64 institution's overall influence
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.
University of London
# 3

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.
Stanford University
# 4

Stanford University

#10 institution's overall influence
#1 student 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...
University of Oxford
# 5

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.
Australian National University
# 6

Australian National University

#107 institution's overall influence
Australian National University (ANU) proper dates to 1946, when it was founded by an act of the Australian Parliament in a suburb of Canberra, the capital of Australia.
Harvard University
# 7

Harvard University

#1 institution's overall influence
#2 student 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
# 8

University of California, Berkeley

#6 institution's overall influence
#29 student 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...
Imperial College London
# 9

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.
Durham University
# 10

Durham University

#122 institution's overall influence
Durham University is a public, research university established by an act of Parliament in 1832. It received its royal charter five years later, in 1837.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
# 11

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

#9 institution's overall influence
#3 student 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...
University of Edinburgh
# 12

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).
Columbia University
# 13

Columbia University

#3 institution's overall influence
#6 student 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.
Princeton University
# 14

Princeton University

#8 institution's overall influence
#5 student 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 ...
California Institute of Technology
# 15

California Institute of Technology

#27 institution's overall influence
#9 student 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.
Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology
# 16

Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology

#1009 institution's overall influence
The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology is a scientific institution based in Pune, India for expanding research in tropical Indian Ocean , of the tropics in general with special reference to monsoon meteorology, and air-sea interaction of Indian monsoon.
Cardiff University
# 17

Cardiff University

#275 institution's overall influence
Cardiff University is a public research university in Cardiff, Wales. Founded in 1883 as the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, it became a founding college of the University of Wales in 1893, and in 1997 received its own degree-awarding powers, although it held them in abeyance. It merged with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology in 1988. The college adopted the public name of Cardiff University in 1999; in 2005 this became its legal name, as an independent university awarding its own degrees. The third oldest university in Wales, it contains three c...
University of California, San Diego
# 18

University of California, San Diego

#48 institution's overall influence
#71 student 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 .
University of Leeds
# 19

University of Leeds

#65 institution's overall influence
The city of Leeds lies at the northern edge of the English Midlands, the geographical region of the UK where the Industrial Revolution primarily took place. Leeds was especially important as a center of textile manufacturing, which led the way toward the explosive growth of British industry and empire during the Victorian era.
University of Chicago
# 20

University of Chicago

#5 institution's overall influence
#8 student 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.
Boston University
# 21

Boston University

#37 institution's overall influence
#56 student 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.
University of Toronto
# 22

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).
Duke University
# 23

Duke University

#31 institution's overall influence
#12 student 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.
University of Melbourne
# 24

University of Melbourne

#93 institution's overall influence
The University of Melbourne is a public research university founded in 1853, the second-oldest institution of higher learning in Australia.
Cornell University
# 25

Cornell University

#14 institution's overall influence
#14 student 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 Manchester
# 26

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 British Columbia
# 27

University of British Columbia

#60 institution's overall influence
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908.
University of Michigan
# 28

University of Michigan

#15 institution's overall influence
#37 student 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.
Yale University
# 29

Yale University

#7 institution's overall influence
#4 student 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.
Utrecht University
# 30

Utrecht University

#110 institution's overall influence
Utrecht University is a public research university in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Established , it is one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. In 2018, it had an enrolment of 31,801 students, and employed 7,191 faculty and staff. In 2018, 525 PhD degrees were awarded and 6,948 scientific articles were published. The 2018 budget of the university was €857 million.
The Open University
# 31

The Open University

#247 institution's overall influence
The Open University is a public research university and the largest university in the UK for undergraduate education. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based in the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus; many of its courses can also be studied anywhere in the world. There are also a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48-hectare university campus in Milton Keynes, where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1,000 members of academic and research staff and over 2,500 administrative, operational and support staff.
University of Southampton
# 32

University of Southampton

#261 institution's overall influence
The University of Southampton is a research university in Southampton, England. The university's origins date back to the founding of the Hartley Institution in 1862. In 1902, the Institution developed into the Hartley University College, awarding degrees from the University of London. On 29 April 1952, the institution was granted full university status, allowing it to award its own degrees.
University of Glasgow
# 33

University of Glasgow

#32 institution's overall influence
Founded by a decree (“papal bull”) issued by Pope Nicholas V, Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Only Oxford and Cambridge (see above) and, in Scotland, St. Andrews University (founded in 1413) are older.
University of Texas at Austin
# 34

University of Texas at Austin

#42 institution's overall influence
#43 student 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.
Macquarie University
# 35

Macquarie University

#361 institution's overall influence
Macquarie University is a public research university based in Sydney, Australia, in the suburb of Macquarie Park. Founded in 1964 by the New South Wales Government, it was the third university to be established in the metropolitan area of Sydney.
University of California, Santa Cruz
# 36

University of California, Santa Cruz

#165 institution's overall influence
#734 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

47%

Graduation

77%

Student body

20K

Median SAT/ACT

1295/29

Santa Cruz, CA

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The University of California, Santa Cruz is a public research university in Santa Cruz, California. It is one of 10 campuses in the University of California system. Located 75 miles south of San Francisco at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, the campus lies on of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay.
Pennsylvania State University
# 37

Pennsylvania State University

#86 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$18K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

86%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1260/27

University Park, PA

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Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
Humboldt University of Berlin
# 38

Humboldt University of Berlin

#13 institution's overall influence
This university has a fascinating pedigree. It was originally founded by Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III, in consultation with three great German Enlightenment thinkers: the philologist and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt, the philosopher J.G. Fichte, and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher. Originally known simply as the University of Berlin, for most of its existence up until the aftermath of World War II, it was officially known as the Friedrich Wilhelm University.
University of Waterloo
# 39

University of Waterloo

#176 institution's overall influence
The University of Waterloo traces its roots back to the Waterloo College School, founded in 1914.
University of Alberta
# 40

University of Alberta

#143 institution's overall influence
The University of Alberta is a public research university founded in 1908—just three years after the Province of Alberta officially entered the Dominion of Canada.
University of New South Wales
# 41

University of New South Wales

#231 institution's overall influence
The University of New South Wales is an Australian public research university located in the Sydney suburb of Kensington. Established in 1949, it is ranked fourth in Australia, 44th in the world according to the 2021 QS World University Rankings.
Johns Hopkins University
# 42

Johns Hopkins University

#20 institution's overall influence
#21 student 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 Zurich
# 43

University of Zurich

#41 institution's overall influence
The University of Zurich , located in the city of Zürich, is the largest university in Switzerland, with its 28,000 enrolled students. It was founded in 1833 from the existing colleges of theology, law, medicine which go back to 1525, and a new faculty of philosophy.
University of Tartu
# 44

University of Tartu

#355 institution's overall influence
The University of Tartu is a university in the city of Tartu in Estonia. It is the national university of Estonia, and the only classical university in the country, and also the biggest and most prestigious university in Estonia. It was founded under the name of Academia Gustaviana in 1632 by Baron Johan Skytte, the Governor- General of Swedish Livonia, Ingria and Karelia, with the required ratification provided by his long-time friend and former student – from age 7 –, King Gustavus Adolphus, shortly before the king's death on 6 November in the Battle of Lützen , during the Thirty Years' Wa...
James Cook University
# 45

James Cook University

#749 institution's overall influence
James Cook University is a public university in North Queensland, Australia. The second oldest university in Queensland, JCU is a teaching and research institution. The university's main campuses are located in the tropical cities of Cairns and Townsville, and one in the city state of Singapore. JCU also has study centres in Mount Isa, Mackay and Thursday Island. A Brisbane campus, operated by Russo Higher Education, delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses to international students. The University’s main fields of research include marine sciences, biodiversity, sustainable management ...
New York University
# 46

New York University

#16 institution's overall influence
#44 student 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).
University of Wisconsin–Madison
# 47

University of Wisconsin–Madison

#25 institution's overall influence
#216 student 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.
Rutgers University
# 48

Rutgers University

#46 institution's overall influence
Rutgers University’s full official name is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
The University of Queensland
# 49

The University of Queensland

#183 institution's overall influence
The University of Queensland is a public research university located primarily in Brisbane, the capital city of the Australian state of Queensland. Founded in 1909 by the Queensland parliament, UQ is one of the six sandstone universities, an informal designation of the oldest university in each state. The University of Queensland is ranked second nationally by the Australian Research Council and equal second in Australia based on the average of four major global university league tables. The University of Queensland is a founding member of edX, Australia's research-intensive Group of Eight an...
University of California, Los Angeles
# 50

University of California, Los Angeles

#23 institution's overall influence
#31 student 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.