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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 Engineering, 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

$54K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

94%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1540/35

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...
Harvard University
#2

Harvard University

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

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

96%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1515/34

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.
Stanford University
#3

Stanford University

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

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

5%

Graduation

94%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/33

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 California, Berkeley
#4

University of California, Berkeley

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

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

91%

Student body

42K

Median SAT/ACT

1430/33

Berkeley, CA

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The University of California, Berkeley is a public land-grant research university in Berkeley, California. Established in 1868 as the University of California, it is the state's first land-grant university and the first campus of the University of California system. Its fourteen colleges and schools offer over 350 degree programs and enroll 31,000 undergraduate and 12,000 graduate students. Berkeley is ranked among the world's top universities by major educational publications.
University of London
#5

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
#6

Columbia University

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

Tuition + fees

$61K

Acceptance

7%

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.
University of Michigan
#7

University of Michigan

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

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

26%

Graduation

92%

Student body

43K

Median SAT/ACT

1435/32

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.
Carnegie Mellon University
#8

Carnegie Mellon University

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

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

89%

Student body

16K

Median SAT/ACT

1510/34

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).
Princeton University
#9

Princeton University

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

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

6%

Graduation

97%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1515/34

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 ...
Cornell University
#10

Cornell University

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

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

93%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1480/33

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.
Yale University
#11

Yale University

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

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

97%

Student body

16K

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 Pennsylvania
#12

University of Pennsylvania

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

Tuition + fees

$58K

Acceptance

9%

Graduation

96%

Student body

28K

Median SAT/ACT

1505/34

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 Southern California
#13

University of Southern California

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

Tuition + fees

$58K

Acceptance

16%

Graduation

92%

Student body

40K

Median SAT/ACT

1445/32

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.
University of Cambridge
#14

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).
Purdue University
#15

Purdue University

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

Tuition + fees

$10K

Acceptance

67%

Graduation

78%

Student body

42K

Median SAT/ACT

1315/28

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.
California Institute of Technology
#16

California Institute of Technology

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

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

89%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1545/35

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.
New York University
#17

New York University

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

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

21%

Graduation

84%

Student body

48K

Median SAT/ACT

1440/32

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 California, Los Angeles
#18

University of California, Los Angeles

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

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

14%

Graduation

91%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/32

Los Angeles, CA

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The University of California, Los Angeles is a public land-grant 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. UCLA receives the most college applications of any university in the United States and is considered one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
University of Toronto
#19

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).
Imperial College London
#20

Imperial College London

#57 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.
University of Texas at Austin
#21

University of Texas at Austin

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

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

32%

Graduation

83%

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 Oxford
#22

University of Oxford

#8 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 Washington
#23

University of Washington

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

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

84%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1345/30

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 Tokyo
#24

University of Tokyo

#75 institution's overall influence
The University of Tokyo, abbreviated as Todai or UTokyo, is a public research university located in Bunkyō, Tokyo, Japan. Established in 1877, the university is the first imperial university and currently selected as a Top Type university of Top Global University Project by the Japanese government.
University of Minnesota
#25

University of Minnesota

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

Tuition + fees

$15K

Acceptance

70%

Graduation

80%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1370/28

Minneapolis, MN

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The University of Minnesota (UM) traces its roots to a college preparatory school established in the city of Minneapolis seven years before Minnesota entered the Union in 1858. This school closed its doors during the Civil War, but reopened in 1867.
Tsinghua University
#26

Tsinghua University

#171 institution's overall influence
Tsinghua University was founded in 1911 as Tsinghua College. In the modern Pinyin transliteration system, the name would be written as “Qinghua”; however, the university retains the older spelling for official purposes.
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
#27

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

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

Tuition + fees

$17K

Acceptance

63%

Graduation

85%

Student body

52K

Median SAT/ACT

1340/29

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.
Georgia Tech
#28

Georgia Tech

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

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

21%

Graduation

85%

Student body

30K

Median SAT/ACT

1405/31

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.
Delft University of Technology
#29

Delft University of Technology

#230 institution's overall influence
Delft University of Technology , also known as TU Delft, is the oldest and largest Dutch public technical university. Located in Delft, Netherlands, it is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the Netherlands, and as of 2020 it is ranked by QS World University Rankings among the top 15 engineering and technology universities in the world.
Johns Hopkins University
#30

Johns Hopkins University

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

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

93%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1510/34

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.
#31

ETH Zurich

#68 institution's overall influence
ETH Zürich is a public research university in the city of Zürich, Switzerland. Founded by the Swiss Federal Government in 1854 with the stated mission to educate engineers and scientists, the school focuses exclusively on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Like its sister institution EPFL, it is part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain, part of the Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research.
#32

University of Colorado

#63 institution's overall influence
The University of Colorado was founded in 1876 in the town of Boulder.
University of California, San Diego
#33

University of California, San Diego

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

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

37%

Graduation

85%

Student body

38K

Median SAT/ACT

1370/30

La Jolla, CA

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The University of California, San Diego is a public land-grant research university in San Diego, California. Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the southernmost of the ten campuses of the University of California, and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling 31,842 undergraduate and 8,631 graduate students. The university occupies near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, with the main campus resting on approximately . UC San Diego is ranked among the best universities in the world by major college and univer...
Pennsylvania State University
#34

Pennsylvania State University

#73 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$18K

Acceptance

76%

Graduation

69%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1190/26

University Park, PA

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Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
University of Florida
#35

University of Florida

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

Tuition + fees

$6K

Acceptance

31%

Graduation

88%

Student body

46K

Median SAT/ACT

1390/30

Gainesville, FL

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The University of Florida (UF) traces its roots back to East Florida Seminary, which was founded in 1853 in the town of Ocala. The seminary, which was the first publicly supported institution of higher learning in the state, relocated to the city of Gainesville in 1858.
University of Chicago
#36

University of Chicago

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

Tuition + fees

$59K

Acceptance

7%

Graduation

93%

Student body

13K

Median SAT/ACT

1535/34

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.
Rice University
#37

Rice University

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

Tuition + fees

$49K

Acceptance

11%

Graduation

91%

Student body

8K

Median SAT/ACT

1520/34

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.
Duke University
#38

Duke University

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

Tuition + fees

$58K

Acceptance

8%

Graduation

95%

Student body

15K

Median SAT/ACT

1525/34

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.
City University of New York
#39

City University of New York

#19 institution's overall influence
The City University of New York (CUNY) is a mammoth system of two-year community colleges, four-year liberal arts colleges, and graduate professional schools. This system traces its roots back to the Free Academy, established in Manhattan in 1847. In 1866, the Free Academy changed its name to the City College of New York, which makes today’s City College the oldest institution within the CUNY system.
Northwestern University
#40

Northwestern University

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

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

9%

Graduation

94%

Student body

19K

Median SAT/ACT

1495/34

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.
Texas A&M University
#41

Texas A&M University

#133 institution's overall influence
#91 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

63%

Graduation

82%

Student body

58K

Median SAT/ACT

1275/28

College Station, TX

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Texas A&M University is a public land-grant research university in College Station, Texas. It was founded in 1876 and became the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System in 1948. , Texas A&M's student body is the second largest in the United States. Texas A&M's designation as a land, sea, and space grant institution—the only university in Texas to hold all three designations—reflects a range of research with ongoing projects funded by organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and
National University of Singapore
#42

National University of Singapore

#165 institution's overall influence
The National University of Singapore (NUS) was founded in 1905 as the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School, in what was then the British-controlled Straits Settlements colony.
Anna University
#43

Anna University

#516 institution's overall influence
Anna University is a public state university located in Tamil Nadu, India. The main campus is in Chennai. It was originally established on 4 September 1978 and was named after C.N. Annadurai, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. After taking many different forms over the years, as per a September 2020 bill passed in the Tamil Nadu Legislative assembly, the varsity is now reconstituted to be an affiliating university for engineering colleges across Tamil Nadu excluding the engineering colleges that are part of Anna Technological and Research University. The University is now the affiliating...
#44

Polytechnic University of Milan

#335 institution's overall influence
The Polytechnic University of Milan is the largest technical university in Italy, with about 42,000 students. The university offers undergraduate, graduate and higher education courses in engineering, architecture and design. Founded in 1863, it is the oldest university in Milan.
McGill University
#45

McGill University

#41 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.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
#46

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

#197 institution's overall influence
#1177 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

57%

Graduation

83%

Student body

9K

Median SAT/ACT

1390/31

Troy, NY

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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) was founded in 1824. RPI is organized into six schools, which together comprise 37 departments. The majority of courses they offer have a STEM emphasis. RPI’s most popular courses are those in engineering, in computer and information sciences, and in physical sciences.
Zhejiang University
#47

Zhejiang University

#261 institution's overall influence
Zhejiang University , https://www.educatepulse.com/zhejiang-university-school-of-medicine/ also colloquially referred to as Zheda , is an elite C9 League university located in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. Founded in 1897, Zhejiang University is one of China's oldest, most selective, and most prestigious institutions of higher education. The university is organized into 37 colleges, schools, and departments offering more than 140 undergraduate and 300 graduate programs.
#48

Peking University

#136 institution's overall influence
Peking University , is a major research university in Beijing, China, and a member of the elite C9 League of Chinese universities. Peking University was established as the Imperial University of Peking in 1898 when it received its first royal charter by the Guangxu Emperor. A successor of the older Guozijian Imperial College, the university's romanized name 'Peking' retains the older transliteration of 'Beijing' that has been superseded in most other contexts. Perennially ranked as one of the top academic institutions in China and the world, as of 2021, PKU is ranked 2nd in the Asia-Pacific an...
Indian Institute of Science
#49

Indian Institute of Science

#250 institution's overall influence
The Indian Institute of Science is a public, deemed, research university for higher education and research in science, engineering, design, and management. It is located in Bangalore, in the Indian state of Karnataka. The institute was established in 1909 with active support from Jamsetji Tata and thus is also locally known as the "Tata Institute". It was granted the deemed to be university status in 1958 and the Institute of Eminence status in 2018.
Virginia Tech
#50

Virginia Tech

#226 institution's overall influence
#230 overall school desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

66%

Graduation

84%

Student body

35K

Median SAT/ACT

1285/28

Blacksburg, VA

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (better known as Virginia Tech) was founded in 1872. With a student enrollment of more than 36,000, Virginia Tech is the second-largest public university in the state, after George Mason University.

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