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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 Literature, for the years 2000 – 2020

Harvard University
# 1

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 London
# 2

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
# 3

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.
New York University
# 4

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).
Yale University
# 5

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.
University of California, Berkeley
# 6

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...
Princeton University
# 7

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 ...
University of Chicago
# 8

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.
University of East Anglia
# 9

University of East Anglia

#158 institution's overall influence
The University of East Anglia (UEA) was founded in 1963. East Anglia is a historical region comprising the easternmost counties of England, located northeast of Cambridge on the North Sea coast.
University of Oxford
# 10

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.
Cornell University
# 11

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 Cambridge
# 12

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).
Stanford University
# 13

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 Iowa
# 14

University of Iowa

#56 institution's overall influence
#369 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

83%

Graduation

72%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1225/25

Iowa City, IA

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The University of Iowa was founded in late February of 1847, as one of the very first legislative acts of the new state of Iowa after it was admitted to the union at the end of December of the previous year.
Brown University
# 15

Brown University

#36 institution's overall influence
#7 student 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 Michigan
# 16

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.
University of Toronto
# 17

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 Pennsylvania
# 18

University of Pennsylvania

#17 institution's overall influence
#10 student 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).
Rutgers University
# 19

Rutgers University

#46 institution's overall influence
Rutgers University’s full official name is Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
University of California, Los Angeles
# 20

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.
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.
Wesleyan University
# 22

Wesleyan University

#97 institution's overall influence
#34 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

91%

Student body

3K

Middletown, CT

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Wesleyan University was founded in 1831 under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1872, Wesleyan led the way in admitting female students, an effort sometimes referred to as the “Wesleyan Experiment.” However, resistance to the experiment in certain quarters made itself increasingly felt, until the policy was reversed in 1912. Women were not admitted again until 1970.
University of Leeds
# 23

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.
The New School
# 24

The New School

#96 institution's overall influence
#1438 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$49K

Acceptance

57%

Graduation

68%

Student body

10K

Median SAT/ACT

1255/27

New York, NY

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The New School is a private, research university located in and around Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan. It was founded in 1919 as the New School for Social Research.
University of Southern California
# 25

University of Southern California

#39 institution's overall influence
#30 student 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.
University of Virginia
# 26

University of Virginia

#44 institution's overall influence
#40 student 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.
University of British Columbia
# 27

University of British Columbia

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

Sarah Lawrence College

#236 institution's overall influence
#1422 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$56K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

82%

Student body

2K

Median SAT/ACT

1330/29

Bronxville, NY

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Sarah Lawrence College is a private liberal arts college in Yonkers, New York. The college models its approach to education after the Oxford/Cambridge system of one-on-one student-faculty tutorials, which are a key component in all areas of study. Sarah Lawrence emphasizes scholarship, particularly in the humanities, performing arts, and writing, and places high value on independent study.
# 29

Radcliffe College

#106 institution's overall influence
Radcliffe College was a women's liberal arts college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and functioned as the female coordinate institution for the all-male Harvard College. It was one of the Seven Sisters colleges and held the popular reputation of having a particularly intellectual, literary, and independent-minded female student body. Radcliffe conferred Radcliffe College diplomas to undergraduates and graduate students for approximately the first 70 years of its history and then joint Harvard-Radcliffe diplomas to undergraduates beginning in 1963. A formal "non-merger merger" agreement with Harv
Northwestern University
# 30

Northwestern University

#28 institution's overall influence
#24 student 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.
University of Warwick
# 31

University of Warwick

#163 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.
School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences
# 32

School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences

#145 institution's overall influence
The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences---or, in its French form, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS)---traces its roots to a department within the earlier École Pratique des Hautes Études [Practical School of Advanced Studies], founded in 1868.
University of Exeter
# 33

University of Exeter

#241 institution's overall influence
The University of Exeter is a public research university in Exeter, Devon, South West England, United Kingdom. It was founded and received its royal charter in 1955, although its predecessor institutions, St Luke's College, Exeter School of Science, Exeter School of Art, and the Camborne School of Mines were established in 1838, 1855, 1863, and 1888 respectively. In post-nominals, the University of Exeter is abbreviated as Exon. , and is the suffix given to honorary and academic degrees from the university.
University of Edinburgh
# 34

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).
University of Delhi
# 35

University of Delhi

#157 institution's overall influence
The University of Delhi (DU) was founded in 1922 by the government of British India. The new university soon absorbed four other colleges already existing in Delhi: Delhi College (originally founded in 1792 as Zakir Husain Delhi College); St. Stephen’s College (founded in 1881); Hindu College (founded in 1899); and Ramjas College (founded in 1917). One reason why the British decided to establish DU was the transfer of the seat of colonial administration from Kolkata (Calcutta) to Delhi in 1911.
University of Sussex
# 36

University of Sussex

#142 institution's overall influence
The University of Sussex was established by royal charter in 1961 in the village of Falmer, in the eastern portion of the sprawling South Downs National Park, just north of the seaside city of Brighton, in the county of East Sussex.
Trinity College Dublin
# 37

Trinity College Dublin

#57 institution's overall influence
Trinity College was established in Dublin by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. It was modeled on Oxford and Cambridge, though it was much smaller, originally consisting of only a single “college.”
Johns Hopkins University
# 38

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.
Concordia University
# 39

Concordia University

#292 institution's overall influence
Concordia University is a public comprehensive research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1974 following the merger of Loyola College and Sir George Williams University, Concordia is one of the three universities in Quebec where English is the primary language of instruction . As of the 2018–19 academic year, there were 46,829 students enrolled in credit courses at Concordia, making the university among the largest in Canada by enrolment. The university has two campuses, set approximately apart: Sir George Williams Campus is the main campus, located in Downtown Montr
University of Texas at Austin
# 40

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.
Bard College
# 41

Bard College

#298 institution's overall influence
#998 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

65%

Graduation

78%

Student body

2K

Annandale-On-Hudson, NY

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Bard College is a private liberal arts college in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The campus overlooks the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains, and is within the Hudson River Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
York University
# 42

York University

#202 institution's overall influence
York University (AKA Université York) is a public research university which was founded in 1959. With a student body approaching 56,000 in size, York University is the third-largest institution of higher learning in Canada, after the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia.
Barnard College
# 43

Barnard College

#124 institution's overall influence
#65 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

14%

Graduation

91%

Student body

3K

Median SAT/ACT

1415/31

New York, NY

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Barnard College was founded in 1889 as a women’s college associated with Columbia University. It remains an all-women’s institution to this day. Barnard graduates receive diplomas signed by the presidents of both Barnard College and Columbia University.
Duke University
# 44

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.
Brooklyn College
# 45

Brooklyn College

#116 institution's overall influence
#1381 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$7K

Acceptance

44%

Graduation

51%

Student body

15K

Brooklyn, NY

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Brooklyn College, a component part of the City University of New York (CUNY) with a student body of around 1,850, was founded in 1930.
# 46

University of Kent

#313 institution's overall influence
The University of Kent is a semi-collegiate public research university based in Kent, United Kingdom. It was founded in 1965 and is a plate glass university. The University was granted its Royal Charter on 4 January 1965 and the following year Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent was formally installed as the first Chancellor.
University at Buffalo
# 47

University at Buffalo

#99 institution's overall influence
#1348 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$10K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

74%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1245/26

Buffalo, NY

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The University at Buffalo (officially, State University of New York at Buffalo) was founded in 1846 as a private medical college by Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the US. Commonly known as UB, the university joined the SUNY system in 1962.
Emory University
# 48

Emory University

#113 institution's overall influence
#41 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$51K

Acceptance

19%

Graduation

91%

Student body

13K

Median SAT/ACT

1435/32

Atlanta, GA

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Emory University is a private, research university originally founded in Oxford, Georgia, in 1836 by the Methodist Episcopal Church as Emory College.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
# 49

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.
Brandeis University
# 50

Brandeis University

#87 institution's overall influence
#167 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

31%

Graduation

90%

Student body

7K

Median SAT/ACT

1390/31

Waltham, MA

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Brandeis University was founded in suburban Boston in 1948. Its founders intended to provide a top-rank research university that would be friendly to Jewish students and faculty—at a time when the American Ivy League schools all restricted the number of their Jewish students according to a strict quota system.