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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 Physics, 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.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
# 2

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...
Princeton University
# 3

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 California, Berkeley
# 4

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...
University of Cambridge
# 5

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).
California Institute of Technology
# 6

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.
Stanford University
# 7

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...
Cornell University
# 8

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 Chicago
# 9

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 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 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.
Imperial College London
# 12

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.
Leiden University
# 13

Leiden University

#29 institution's overall influence
Leiden University, though a relative latecomer to the European scene, is the oldest university in what is now the Netherlands, and—to put things in proper perspective—is more than 50 years older than Harvard, he oldest university in the US. In other words, from an international perspective, it is quite a venerable institution.
University of Oxford
# 14

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 California, San Diego
# 15

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 .
Yale University
# 16

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 Texas at Austin
# 17

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.
University of California, Santa Barbara
# 18

University of California, Santa Barbara

#94 institution's overall influence
#100 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

32%

Graduation

82%

Student body

26K

Median SAT/ACT

1345/30

Santa Barbara, CA

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Dating all the way back to the 1891 founding of a small, vocational institution called the Anna Blake School, the University of California, Santa Barbara is now a full-blown public research university, and among the most influential schools in the world.
Humboldt University of Berlin
# 19

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 Manchester
# 20

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.
Johns Hopkins University
# 21

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 Göttingen
# 22

University of Göttingen

#18 institution's overall influence
The University of Göttingen was established under the auspices of Georg August, Elector of Hanover, who was at the same time King George II of Great Britain and Ireland. Born in Hanover in 1683, Georg August acceded to both the Electorship and the British throne upon his father George I’s death in 1727.
University of Michigan
# 23

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 Waterloo
# 24

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 Toronto
# 25

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).
Rice University
# 26

Rice University

#91 institution's overall influence
#15 student 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.
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
# 27

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

#26 institution's overall influence
The present-day University of Munich traces its roots to a fifteenth-century institution founded in the town of Ingolstadt by Duke Ludwig IX of Bavaria-Landshut. The school was moved to the town of Landshut in 1800 by King Maximilian I of Bavaria, when Ingolstadt was threatened by invading French armies during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1802, it was given its present official name of “Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU)” in recognition of its first and second founding fathers.
University of California, Los Angeles
# 28

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.
University of Maryland
# 29

University of Maryland

#77 institution's overall influence
#214 student 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 Minnesota
# 30

University of Minnesota

#33 institution's overall influence
#890 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$15K

Acceptance

52%

Graduation

78%

Student body

44K

Median SAT/ACT

1375/28

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.
New York University
# 31

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).
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology
# 32

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

#437 institution's overall influence
Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology , known informally as PhysTech , is a Russian university, originally established in the Soviet Union. It prepares specialists in theoretical and applied physics, applied mathematics and related disciplines.
University of Bristol
# 33

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 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 Wisconsin–Madison
# 35

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.
University of Zurich
# 36

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 Pennsylvania
# 37

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).
University of Arizona
# 38

University of Arizona

#85 institution's overall influence
#605 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

84%

Graduation

60%

Student body

39K

Median SAT/ACT

1190/24

Tucson, AZ

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The University of Arizona (UA) was founded in 1885, when Arizona was still a territory (it entered the Union in 1912).
University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign
# 39

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

#45 institution's overall influence
#162 student 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.
Australian National University
# 40

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.
University of Colorado Boulder
# 41

University of Colorado Boulder

#162 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$12K

Acceptance

82%

Graduation

70%

Student body

32K

Median SAT/ACT

1255/28

Boulder, CO

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The University of Colorado Boulder , colloquially referred to as CU or Colorado, is a public research university in Boulder, Colorado. It is the flagship university of the University of Colorado system, and was founded in 1876, five months before Colorado became a state. CU Boulder is a member of the Association of American Universities, a selective group of major research universities in North America, and is classified as an R1 University, meaning that it engages in a very high level of research activity. According to the National Science Foundation, the university spent $514 million on rese...
University of Tokyo
# 42

University of Tokyo

#139 institution's overall influence
, abbreviated as or UTokyo, is a public research university located in Bunkyō, Tokyo, Japan. Established in 1877, it was the first of the imperial universities.
University of Washington
# 43

University of Washington

#43 institution's overall influence
#69 student 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.
Charles University
# 44

Charles University

#59 institution's overall influence
Charles University, known also as Charles University in Prague or historically as the University of Prague , is the oldest and largest university in the Czech Republic. It is one of the oldest universities in Europe in continuous operation. Today, the university consists of 17 faculties located in Prague, Hradec Králové and Pilsen. Its academic publishing house is Karolinum Press. The university also operates several museums and two botanical gardens.
University of Birmingham
# 45

University of Birmingham

#53 institution's overall influence
The University of Birmingham has a rather involved history. The oldest entity to which the modern university can trace its roots is the Birmingham School of Medicine and Surgery, founded in 1825. This medical-training college was officially recognized by the crown in 1836, becoming the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery, which developed into Queen’s College, Birmingham, in 1843.
University of Bern
# 46

University of Bern

#141 institution's overall influence
The University of Bern is a university in the Swiss capital of Bern and was founded in 1834. It is regulated and financed by the Canton of Bern. It is a comprehensive university offering a broad choice of courses and programs in eight faculties and some 150 institutes. With around 18,576 students, the University of Bern is the third biggest University in Switzerland.
Sapienza University of Rome
# 47

Sapienza University of Rome

#117 institution's overall influence
The Sapienza University of Rome , also called simply Sapienza or the University of Rome, is a collegiate research university that is located in Rome, Italy. Formally known as Università degli Studi di Roma "La Sapienza", it is one of the largest European universities by enrollments and one of the oldest in history, founded in 1303. The University is one of the most prestigious Italian universities and in the world, commonly ranking first in national rankings and in Southern Europe. In 2018 it ranked first in the world for classics and ancient history.
Moscow State University
# 48

Moscow State University

#95 institution's overall influence
Moscow State University is a coeducational and public research university located in Moscow, Russia. It was founded on by Mikhail Lomonosov. During the Soviet period, MSU was renamed after Lomonosov in 1940 and was then known as Lomonosov University. Its current rector is Viktor Sadovnichiy.
University of Vienna
# 49

University of Vienna

#19 institution's overall influence
The University of Vienna was founded by the Habsburg ruler, Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria. This monarch was known as “Rudolf der Stifter” [Rudolf the Founder] on account of his fondness for building new cathedrals and monasteries, as well as the university. He may also have been motivated by rivalry with his Central European peers, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles IV (who had established Charles University in Prague just a few years earlier, in 1348) and Casimir III (known as “Casimir the Great”), King of Poland (who had founded Jagiellonian University in Kraków one year earlier, in 1364).
Tel Aviv University
# 50

Tel Aviv University

#154 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.