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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 Religious Studies, 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 Chicago
# 2

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.
Yale University
# 3

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 Oxford
# 4

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 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.
University of California, Santa Barbara
# 6

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.
University of California, Berkeley
# 7

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...
Columbia University
# 8

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.
University of Cambridge
# 9

University of Cambridge

#4 institution's overall influence
Founded in 1209, the University of Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world (or, at least, in Europe, not to prejudge the claims of several Islamic institutions to that title).
University of Toronto
# 10

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).
Princeton University
# 11

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 ...
Brigham Young University
# 12

Brigham Young University

#111 institution's overall influence
#102 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$6K

Acceptance

64%

Graduation

83%

Student body

34K

Median SAT/ACT

1305/28

Provo, UT

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Brigham Young University (BYU) was founded in 1875 as the Brigham Young Academy. It is a private, research university owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Boston University
# 13

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.
Stanford University
# 14

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...
Humboldt University of Berlin
# 15

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 Virginia
# 16

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 Lancaster
# 17

University of Lancaster

#257 institution's overall influence
Lancaster University is a collegiate public research university in Lancaster, Lancashire, England. The university was established by royal charter in 1964, one of several new universities created in the 1960s.
Duke University
# 18

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.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
# 19

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

#80 institution's overall influence
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem was founded in 1918 in the ancient city of Jerusalem. At the time the city, as well as the entire surrounding region of Palestine, was under British military control.
Durham University
# 20

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.
Georgetown University
# 21

Georgetown University

#71 institution's overall influence
#19 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

15%

Graduation

94%

Student body

14K

Median SAT/ACT

1450/32

Washington, DC

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Georgetown University is a Catholic institution of higher learning that was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore.
University of Birmingham
# 22

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 Pennsylvania
# 23

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).
McGill University
# 24

McGill University

#40 institution's overall influence
McGill University is the direct descendent of McGill College, founded by royal charter in 1821 and largely funded by a bequest from the Scottish-born Canadian entrepreneur and philanthropist, James McGill. The university took its present name in 1885.
University of Michigan
# 25

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 Notre Dame
# 26

University of Notre Dame

#119 institution's overall influence
#23 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

18%

Graduation

95%

Student body

13K

Median SAT/ACT

1475/34

Notre Dame, IN

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The University of Notre Dame (ND) was founded in 1842 by Edward Sorin, a Catholic priest of the religious order of the Congregation of Holy Cross (Congregatio a Sancta Cruce---CSC). ND was originally a primary and secondary school. Two years later, in 1844, the school received its college charter from the General Assembly of Indiana (which had been a state since 1816). It awarded its first degree in 1849.
University of Göttingen
# 27

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.
Northwestern University
# 28

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.
Rice University
# 29

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.
University of Edinburgh
# 30

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).
Johns Hopkins University
# 31

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 Tübingen
# 32

University of Tübingen

#51 institution's overall influence
The University of Tübingen, officially the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen , is a public research university located in the city of Tübingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Brown University
# 33

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.
Claremont Graduate University
# 34

Claremont Graduate University

#374 institution's overall influence

Student body

1K

Claremont, CA

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Claremont Graduate University is a private, all-graduate research university in Claremont, California. Founded in 1925, CGU is a member of the Claremont Colleges which includes five undergraduate and two graduate institutions of higher education.
# 35

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 of Bristol
# 36

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.
Santa Clara University
# 37

Santa Clara University

#398 institution's overall influence
#1245 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$52K

Acceptance

50%

Graduation

89%

Student body

8K

Median SAT/ACT

1355/30

Santa Clara, CA

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Santa Clara University is a private Jesuit university in Santa Clara, California, with about 5,400 undergraduate students and about 3,300 postgraduate students. Established in 1851, Santa Clara University is the oldest operating institution of higher learning in California and has remained in its original location for years. The university's campus surrounds the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asis which traces its founding to 1776. The campus mirrors the Mission's architectural style and provides a fine early example of Mission Revival architecture. The university is classified as a "Doctora...
University of Freiburg
# 38

University of Freiburg

#49 institution's overall influence
The University of Freiburg , officially the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg , is a public research university located in Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. The university was founded in 1457 by the Habsburg dynasty as the second university in Austrian-Habsburg territory after the University of Vienna. Today, Freiburg is the fifth-oldest university in Germany, with a long tradition of teaching the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences and enjoys a high academic reputation both nationally and internationally. The university is made up of 11 faculties and attracts s
Cornell University
# 39

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 California, Riverside
# 40

University of California, Riverside

#288 institution's overall influence
#919 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

51%

Graduation

73%

Student body

23K

Median SAT/ACT

1220/26

Riverside, CA

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The University of California, Riverside (UC-Riverside), was founded in 1954. It is one of the 10 component campuses of the University of California System. The university is organized into three academic colleges, two graduate schools, and two professional schools, which together provide 81 undergraduate majors, 48 master’s degree programs, and 42 PhD programs.
The Catholic University of America
# 41

The Catholic University of America

#203 institution's overall influence
#261 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$46K

Acceptance

84%

Graduation

70%

Student body

5K

Washington, DC

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The Catholic University of America is a private Catholic university in Washington, D.C. It is a pontifical university of the Catholic Church in the United States and the only institution of higher education founded by U.S. Catholic bishops. Established in 1887 as a graduate and research center following approval by Pope Leo XIII on Easter Sunday, the university began offering undergraduate education in 1904. Its campus is adjacent to the Brookland neighborhood, known as "Little Rome", which contains 60 Catholic institutions, including Trinity Washington University, the Dominican House of Stud...
Princeton Theological Seminary
# 42

Princeton Theological Seminary

#349 institution's overall influence

Student body

0K

Princeton, NJ

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Princeton Theological Seminary is a private Presbyterian school of theology in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1812 under the auspices of Archibald Alexander, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the College of New Jersey , it is the second-oldest seminary in the United States. It is also the largest of ten seminaries associated with the Presbyterian Church.
New York University
# 43

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).
Jewish Theological Seminary of America
# 44

Jewish Theological Seminary of America

#336 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$57K

Acceptance

47%

Graduation

79%

Student body

0K

Median SAT/ACT

1430/32

New York, NY

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The Jewish Theological Seminary is a Conservative Jewish education organization in New York City, New York. It is one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism and a major center for academic scholarship in Jewish studies.
Emory University
# 45

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.
Queen's University
# 46

Queen's University

#187 institution's overall influence
Queen's University at Kingston, commonly known as Queen's University or simply Queen's, is a public research university in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Queen's holds more than of land throughout Ontario and owns Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex, England. Queen's is organized into ten undergraduate, graduate, and professional faculties and schools.
University of California, Irvine
# 47

University of California, Irvine

#103 institution's overall influence
#87 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$14K

Acceptance

29%

Graduation

87%

Student body

36K

Median SAT/ACT

1300/29

Irvine, CA

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The University of California, Irvine is a public research university in Irvine, California. UCI is one of the ten campuses of the University of California system, and offers 87 undergraduate degrees and 129 graduate and professional degrees, enrolling roughly 30,000 undergraduates and 6,000 graduate students as of Fall 2019. The university is classified as an R1 University, and had $436.6 million in research and development expenditures in 2018. UCI became a member of the Association of American Universities in 1996. The university is considered one of the "Public Ivies," meaning that it is a...
Brandeis University
# 48

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.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
# 49

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

#74 institution's overall influence
#38 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$9K

Acceptance

23%

Graduation

91%

Student body

25K

Median SAT/ACT

1375/31

Chapel Hill, NC

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The University of North Carolina (UNC) system is a large network of 16 public universities with a total student enrollment of around 240,000 souls. The oldest member of the UNC system is the flagship campus in the small, centrally located town of Chapel Hill.
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
# 50

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.