Harvard University is almost universally acclaimed as the world’s most prestigious university. There is little doubt that its towering reputation is well earned.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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).
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).
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 ...
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 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...
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 is a Catholic institution of higher learning that was founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Archbishop of Baltimore.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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...
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 was founded in 1887 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Catholic University is organized into 12 schools, which collectively offer some 250 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. In addition, the university is home to 22 research centers, institutes, and laboratories.
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.
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).
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 is a private, research university originally founded in Oxford, Georgia, in 1836 by the Methodist Episcopal Church as Emory College.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.