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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 Education, 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.
Stanford University
# 4

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...
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.
New York University
# 6

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).
University of Chicago
# 7

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 California, Berkeley
# 8

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...
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
# 9

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...
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
# 10

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

#440 institution's overall influence
#334 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$13K

Acceptance

93%

Graduation

54%

Student body

11K

Median SAT/ACT

1015/20

Indiana, PA

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Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) was founded in 1875. The student body numbers more than 11,000 individuals.
University of Michigan
# 11

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.
Saint Francis University
# 12

Saint Francis University

#462 institution's overall influence
#1108 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$36K

Acceptance

75%

Graduation

67%

Student body

3K

Median SAT/ACT

1145/23

Loretto, PA

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Saint Francis University is a private Catholic liberal arts university in Loretto, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1847 and conducted under the tradition of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. The university is situated on in the forests and farmland of Loretto.
Princeton University
# 13

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 Pennsylvania
# 14

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).
Susquehanna University
# 15

Susquehanna University

#410 institution's overall influence
#347 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$47K

Acceptance

72%

Graduation

74%

Student body

2K

Selinsgrove, PA

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Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University (SU) has a student enrollment of about 2,300 undergraduates. SU offers over 100 liberal arts and pre-professional degree programs. Among the most popular ones are those in business and related fields, in communication, and in journalism.
Pennsylvania State University
# 16

Pennsylvania State University

#86 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$18K

Acceptance

56%

Graduation

86%

Student body

47K

Median SAT/ACT

1260/27

University Park, PA

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Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) was founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.
University of Oxford
# 17

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
# 18

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
# 19

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).
Gettysburg College
# 20

Gettysburg College

#395 institution's overall influence
#227 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$54K

Acceptance

45%

Graduation

87%

Student body

3K

Gettysburg, PA

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Gettysburg College is a private liberal arts college in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1832, the campus is adjacent to the Gettysburg Battlefield. Gettysburg College has about 2,600 students, with roughly equal numbers of men and women. Gettysburg students come from 41 states, Washington, D.C., and 39 countries.
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 California, Los Angeles
# 22

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.
Wilkes University
# 23

Wilkes University

#549 institution's overall influence
#386 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$36K

Acceptance

75%

Graduation

62%

Student body

4K

Median SAT/ACT

1145/24

Wilkes-Barre, PA

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Wilkes University is a private university in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. It has over 2,200 undergraduates and over 2,200 graduate students . Wilkes was founded in 1933 as a satellite campus of Bucknell University, and became an independent institution in 1947, naming itself Wilkes College, after English radical politician John Wilkes after whom Wilkes-Barre is named. The school was granted university status in January 1990. It is classified among "Doctoral/Professional Universities". Wilkes University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Coll...
University of Toronto
# 24

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).
Boston University
# 25

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.
Northwestern University
# 26

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.
Brown University
# 27

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.
Duke University
# 28

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.
Pennsylvania College of Technology
# 29

Pennsylvania College of Technology

#581 institution's overall influence

Tuition + fees

$17K

Graduation

34%

Student body

5K

Williamsport, PA

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Pennsylvania College of Technology is a public college in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. It is affiliated with, but autonomous from, Pennsylvania State University. As an applied technology college, the school offers certificate, associate, and baccalaureate degree programs in more than 100 fields of study. The college's student body is 64% male and 86% are full-time.
University of Southern California
# 30

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.
Georgetown University
# 31

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 Minnesota
# 32

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.
University of Phoenix
# 33

University of Phoenix

#1254 institution's overall influence
The University of Phoenix is a for-profit university headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Founded in 1976, the school confers certificates and degrees in over 100 certificate programs and degree programs at the certificate, associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree levels. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and has an open enrollment admission policy, accepting all applicants with a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent as sufficient for admission. In 2017, the school's parent company, Apollo Education, was acquired by Apollo Global Management, an Am...
University of Virginia
# 34

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.
Westminster College
# 35

Westminster College

#873 institution's overall influence
#350 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$37K

Acceptance

66%

Graduation

71%

Student body

1K

Median SAT/ACT

1110/23

New Wilmington, PA

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Westminster College is a private liberal arts college in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1852, it is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church . The student population is approximately 1,307 undergraduate and graduate students.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
# 36

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 Washington
# 37

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.
Michigan State University
# 38

Michigan State University

#104 institution's overall influence
#1461 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$16K

Acceptance

78%

Graduation

78%

Student body

43K

Median SAT/ACT

1210/26

East Lansing, MI

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Michigan State University (MSU) was founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, the first of its kind in the US. Its original curriculum elevated the study of the natural sciences over the Classical languages and humanities, which was quite unusual at the time.
University of Pittsburgh
# 39

University of Pittsburgh

#63 institution's overall influence
#987 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$19K

Acceptance

59%

Graduation

81%

Student body

27K

Median SAT/ACT

1350/30

Pittsburgh, PA

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University of Pittsburgh (“Pitt”) traces its roots to the Pittsburgh Academy, a preparatory school founded in 1787, when Pittsburgh was still a frontier outpost. Defined in this way, Pitt is the oldest continuously chartered educational institution west of the Allegheny Mountains.
University of Edinburgh
# 40

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).
Arizona State University
# 41

Arizona State University

#146 institution's overall influence
#1312 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$11K

Acceptance

85%

Graduation

67%

Student body

50K

Median SAT/ACT

1245/25

Tempe, AZ

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Arizona State University (ASU) was founded as the Territorial Normal School in 1885---over a quarter century before Arizona entered the Union in 1912---in Tempe, a town just east of Phoenix.
University of British Columbia
# 42

University of British Columbia

#60 institution's overall influence
The University of British Columbia (UBC) was founded in 1908.
University of Texas at Austin
# 43

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.
George Washington University
# 44

George Washington University

#62 institution's overall influence
#76 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$53K

Acceptance

42%

Graduation

84%

Student body

21K

Median SAT/ACT

1370/30

Washington, DC

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George Washington University (GWU) was founded in 1821, under the name of Columbian College, by an act of the US Congress, signed by President James Monroe.
Rutgers University
# 45

Rutgers University

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

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.
The Open University
# 47

The Open University

#247 institution's overall influence
The Open University is a public research university and the largest university in the UK for undergraduate education. The majority of the OU's undergraduate students are based in the United Kingdom and principally study off-campus; many of its courses can also be studied anywhere in the world. There are also a number of full-time postgraduate research students based on the 48-hectare university campus in Milton Keynes, where they use the OU facilities for research, as well as more than 1,000 members of academic and research staff and over 2,500 administrative, operational and support staff.
Carnegie Mellon University
# 48

Carnegie Mellon University

#47 institution's overall influence
#35 student desirability

Tuition + fees

$55K

Acceptance

17%

Graduation

90%

Student body

16K

Median SAT/ACT

1500/34

Pittsburgh, PA

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In 1900, the Scottish-born industrialist and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie, donated the funds to establish a vocational college called the Carnegie Technical Schools. In 1912, the Technical Schools’ name was changed to the Carnegie Institute of Technology (CIT).
The New School
# 49

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 Delhi
# 50

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.