Top 5 universities in the United States 2024
5. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)
Across the six faculties at CalTech, there is a focus on science and engineering.
CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 39 Nobel laureates, six Turing Award winners and four Fields Medallists.
There are about 2,200 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres (about 50 hectares). Almost all undergraduates live on campus.
In addition to Nobel laureates and top researchers, the CalTech graduate community includes a number of politicians and public advisers, particularly in the areas of science, technology and energy.
All first-year students belong to one of four houses as part of the university’s alternative model to fraternities and sororities. A number of traditions and events are associated with each house.
4. Princeton University
Princeton University is one of the oldest universities in the US. It is part of the prestigious group of Ivy League universities.
As well as high-quality teaching and research output, the university is known for its beautiful campus, with some buildings designed by some of America’s most well-known architects.
Notable alumni who have won Nobel prizes include the physicists Richard Feynman and Robert Hofstadter and the chemists Richard Smalley and Edwin McMillan.
Princeton has also educated two US presidents, James Madison and Woodrow Wilson. Other distinguished graduates include Michelle Obama, actors Jimmy Stewart and Brooke Shields, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad.
3. Harvard University
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest higher education institution in the US.
About 21,000 students are enrolled, a quarter of whom are international.
Harvard University is probably the world’s best known university, topping the Times Higher Education Reputation Rankings most years.
Although tuition is expensive, Harvard’s financial endowment allows for plenty of financial aid for students.
The Harvard library system is made up of 79 libraries and is the largest academic library in the world.
Among many famous alumni, Harvard can count eight US presidents, 158 Nobel laureates, 14 Turing Award winners and 62 living billionaires.
Unlike some other universities at the top of the list, Harvard is at least equally reputed for arts and humanities as it is for science and technology, if not more so.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
A third of MIT’s 11,000 students are international, hailing from 154 countries.
Famous alumni include astronaut Buzz Aldrin, former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and physicist Richard Feynman.
MIT cultivates a strong entrepreneurial culture, which has seen many alumni found notable companies such as Intel and Dropbox.
Unusually, the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at MIT are not wholly separate; many courses can be taken at either level.
The undergraduate programme is one of the country’s most selective, admitting only 8 per cent of applicants. Engineering and computer science are the most popular courses among undergraduates.
1. Stanford University
Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.
Of the 16,000 students, most of whom live on campus, 22 per cent are international.
Based in Palo Alto, right beside Silicon Valley, Stanford University has had a prominent role in encouraging the region’s tech industry to develop.
In total, companies founded by Stanford alumni make $2.7 trillion (£2.2 trillion) each year.
The university is often referred to as “the Farm” because the campus was built on the site of the Stanford family’s Palo Alto stock farm. The campus covers 8,180 acres (3,300 hectares), but more than half of the land is not yet developed.
With its distinctive sand-coloured, red-roofed buildings, Stanford’s campus is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It contains a number of sculpture gardens and art museums, as well as a public meditation centre.
As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate stands at just over 5 per cent.