The Best Universities in the World Today

When it comes to choosing a research university, you should probably, well, do your research.

Choose a college wisely. Consider factors such as cost, programs offered, admissions, graduation rates, notable alumni, student life, and location. There are over 5,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. alone, and lots of college rankings.

But you have to start somewhere.

This ranking, which covers universities and colleges around the world for the 2018-19 academic year, is based on the "footprint" of key researchers and scholars on the web and focuses on the combined influence of a school's faculty across fields of study, according to the list's author, TheBestSchools.org.

TheBestSchools, which comprises educators, editors, authors, and web professionals, says that many college rankings are being "gamed," based on the fact that once the criteria for calculating a school's position in a ranking are laid out, it becomes possible for schools to adapt to those criteria and rise in the rankings, even if doing so does nothing to improve the quality of research and instruction at the school.

The methodology for this list involved selecting a representative sample of disciplines at universities and finding the influencers in each discipline, and then pooling these influencers to see where they are on faculty and where they got their degrees.

Here are the top 30 universities in the world today.

(TheBestSchools.org is part of highereducation.com, a Houston-based online recruiting and content marketing site.)

1. Harvard University
1. Harvard University

1. Harvard University

Cambridge, Mass.

Leading the pack is Harvard, a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Mass. Established in 1636, Harvard has produced 49 Nobel laureates, 32 heads of state and 48 Pulitzer Prize winners, according to Best Schools. It is famous for its leading medical, law, and business schools, the largest academic library in the world, and a long list of notable alumni, from John Quincy Adams and Theodore Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt, Hellen Keller, John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, Benazir Bhutto, and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Photo: Jannis Tobias Werner / Shutterstock

2. University of California at Berkeley
2. University of California at Berkeley

2. University of California at Berkeley

Berkeley, Calif.

A state university with the elite status of a private school, and founded in 1868, Berkeley is the flagship institution of the University of California system. UC Berkeley boasts 30 Nobel Prize winners, seven of whom are current faculty members. Notable alumni include Steve Wozniak, Gregory Peck and Janet Yellen.

Photo: cdrin / Shutterstock

3. University of Chicago
3. University of Chicago

3. University of Chicago

Chicago

One of the leading universities in the sciences, University of Chicago is famous for its many distinguished alums, including James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, Carl Sagan and Edwin Hubble. Other notable alumni include Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and economist Milton Friedman.

Above, the Booth School of Business on the campus of the University of Chicago.

Photo: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock

4. University of Michigan
4. University of Michigan

4. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Mich.

This public research university is the state's oldest university, founded in 1817. Its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields as well as professional degrees in medicine, law, and dentistry.

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Columbia University
5. Columbia University

5. Columbia University

New York City

Established in 1754, this private Ivy League research university in Manhattan has graduated many notable alumni, including five founding fathers of the U.S. As of 2011, Columbia counted among its alumni 125 Pulitzer Prize winners, 39 Oscar winners, and three U.S. presidents.

Photo: Rachel Moon / Shutterstock

6. Yale University
6. Yale University

6. Yale University

New Haven, Conn.

One of the original Ivy League schools, Yale dates back to 1701 and is known for its distinguished law school and research centers addressing topics as varied as Benjamin Franklin's writings, bioethics, magnetic resonance imaging research, and the Russian archives. It has a $20 billion endowment. Notable alumni include Bill and Hilary Clinton, Tom Wolfe, Oliver Stone, Paul Newman, Meryl Streep and Sonia Sotomayor. Above, the Beinecke Rare Book Library.

Photo:Jose L Vilchez / Shutterstock

7. Princeton University
7. Princeton University

7. Princeton University

Princeton, N.J.

Princeton has no law school, medical school, business school, or divinity school, and is instead known as a research-driven think tank. It offers undergraduate and graduate instruction in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and engineering. Above, Princeton's Holder Hall.

Photo: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Cambridge, Mass.

This distinguished science research university boasts 80 Nobel laureates, 56 National Medal of Science winners, 43 MacArthur fellows, and 28 National Medal of Technology and Innovation winners. It has a $10 billion endowment. Above, MIT's Ray and Maria Stata Center, an academic complex designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.

Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

9. University of Cambridge
9. University of Cambridge

9. University of Cambridge

Cambridge, England

Dating back to 1209, Cambridge is the seventh-oldest university in the world. A long list of famed scientists, mathematicians, and great minds either studied and/or taught there, including Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Francis Bacon, John Milton, Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Stephen Hawking.

Photo: Shutterstock

10. Stanford University
10. Stanford University

10. Stanford University

Palo Alto, Calif.

This private research university's professional schools focus on graduate programs in law, medicine, education and business. Affiliated institutions include the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace and the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute which grew out of and still contains the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project.

Photo: Dmitrii Sakharov / Shutterstock

11. Oxford University
11. Oxford University

11. Oxford University

Oxford, England

Dating back over 900 years, this research university operates the world's oldest university museum and largest university press, as well as the largest academic library system in Britain. Above, the great hall of Christ Church, one of the oldest surviving sections of the Oxford's original foundation.

Photo: eXpose / Shutterstock

12. Cornell University
12. Cornell University

12. Cornell University

Ithaca, N.Y.

Nestled in bucolic upstate New York, Cornell has multiple interdisciplinary research centers in nanotechnology, biotechnology, genomics, and supercomputing. It also has one of the nation's leading medical schools located in New York City. It has entire colleges for hotel administration, labor relations, and veterinary medicine.

Photo: Shutterstock

13. University of California at Los Angeles
13. University of California at Los Angeles

13. University of California at Los Angeles

Los Angeles, Calif.

UCLA receives more applications than any other school in the U.S., according to Best Schools. Just under 100 years old, UCLA has produced 13 Nobel laureates, 12 Rhodes Scholars, 12 MacArthur Fellows, 10 National Medal of Science winners, three Pulitzer Prize winners, and a Fields Medalist.

Photo: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock

14. University of Wisconsin-Madison
14. University of Wisconsin-Madison

14. University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, Wis.

Alumni from this public research university include Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Lindbergh, John Muir and Joyce Carol Oates.

Photo: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

15. University of Toronto
15. University of Toronto

15. University of Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A leading Canadian research university, this massive institution has over 80,000 students, 20,000 faculty and staff, and 530,000 alumni around the world. It has over 700 undergraduate and 200 graduate programs, ranging from architecture and medicine, to music and urban studies.

Photo: Shutterstock

16. University of Manchester
16. University of Manchester

16. University of Manchester

Manchester, England

A public research university, Manchester boasts famous alumni including Marie Stopes, a pioneer of birth control and campaigner for women's rights, and Alan Turing, one of the founders of computer science and artificial intelligence.

Photo: amirraizat / Shutterstock

17. Duke University
17. Duke University

17. Duke University

Durham, N.C.

This private, non-profit research university was founded by Methodists and Quakers in 1838 and is probably best known for its prestigious medical program and law school.

Photo: EQRoy / Shutterstock

18. New York University
18. New York University

18. New York University

New York City

Located in New York's Greenwich Village, NYU's largest college is the College of Arts and Sciences, and is well known for its undergraduate and graduate programs in drama, dance, film, and television. It also has highly-ranked business, law, and medical schools.

Photo: TYeu / Shutterstock

19. Johns Hopkins University
19. Johns Hopkins University

19. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, Md.

Johns Hopkins is often regarded as the leading medical school in the world, but also has highly ranked programs in biological and biomedical sciences, engineering, humanities, international affairs and creative writing.

Above, the Peabody Library John Hopkins University.

Photo: Andrea Izzotti / Shutterstock

20. University of Pennsylvania
20. University of Pennsylvania

20. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pa.

A private research university founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, Penn boasts among its alumni eight signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, two U.S. presidents, 25 billionaires, three U.S. Supreme Court justices, 35 Nobel laureates and 169 Guggenheim Fellows.

Photo: Shutterstock

21. University of Minnesota Twin Cities
21. University of Minnesota Twin Cities

21. University of Minnesota Twin Cities

Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.

This huge institution has over 25,000 faculty and 325 research centers and institutes, a highly successful medical research program and children's hospital as well as a K-12 education program and is at the forefront of education research.

Above, the Weisman Art Museum has been a teaching museum for the university since 1934. The building was designed by Frank Gehry.

Photo: Craig Hinton / Shutterstock

22. University of California-San Diego
22. University of California-San Diego

22. University of California at San Diego

La Jolla, Calif.

Situated on the Pacific Ocean in southern California, UC San Diego is one of the 10 largest centers for scientific research in the U.S. and is noted for work in climate science, the human microbiome, nanotechnology and social mobility. It is both a sea-grant and space-grant college.

Photo:Alex Hansen /Wikipedia

23. University of Paris (Sorbonne)
23. University of Paris (Sorbonne)

23. University of Paris (Sorbonne)

Paris, France

The largest institution in France dedicated to the study of literature, languages, civilizations, arts, humanities and social sciences is located on the original medieval foundations, and now extends to the Latin Quarter and to other areas in Paris. It was one of the first universities in the world.

Photo: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

24. Northwestern University
24. Northwestern University

24. Northwestern University

Evanston, Ill.

With a $10.5 billion endowment, major graduate research initiatives at Northwestern include the Center for Global Health, the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, and the Global and Research Opportunities at Northwestern. Its library holds over five million books, and the university has 19 teams in the Big Ten athletic conference.

Photo: Shutterstock

25. McGill University
25. McGill University

25. McGill University

Montreal, Québec, Canada

McGill has produced more Rhodes Scholars than any other Canadian school. It offers degrees and diplomas in over 300 fields of study, with most of its 41,000 students enrolled in arts, science, medicine, engineering, and management.

Photo: Shutterstock

26. Hebrew University of Jerusalem
26. Hebrew University of Jerusalem

26. Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Jerusalem, Israel

One of the world's premier research universities, the Hebrew University has highly-ranked programs in medicine, mathematics, computer science and business and economics, and has become a leading center for the integration of biology and engineering.

Photo: Spiroview Inc / Shutterstock

27. University of Washington
27. University of Washington

27. University of Washington

Seattle

This public university in Seattle has distinguished schools in medicine, engineering, business, and law, as well as highly ranked programs in social science and agriculture science, among others.

Photo: Checubus / Shutterstock

28. The University of Texas at Austin
28. The University of Texas at Austin

28. The University of Texas at Austin

With 51,000 students, UT Austin is the flagship university of the larger, state-wide University of Texas system. Notable alumni include Rex Tillerson, Matthew McConaughey, Roger Clemens and Mary Lou Retton. Above, paleontologist and science writer Neil Shubin gives a lecture at the university in 2016.

Photo: stock_photo_world / Shutterstock

29. University of British Columbia
29. University of British Columbia

29. University of British Columbia

Vancouver, B.C., Canada

The school has produced seven Nobel laureates, 65 Olympic medalists, and 70 Rhodes Scholars. It has high-ranking programs in medicine, social science, agriculture science, business and economics.

Photo: Shutterstock

30. King's College London
30. King's College London

30. King's College London

London

A public research university in the heart of London, King's College London was founded in 1828.

Alumni and staff include 12 Nobel laureates, contributors to the discovery of DNA structure, pioneers of in-vitro fertilization, stem cell/mammal cloning and the modern hospice movement, and key researchers advancing radar, radio, television and mobile phone technology.

See the full list of 100 best universities in the world here.

Photo: Fil Brit/Wikipedia

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