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The Best Universities in the World: Academic Ranking

What’s the best university in the world? Well, most people know that the Oxbridge scheme and the Ivy League are supremely famous for their academic excellence, but who decides on the best universities in the world? Today, we’re dabbling in Shanghai rankings and gossiping about the best places for a variety of subjects, from medicine to computer science. Stick around to see why these rankings are (not) important and find out more about where the top academic cats come from.

best universities in the world - studysmarter magazine

Best Universities in the World – The Ranking of All Rankings

Have you ever wondered which universities have the bragging rights in terms of how good they are? Of course you have! Everyone wants to know where their own alma mater is and what there is to strive towards.

The (not so) friendly competition among various universities has been present since the very conception of higher education, but the popularisation of universities has inspired many a curious soul to inquire about the quality of education offered by those very institutions. The most famous ranking system is the Shanghai Ranking, which provides an overview of internationally acclaimed universities in terms of overall impact and subject-specific interest.

But what defines a top university?

The surveying body behind the Shanghai Ranking system, called Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), follows the scientific impact of nearly all universities in the world. Why nearly all? Well, universities need to earn their candidacy to even be considered, which is determined by the following criteria:

‘Any Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, Highly Cited Researchers, or papers published in Nature or Science. In addition, universities with a significant amount of papers indexed by Science Citation Index-Expanded (SCIE) and Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) are also included. In total, more than 2000 universities are actually ranked, and the best 1000 are published.’ (ARWU)

So, if a university does not produce publications or garner academic interest, it will not be on the list. This, of course, is rare, as universities are the hub of scientific inquiry and knowledge production.

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So, What Are the Best Universities in the World?

Having considered the criteria for the ranking, I am happy to announce that the 2022 ranking has recently been published. At the moment, the situation is as follows:

best universities in the world - studysmarter magazine

After the Top 5, the list goes on to include:

6. Princeton University

7. University of Oxford

8. Columbia University

9. California Institute of Technology

10. University of Chicago

It is a bit of a surprise that the University of Oxford only comes in seventh given its traditional first place, but fluctuations occasionally happen.

Best Engineering Universities in the World

Now that you’ve seen the top universities, you may wonder what the situation is like for specific subjects. Engineering is one of the most sought-after and complex fields of study. All the maths, physics, mechanics, and the dreaded crux of it all – thermodynamics – have given many a student a head-splitting headache.

If you’re wondering where you should pursue your engineering career, be it through student exchanges, conference attendance, or visits, these are the highest-ranking universities for engineering. And before you begin to scoff at the breadth of the term, we’re providing the ranking for various branches of engineering.

Mechanical Engineering

  1. Xi’an Jiaotong University (China)
  2. University of Cambridge (UK)
  3. Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)
  4. Texas A&M University (US)
  5. Tsinghua University (China)
  6. Stanford University (US)
  7. Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  8. University of California, San Diego (US)
  9. Northwestern University (US)
  10. University of Tokyo (Japan)

Electrical and Electronic Engineering

  1. University of California, Berkeley (US)
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US)
  3. Stanford University (US)
  4. Georgia Institute of Technology (US)
  5. Tsinghua University (China)
  6. Princeton University (US)
  7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (US)
  8. Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  9. University of California, Santa Barbara (US)
  10. Carnegie Mellon University (US)

Environmental Science and Engineering

Perhaps now more than ever is the time to focus on environmental engineering. Climate change seems to be reaching the point of irreversibility, but it’s good to know that universities and their labs are taking it seriously. These are the leaders in the field:

  1. Harvard University (US)
  2. Stanford University (US)
  3. ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  4. University of Wisconsin – Madison (US)
  5. Tsinghua University (China)
  6. University of California, Davis (US)
  7. Michigan State University (US)
  8. Technical University of Denmark (Denmark)
  9. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US)
  10. Nanjing University (China)

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Best Universities in the World for Computer Science

Every now and then, we hear news of Ais becoming sentient, learning languages, or performing tasks without supervision. While we’re actually far away from Asimov’s self-aware robotics, computer sciences have advanced greatly in the last couple of decades. Here are the best universities to study at if your heart’s desire lies with computers:

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (US)
  2. Stanford University (US)
  3. University of California, Berkeley (US)
  4. Carnegie Mellon University (US)
  5. Tsinghua University (China)
  6. Harvard University (US)
  7. ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
  8. Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  9. University of Oxford (UK)
  10. Princeton University (US)

Best Medical Universities in the World

Moving away from engineering and into an equally important field – medicine. Studying medicine is known to be a strenuous endeavour and not for those of a faint heart … or at least stomach. Naturally, some universities have made whopping discoveries and produced a vast mass of knowledge, which places them high on the list of top universities across the globe.

In case you were wondering …

  1. Harvard University (US)
  2. University of California, San Francisco (US)
  3. University of Cambridge (UK)
  4. University of Pennsylvania (US)
  5. Johns Hopkins University (US; you must remember this one from its leading work in fighting the pandemic)
  6. University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (US)
  7. University of Oxford (UK)
  8. Imperial College London (UK)
  9. University of Pittsburgh (US)
  10. University of Washington (US)
best universities in the world - studysmarter magazine

Best Universities in the World for Forensic Science

If you’ve grown up watching endless reruns of CSI, NCIS, True Crime, and many other crime documentaries and TV series, I don’t have to explain forensic science. Perhaps the forensic science we see on TV is not quite exactly like it in real life, but it still concerns itself with applying medicine in the practice of criminal law.

The best forensics in the world usually come from these universities:

  1. Michigan State University (US)
  2. West Virginia University (US)
  3. University of Bologna (Italy)
  4. University of Leicester (UK)
  5. Tsinghua University (China)
  6. Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
  7. Maryland University (US)
  8. University of Lausanne (Switzerland)
  9. Minnesota University (US)
  10. University of Copenhagen (Denmark)
  11. Honorary mention: University of Rotterdam (Netherlands)

Best Universities for Psychology in the World

Still kinda in medical sciences, these top-ranking universities are particularly interested in cracking all codes of the human psyche. From children’s developmental psychology to the psychopathology of serial killers (hanging out with the forensics from above), these are the best places to study psychology:

  1. Harvard University (US)
  2. University College London (UK)
  3. Stanford University (US)
  4. University of Pennsylvania (US)
  5. Yale University (US)
  6. Northwestern University (US)
  7. University of Toronto (Canada)
  8. University of California, Los Angeles (US)
  9. Columbia University (US)
  10. New York University (US)

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Best Online Universities in the World

Technology has advanced tremendously, which is favourable to everyone who might be interested in online learning. There are notable benefits to studying from the comfort of your own home, including reduced commute time, often lower tuition, and not having to move out of your home if you don’t want to.

Not all online universities are created equal, but here are some of the top-rated accredited institutions:

  1. Southern New Hampshire University (UK)
  2. Liberty University (US)
  3. University of Central Florida (US)
  4. Arizona State University-Skysong (US)
  5. Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
  6. University College London (UK)
  7. Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)
  8. International Telematic University (Italy)
  9. University of Oxford (UK)
  10. Northeastern University (US)
best universities in the world - studysmarter magazine

What Does It Mean to Study at the Best Public Universities in the World?

Reading these inexhaustible lists, you must have asked yourself what it means to study at one of these universities. Do they promise success after graduation? Are you missing out if you study somewhere else? Will your peers studying there look down upon you?

The answer is: NO!

These universities may produce the most relevant knowledge in their respective fields, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot achieve great success if you study somewhere else. Each university offers a chance; it is up to you how you will use it. Be diligent and motivated, invest time and energy into your studies, and work on being as consistent in your studies as possible, and success will follow.

If you get a chance to study at any of the universities listed here, more power to you; if not, still just as much power to you for making your way wherever you may wonder as Mr Hetfield (who never attended any university and is still globally-acclaimed) wisely says.

Follow your passion when you’re picking a university because apart from that, nothing else matters 😉.

Source: ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities

What is the best university in the world?

Harvard University tends to be among the best universities across various disciplines. Other great universities are Oxford and Cambridge and the rest of the Ivy League.

Which is the best medical university in the world?

Apart from Harvard and Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University is one of the best medical universities in the world. Oxford University and the Imperial College in London are also highly ranked.

What country has the best universities in the world?

The United States leads in the majority of categories in university rankings. The UK follows closely behind, and China has the best engineering options.