2020 Best Universities in USA According to Times Higher Education

Find the best universities in the United States through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data.

Thinking about studying in the US can be overwhelming because there are so many options.

We thought you might like to know the top universities in the US based on the highly respected Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.

California is the most represented state among the best US universities, with 14 institutions, followed by 13 universities in New York, 12 universities in Texas and 10 universities in Massachusetts.

The universities at the very top of the ranking are concentrated in these popular destinations that are well known for their higher education opportunities; the top five are based in California, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

It’s important to note that we also produce a separate US College Rankings in partnership with the Wall Street Journal designed with students in mind. At the heart of the US College Rankings is a student survey, taken by more than 170,000 students across the US capturing the most important things to prospective students, such as teaching quality, learning environment, resources, diversity on campus and whether a student would recommend their institution.

Best universities in the United States 2020

There are 172 US universities and colleges among the world’s best, and wherever you want to study in the US, a top university will not be far away. Almost all states and approximately 130 cities are represented in the best US universities list.

Review of Top 5 universities in the US

1. California Institute of Technology (CalTech)

Relative to the tiny size of its student population, CalTech has an impressive number of successful graduates and affiliates, including 39 Nobel laureates, six Turing Award winners and four Fields Medallists.

There are approximately 2,000 students at CalTech, and the primary campus in Pasadena, near Los Angeles, covers 124 acres. Almost all undergraduates live on campus.

Across the six faculties there is a focus on science and engineering.

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 house traditions and events are associated with each house.

The university has the highest proportion of students who continue on to pursue a PhD, and the figure of the CalTech postgraduate has filtered into popular culture; all the main characters in the TV comedy The Big Bang Theory work or study at CalTech.

2. Stanford University

Based in Palo Alto, right beside Silicon Valley, Stanford has had a prominent role in encouraging the region’s tech industry to develop.

Many faculty members, students and alumni have founded successful technology companies and start-ups, including Google, Snapchat and Hewlett-Packard.

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, 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, and a public meditation centre.

As might be expected from one of the best universities in the world, Stanford is highly competitive. The admission rate currently stands at just over 5 per cent.

Of the 15,000 students – most of whom live on campus – 22 per cent are international.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT also 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 programmes are the most popular among undergraduates.

Thirty-three per cent of the 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.

4. Princeton University

Like Harvard, Princeton is a prestigious Ivy League university with a history stretching back more than 200 years.

Princeton’s distinctive social environment includes private “eating clubs”, which function as both social houses and dining halls. Many of the clubs are selective and competitive, but others simply require undergraduates to sign up.

Fewer than 8,000 students are enrolled at Princeton, and just over a quarter are international.

Princeton’s campuses, in New Jersey, are located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia.

Degree courses have strict requirements. All students are required to do independent research as part of their degrees, and some must take a foreign language course.

The application process is highly selective. Unlike most US universities, Princeton does not offer an early decision application route.

Renowned Princeton alumni include US presidents, astronauts, businesspeople and Olympians. This includes former first lady Michelle Obama, author F. Scott Fitzgerald and mathematician Alan Turing.

5. Harvard University

Harvard is probably the best-known university in the world, topping the Times Higher Education reputation rankings most years.

Founded in 1636, it is the oldest higher education institution in the US.

Approximately 20,000 students are enrolled, a quarter of whom are international. Although the cost of 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 counts as 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.

Top Universities in the United States 2020

Click each institution to view its full report on world university ranking 2020 results.


US Rank 2020World University Rank 2020UniversityCityState
1 2California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaCalifornia
2 4Stanford UniversityStanfordCalifornia
3 5Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeMassachusetts
4 6Princeton UniversityPrincetonNew Jersey
5 7Harvard UniversityCambridgeMassachusetts
6 8Yale UniversityNew HavenConnecticut
7 9University of ChicagoChicagoIllinois
8 11University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
9 12Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreMaryland
10 =13University of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyCalifornia
11 16Columbia UniversityNew York CityNew York
12 17University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesCalifornia
13 19Cornell UniversityIthacaNew York
14 20Duke UniversityDurhamNorth Carolina
15 21University of Michigan-Ann ArborAnn ArborMichigan
16 22Northwestern UniversityEvanstonIllinois
17 26University of WashingtonSeattleWashington
18 =27Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghPennsylvania
19 29New York UniversityNew York CityNew York
20 31University of California, San DiegoSan DiegoCalifornia
=21 =38Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaGeorgia
=21 =38University of Texas at AustinAustinTexas
23 =48University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignIllinois
24 51University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonWisconsin
25 52Washington University in St LouisSt. LouisMissouri
26 53Brown UniversityProvidenceRhode Island
27 54University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillNorth Carolina
28 =55University of California, DavisDavisCalifornia
29 =57University of California, Santa BarbaraSanta BarbaraCalifornia
30 61Boston UniversityBostonMassachusetts
31 =62University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesCalifornia
32 70Ohio State University (Main campus)ColumbusOhio
33 78Penn State (Main campus)State CollegePennsylvania
34 79University of MinnesotaMinneapolisMinnesota
35 =80Emory UniversityAtlantaGeorgia
36 84Michigan State UniversityEast LansingMichigan
37 88Purdue University West LafayetteWest LafayetteIndiana
38 =91University of Maryland, College ParkCollege ParkMaryland
39 =94Dartmouth CollegeHanoverNew Hampshire
40 =96University of California, IrvineIrvineCalifornia
41 =102Georgetown UniversityWashington D.C
42 104University of ArizonaTucsonArizona
43 =105Rice UniversityHoustonTexas
44 =107University of Virginia (Main campus)CharlottesvilleVirginia
45 =113University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campusPittsburghPennsylvania
46 116Vanderbilt UniversityNashvilleTennessee
47 119Case Western Reserve UniversityClevelandOhio
48 124University of Colorado BoulderBoulderColorado
49 =134Indiana UniversityBloomingtonIndiana
50 =139Tufts UniversityMedfordMassachusetts
51 =155Arizona State UniversityTempeArizona
52 =157University of Notre DameNotre DameIndiana
53 =168Rutgers, the State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickNew Jersey
54 172University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamAlabama
=55 =173Northeastern UniversityBostonMassachusetts
=55 =173University of RochesterRochester (NY)New York
57 =175University of FloridaGainesvilleFlorida
58 178Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationTexas
59 =179University of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzCalifornia
60 =198George Washington UniversityWashington D.C
=61 201–250Brandeis UniversityWalthamMassachusetts
=61 201–250University of Hawai’i at MānoaHonoluluHawai’i
=61 201–250Howard UniversityWashington D.C
=61 201–250University of IowaIowa CityIowa
=61 201–250University of MassachusettsAmherst, Boston, Dartmouth, Lowell, WorcesterMassachusetts
=61 201–250University of MiamiCoral GablesFlorida
=61 201–250University of South Florida (Tampa)TampaFlorida
=61 201–250University of UtahSalt Lake CityUtah
=61 201–250Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityBlacksburgVirginia
=61 201–250Wake Forest UniversityWinston-SalemNorth Carolina
=61 201–250William & MaryWilliamsburgVirginia
=72 251–300University at BuffaloBuffaloNew York
=72 251–300University of California, RiversideRiversideCalifornia
=72 251–300University of CincinnatiCincinnatiOhio
=72 251–300University of DelawareNewark (DE)Delaware
=72 251–300Florida State UniversityTallahasseeFlorida
=72 251–300George Mason UniversityFairfaxVirginia
=72 251–300University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoIllinois
=72 251–300University of OregonEugeneOregon
=72 251–300Oregon Health and Science UniversityPortlandOregon
=72 251–300Syracuse UniversitySyracuseNew York
=82 301–350Boston CollegeBostonMassachusetts
=82 301–350Colorado School of MinesGoldenColorado
=82 301–350University of New Mexico (Main campus)AlbuquerqueNew Mexico
=82 301–350North Carolina State UniversityRaleighNorth Carolina
=82 301–350Nova Southeastern UniversityDavieFlorida
=82 301–350Rush UniversityChicagoIllinois
=82 301–350Stony Brook UniversityStony BrookNew York
=82 301–350Temple UniversityPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
=82 301–350The University of Tennessee-KnoxvilleKnoxvilleTexas
=82 301–350University of Texas at DallasRichardsonTexas
=82 301–350Tulane UniversityNew OrleansLouisiana
=93 351–400University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksAlaska
=93 351–400University of California, MercedMercedCalifornia
=93 351–400Clark UniversityWorcesterMassachusetts
=93 351–400University of ConnecticutMansfieldConnecticut
=93 351–400University of DenverDenverColorado
=93 351–400Hofstra UniversityHempsteadNew York
=93 351–400Iowa State UniversityAmesIowa
=93 351–400Oregon State UniversityCorvallisOregon
=93 351–400State University of New York AlbanyAlbanyNew York
=93 351–400Washington State UniversityPullmanWashington
=93 351–400Wayne State UniversityDetroitMichigan
=104 401–500University of AlabamaTuscaloosaAlabama
=104 401–500American UniversityWashington D.C
=104 401–500Colorado State University, Fort CollinsFort CollinsColorado
=104 401–500Drexel UniversityPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
=104 401–500University of GeorgiaAthensGeorgia
=104 401–500Georgia State UniversityAtlantaGeorgia
=104 401–500University of HoustonHoustonTexas
=104 401–500University of KansasLawrenceKansas
=104 401–500University of KentuckyLexingtonKentucky
=104 401–500University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaMissouri
=104 401–500University of Missouri-St LouisSt. LouisMissouri
=104 401–500University of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnNebraska
=104 401–500New Mexico Institute of Mining and TechnologySocorroNew Mexico
=104 401–500Oklahoma State UniversityStillwaterOklahoma
=104 401–500Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroyNew York
=104 401–500University of South Carolina-ColumbiaColumbiaSouth Carolina
=104 401–500University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioTexas
=104 401–500University of TulsaTulsaOklahoma
=122 501–600University of Alabama in HuntsvilleHuntsvilleAlabama
=122 501–600Binghamton University, State University of New YorkBinghamtonNew York
=122 501–600Florida International UniversityMiamiFlorida
=122 501–600University of IdahoMoscowIdaho
=122 501–600Louisiana State UniversityBaton RougeLouisiana
=122 501–600Missouri University of Science and TechnologyRollaMissouri
=122 501–600University of Nebraska Medical CenterOmahaNebraska
=122 501–600New Jersey Institute of TechnologyNewark (NJ)New Jersey
=122 501–600Northern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffArizona
=122 501–600University of Rhode IslandSouth KingstownRhode Island
=122 501–600San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoCalifornia
=122 501–600University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeWisconsin
=134 601–800University of ArkansasFayatevilleArkansas
=134 601–800Auburn UniversityAuburnAlabama
=134 601–800Baylor UniversityWacoTexas
=134 601–800University of Central FloridaOrlandoFlorida
=134 601–800Clemson UniversityClemsonSouth Carolina
=134 601–800Creighton UniversityOmahaNebraska
=134 601–800Kansas State UniversityManhattanKansas
=134 601–800Kent State UniversityKentOhio
=134 601–800Lehigh UniversityBethlehemPennsylvania
=134 601–800University of Maryland, Baltimore CountyBaltimoreMaryland
=134 601–800Montana State UniversityBozemanMontana
=134 601–800University of Nevada, Las VegasLas VegasNevada
=134 601–800New Mexico State University (Main campus)Las CrucesNew Mexico
=134 601–800University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroNorth Carolina
=134 601–800Ohio University (Main campus)AthensOhio
=134 601–800Old Dominion UniversityNorfolkVirginia
=134 601–800Portland State UniversityPortlandOregon
=134 601–800University of South DakotaVermillionSouth Dakota
=134 601–800Stevens Institute of TechnologyHobokenNew Jersey
=134 601–800University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonTexas
=134 601–800Texas Tech UniversityLubbockTexas
=134 601–800University of ToledoToledoOhio
=134 601–800Western Washington UniversityBellinghamWashington
=134 601–800West Virginia UniversityMorgantownWest Virginia
=134 601–800Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterMassachusetts
=159 801–1000Embry-Riddle Aeronautical UniversityDaytona BeachFlorida
=159 801–1000Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonFlorida
=159 801–1000Florida Institute of TechnologyMelbourneFlorida
=159 801–1000Louisiana Tech UniversityRustonLouisiana
=159 801–1000Marquette UniversityMilwaukeeWisconsin
=159 801–1000Mississippi State UniversityStarkvilleMississippi
=159 801–1000The New SchoolNew York CityNew York
=159 801–1000Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester (NY)New York
=159 801–1000University of Texas at El PasoEl PasoTexas
=168 1001+California State University, Long BeachLong BeachCalifornia
=168 1001+University of North Carolina WilmingtonWilmingtonNorth Carolina
=168 1001+University of North FloridaJacksonvilleFlorida
=168 1001+Oakland UniversityRochesterMichigan
=168 1001+Texas State UniversitySan MarcosTexas

Top 10 universities in the US According to THE/WSJ US College Ranking 2020 


WSJ/THE US College Rank 2020UniversityCityState
1Harvard UniversityCambridgeMassachusetts
2Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeMassachusetts
3Yale UniversityNew HavenConnecticut
4University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaPennsylvania
=5California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaCalifornia
=5Princeton UniversityPrincetonNew Jersey
=7Brown UniversityProvidenceRhode Island
=7Stanford UniversityStanfordCalifornia
9Cornell UniversityIthacaNew York
10Duke UniversityDurhamNorth Carolina


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