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    Best Universities in the World 2021

    September 23, 2021 | Staff Writers

    Best Universities in the World
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    Getting admitted to the world’s best university places you in a better position for exponential career growth with great financial, social, and emotional rewards. This article discusses the three most commonly used methodologies for ranking the top universities. 

    It also lists the top 10 best universities in the world and discusses their acceptance rates. Finally, we offer you some tips for increasing your chances of being accepted to the best university, as well as tips for accessing higher education affordably.

    Ranking Methodology for the World’s Best Universities

    There are many methods used to rank universities. However, the three main ranking methodologies applied for ranking universities discussed in this article are the most commonly used, most influential, and their rankings are easily accessible online for free. The three ranking methodologies are:

    • QS World University Rankings
    • Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU)
    • Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings

    In this section of the article, we look at what each method encompasses. Each method provides various criteria for ranking and their weight, as discussed in detail below.

    QS World University Rankings

    The QS World University Rankings is a university ranking methodology developed by Quacquarelli Symonds in 2004. It is the only international ranking framework approved by the International Ranking Expert Group (IREG). 

    It employs six metrics to assess various universities’ performance and then rank them. The QS systems provide an overall global ranking, subject ranking, and regional ranking.

    Ranking Criteria

    The QS World University Ranking framework evaluates universities according to the following six metrics:

    Ranking MetricWeight
    Academic reputation40%
    Employer Reputation10%
    Faculty to student ratio10%
    Citations per faculty20%
    International faculty ratio5%
    International student ratio5%

    1. Academic Reputation (40%)

    The QS World University Rankings framework gives the highest weighting to a university’s academic reputation. This score is achieved through a survey submitted to over 100,000 experts in the higher education space. These experts survey the universities according to their perception of the quality of teaching and survey.

    2. Employer Reputation (10%)

    The employer reputation score is designed to assess whether a university’s students are equipped for the employment market. This score is determined through a QS employer survey issued to about 50,000 employers. In the survey, employers indicate the institutions that they go to for competent and innovative graduates.

    3. Faculty to Student Ratio (20%)

    The faculty to student ratio in the QS system is used as a metric for measuring teaching quality in a university. This ratio assesses whether a university has an adequate number of lecturers to adequately serve students.

    4. Citations Per Faculty (20%)

    The QS method recognizes that research output is a key pillar of university education. As such, the methodology employs the citations per faculty metric to measure an institution’s research quality.

    5. International Faculty Ratio (5%)

    And

    6. International Student Ratio (5%)

    A University with a high number of international students and faculty members shows that it has a strong international brand influence. It also shows that the university is keen on its global outlook. 

    The high number of international students and faculty members offers the entire student and staff community a crucial multinational environment for equipping world class graduates.

    Criticism

    The QS World University Rankings method is criticized among academic experts for being over-reliant on subjective indicators such as reputation surveys, which are difficult to measure and tend to fluctuate each year.

    Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU)

    The Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) is also known as the Shanghai Ranking as this method was first designed and implemented by the Shanghai Hiao Tong University in 2003. It was the first global university ranking method. Currently, this method is used to provide an overall global rank for universities and subject-based ranking. 

    Ranking Criteria

    The Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) methodology employs six ranking indicators under four categories as follows:

    Ranking CriteriaIndicatorWeight
    Quality of Education (10%)Number of alumni awarded with Nobel prizes, laureates, or medals10%
    Quality of faculty (40%)Number of staff members who have won Nobel prizes, laureates, and medalsHighly Cited (HiCi) researchers 
    20%


    20%
    Research Output (40%)The number of papers published in the areas of nature and science Number of papers indexed and cited under social science and science 20%

    20%
    Per capita performance (20%)Per capita academic performance of an institution20%

    1. Quality of Education (10%)

    To establish a university’s quality of education, the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) considers the number of the institution’s alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals. The quality of education weight is distributed according to the year the alumni graduated.

    2. Quality of Faculty (40%)

    The quality of faculty carries significant weight in the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) method. It is highly dependent on the number of awards received by faculty members. It is determined by two main indicators:

    • Number of staff members who have won Nobel prizes, laureates, and medals
    • Highly Cited (HiCi) researchers 

    3. Research Output (40%)

    Similar to the quality of faculty criteria, research output also carries a 40% weight and is determined by two main indicators:

    • The number of papers published in the areas of nature and science 
    • Number of papers indexed and cited under social science and science 

    4. Per Capita Performance

    This indicator measures the academic performance in an institution. This is obtained by dividing the weight of the above five indicators by the number of academic staff

    Criticism

    While the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) is highly praised for its objectivity, it is also criticized for favoring bigger universities over the smaller ones. It is also criticized for relying too heavily on award factors for ranking.

    Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings

    Times Higher Education World University rankings are credited to John O’Leary, who was once the Times Higher Education magazine editor. Times Higher Education initially partnered with the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) to rank and publish university rankings between 2004 and 2009. 

    However, the magazine opted to collaborate with Thomas System for an alternative ranking system between 2010-2013, citing that the QS system was not elaborate enough. Once again, in 2014, Times Higher Education magazine broke ties with Thomas Reuters and joined hands with Elsevier, who provided a ranking system and ranking method.

    Ranking Criteria

    The current Times Higher Education university comprises 13 criteria, each with a specific ranking weight. The 13 indicators fall under five categories as follows:

    CategoryIndicatorWeight
    Teaching (30%)Reputation survey15%
    Academic staff to student ratio4.50%
    Doctorates awarded to bachelor’s degree awarded ratio2.25%
    Doctorates awarded to academic staff ratio6.0%
    Institution income per staff2.25%
    Research (30%)Reputation survey18.0%
    Research income per staff6.0%
    Research productivity6.0%
    Citations (30%)Research influence30%
    International outlook (7.5%)Proportion of international students2.50%
    Proportion of international staff2.50%
    International collaborations2.50%
    Industry Income (2.5%)Knowledge transfer2.50%

    1. Teaching (30%)

    Teaching is one category that carries significant weight in the Times Higher Education university ranking criteria. This category analyzes various universities according to their learning environments. The indicators for the teaching category are:

    • Reputation survey
    • Ph.D. to Academic staff ratio
    • Ph.D. to Undergraduate degrees awarded ratio
    • Total students to Academic staff ratio
    • Institution income vs academic staff

    2. Research (30%)

    The research category also has a significant weight in the overall ranking. It ranks universities according to their research volume, income, and reputations for the following three research indicators:

    • Reputation survey
    • Research income per academic staff
    • Publications vs the number academic staff and research staff

    3. Citations (30%)

    This category also weighs 30% and has only one indicator – Citations. This is a critical indicator for measuring the influence a university has in spreading knowledge and ideas. It is determined by the number of times a university’s published work is cited in scholarly publications across the globe.

    4. International Outlook (7.5%)

    This category seeks to establish whether a university has an international impact by measuring the following three indicators:

    • Proportion of International Students 
    • Proportion of International Academic Staff 
    • International co-authorship 

    5. Industry Income (2.5%)

    The industry income category weighs the least and has one indicator: knowledge transfer. This category factors in whether a university has a role in helping various industries with innovations, inventions, and consultancy. It measures the amount of income a university can garner from commercial businesses in exchange for research.

    Criticism

    The Times Higher Education university ranking methodology is criticized for putting so much weight on citation to determine research influence. This is because it is difficult to determine accurately the number of times research was cited in other scholarly works. 

    Also, since most of the universities ranked with this method mostly use English in their publications, it puts non-English speaking countries at a disadvantage. Another criticism is that the Times Higher Education university ranking favors more universities that teach science-based courses as these institutions have a higher research output.

    The Top 10 International Universities in the World

    Below we briefly discuss some of the world’s best universities. This list constitutes of the universities that appear in all the above ranking method’s best ranked universities. Further on, we list 20 more of the best universities in the world.

    1. Harvard University

    Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. It has been the best university in the world for several years. The University’s wealth has been growing over the years mainly through grants and donations to reach a net worth of $25.5 billion so far.

    One of the reasons it is best ranked is the quality of alumni it produces. It has produced 32 heads of state, 49 Nobel laureates, and 48 Pulitzer prize winners. It has the largest library in the world, leading medical, law, and business schools, and a student and alumni community that is integrated across the globe.

    Harvard University is also leading in research. In fact, it has set the standards against which most other universities measure their research. Furthermore, this university is keen to collaborate with other universities in research, among them MIT, Cambridge, and Boston University.

    2. Stanford University

    Stanford University is located at Stanford, California, in the US. It is renowned as both an academic and research center. The university’s faculty constitutes some of the best world’s think tanks, including 22 Nobel laureates, 158 members of the National Academy of Science, 5 Pulitzer prize winners, and 27 MacArthur fellows, among other awards and prizes. So far, it has a net worth of $18.7 billion.

    3. University of Cambridge

    The University of Cambridge is located in Cambridge, England, in the UK. It is the 7th oldest university in the world. This university boasts of having educated some of the world’s best scientists, logicians, and mathematicians, among them Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Francis Crick, James D. Watson, etc. It has also empowered some of the world’s humanitarians, including John Milton, Francis Bacon, Ted Hughes, etc.

    Like Harvard University, it is one of the leading academic institutions in research. It has a diverse international student and faculty community and over 80 Nobel prize winners.

    4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, MIT is renowned as the best science research center. It is focused on finding first-class solutions to the top problems in the world. As a result, it has produced numerous scientists and engineers, 80 Nobel prize winners, 56 National Medal of Science Winners, and 28 National Medal of Technology, among other prizes and awards. 

    The MIT is not only a science-based university; it also has a leading school of social sciences and humanities that has produced notable people such as Kofi Annan, Ben Bernanke, and Buzz Aldrin, among others. It has a net worth of $10 billion.

    5. University of California – Berkeley

    Located in Berkley, California, US, this is one of the few state-owned elite universities. It offers over 350-degree programs and graduates more Ph.D. students than any other university in the world. It is keen on building an international community with students from over 100 countries.

    In the last 10 years, UC Berkley has received more graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation than any other university. 7 out 30 of its Nobel Prize winners are faculty members. It also boasts of 108 Faculty Fulbright Scholars, 42 American Philosophical Society members, and 31 Faculty MacArthur Fellows. So far, it has a net worth of $4 billion. 

    6. Princeton University

    Located in Princeton, New Jersey, US. It is one of the earliest universities in the US. Unlike other elite universities on this list, Princeton University has a significantly smaller student population and fewer programs. 

    Notably, it has no law school, medical school, business school, or divinity school. It emphasizes the quality of education with professors required to teach, even undergraduates. It has a remarkably difficult grading system, and a lot of effort and resources go towards research. The university has a net worth of $18.2 billion.

    7. Columbia University

    Located in New York, in the US. It is the 5th oldest university in the US that was started as a colonial college. It is rich in history and has one of the world’s largest library with a volume of over 13 million books. 

    As of 2020, it has a net worth of $10billion. It has one of the leading medical schools that graduates at least 1,400 doctors per year. Ninety-six of its alumni have won Nobel prizes, and it has also produced 29 heads of state.

    8. California Institute of Technology

    Popularly known as the Caltech University, the California Institute of Technology is located in Pasadena, California, US.  Caltech has a low student/faculty ratio of 3:2 that allows students to work alongside some of the world’s best thought leaders on various research projects. It is one of the youngest elite schools with a significantly small student population. 

    The small student and alumni community notwithstanding, it boasts of 37 Nobel prize winners, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 115 National Academies members, and 13 National Medal of Technology recipients, among other awards and prizes.

    9. University of Oxford

    Located in Oxford, England, U.K. The University of Oxford dates back to the 13th Century. It was founded by Catholics but has evolved to become one of the best contemporary universities. It has a high population of international students and faculty members, with 40% of its student body being international students. 

    One of its major achievements is the Oxford academic press, well known for publishing the Oxford dictionary among other materials. While it receives a significant income in student fees, its biggest income source is research grants and contracts.

    10. University of Chicago

    Located in Chicago, Illinois, US., the Chicago university was founded in 1890. While it is among the youngest elite universities, it has spearheaded numerous scientific innovations, including the Miller-Urey experiment and the Human Genome Project. The university also has some of the best social studies and humanity schools. 

    The Chicago University school of economics played a major role in recovering America’s 2008-2009 economic recession. It boasts of 90 Nobel Prize Winners. So far, it has a net worth of $7 billion.

    Other top Universities in the world include:

    • Columbia University
    • Yale University
    • University of Paris
    • University of Michigan
    • University of Edinburgh
    • Cornell University
    • John Hopkins University
    • King’s College London
    • University of Minnesota
    • LMU Munich
    • Ohio State University
    • University of Manchester
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • Leiden University
    • Lomonosov Moscow State University
    • University of British Columbia
    • University of Sydney
    • University of Arizona
    • Imperial College London
    • Purdue University

    Acceptance Rates at the Best Universities in the World

    Generally, acceptance universities at the best universities in the world are low. These universities are prestigious and reputable; therefore, they receive a lot of interest. As a result, they are quite competitive and have high standards for joining. 

    For instance, while Harvard received over 43,000 applicants in 2020, only 20 were admitted. Most of the best universities have an average acceptance rate of less than 10%. For example, Stanford has an acceptance rate of about 4%, Harvard 4.92%, while MIT has a 7.9% acceptance rate. The acceptance rate is the percentage of students admitted over a total number of applicants.

    Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Being Accepted to the Best Universities

    Being accepted in one of the best universities offers several benefits, including:

    • A higher chance of graduating with honors
    • Increases your employability 
    • Graduates from elite universities generally earn more than those from other universities
    • Opportunity to participate in world-changing research
    • Opportunity to network with some of the world’s best professionals

    However, seeing as the acceptance rates in these universities is quite low, you have to stand out to be accepted. Below are some tips to increase your chances of being accepted into the world’s top universities:

    1. Apply as Soon as the University Starts Accepting Applications

    While the most important factor when applying is to apply on time, at times, applying early on helps you stand out from the crowd and increases your chances of getting in early. Besides, most admissions are done in the early decision round of the recruitment process.

    2. Apply to at Least 3 of Your Dream Elite Universities

    It increases your chances of getting into at least one of them. Should you receive more than one acceptance, you will have an opportunity to narrow it down to your most preferred.

    3. Save Up On Application Fees

    Some elite universities have exorbitant application fees that can hold you back from applying on time if you don’t have the amount. If you anticipate that you will be applying to one or more of the top universities, find out early on how much their application fees are and start saving up.

    4. Ensure You Get Great Test Scores and Grades

    Since the elite universities are quite competitive, they only accept the best-performing students. Therefore, ensure you get great high school grades, get 4-5 in your Advanced Placement (AP) class, and pass your ACT and SATs.

    5. Have a Notable Involvement in Extracurricular Activities

    Most of the best universities do not only want students who are doing well academically, but they also want students who are engaged in other aspects of university life. While providing evidence of your involvement in numerous extracurricular activities can be advantageous, it can also be detrimental, especially if it is shallow. You could choose one or two extracurricular activities that you are fully involved in.

    6. Get Your Recommendations

    Recommendation letters from your teachers, extracurricular activities coaches, mentors, previous employers, and voluntary work employers reinforce your application. The key to a good recommendation letter is to have it written enthusiastically and in detail. Request people who you trust to vouch for you to write your recommendation letters. You can use the recommendation letters for application to various universities.

    7. Submit a Detailed and Proofread Application

    Remember, your application is the first representation the university has of you. It can either make or break your first impression. Ensure that it clearly presents your strengths and accomplishments. Carefully proofread it as any grammatical or spelling errors can create a bad first impression. If possible, get a professional editor, career advisor, or coach to look at it before sending it out. 

    8. Write Outstanding Supplemental Essays

    The reality is most of the other applicants are as qualified as you are in regards to grades and test scores. Supplemental essays that are part of the application process can be your perfect chance to stand out. When writing it, let it stand out by infusing your unique ideas, opinions, and personality in it. Build a convincing case for the subject matter of your essay.

    Top Most Affordable Universities in the US

    The best universities in the world are expensive. Although you could get scholarships and academic financial aid, in some cases, the best option is to choose a university that is within your budget. This will save you the stress of raising tuition fees, ensuring you can fully focus on your studies. It will also reduce your financial burden after graduating in terms of student loans. Below is a list of some of the top affordable universities in the US:

    • University of Washington
    • CUNY Brooklyn College
    • Purdue University
    • University of Florida
    • Oklahoma State University
    • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • California State University – Long Beach
    • California State University – Los Angeles
    • Indiana University – Bloomington
    • University of Illinois – Chicago

    4 Ways of Accessing University Education Affordably

    1. Enroll at a university that is within your budget. Generally, state owned-universities are cheaper than private universities.
    1. Apply for financial aid. The US Department of Education offers $120 billion worth of financial aid in scholarships, grants, and work-study to students. The best thing with financial aid is that you do not need to pay it back.
    1. Enroll as a resident student. Enrolling in an in-state university is up to 60% cheaper than pursuing higher learning out of your state.
    1. Pursue your degree online. Online programs are typically cheaper, whether you are pursuing a Diploma, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. Do your due diligence to ensure that the program is reputable and has a high graduation rate.

    While there are numerous university ranking methods, the above mentioned are the most common, reputable, and easily accessible. When finding out which universities are the best, look at various lists and identify the ones that are common throughout the different lists. 

    Joining one of the elite universities will set you up for a successful career. However, even if you are not accepted, you can still access quality education at an affordable cost online or by enrolling in one of the affordable universities and colleges.

    Getting admitted to the world’s best university places you in a better position for exponential career growth with great financial, social, and emotional rewards. This article discusses the three most commonly used methodologies for ranking the top universities. 

    It also lists the top 10 best universities in the world and discusses their acceptance rates. Finally, we offer you some tips for increasing your chances of being accepted to the best university, as well as tips for accessing higher education affordably.

    Ranking Methodology for the World’s Best Universities

    There are many methods used to rank universities. However, the three main ranking methodologies applied for ranking universities discussed in this article are the most commonly used, most influential, and their rankings are easily accessible online for free. The three ranking methodologies are:

    • QS World University Rankings
    • Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU)
    • Times Higher Education (THE) World University rankings

    In this section of the article, we look at what each method encompasses. Each method provides various criteria for ranking and their weight, as discussed in detail below.

    QS World University Rankings

    The QS World University Rankings is a university ranking methodology developed by Quacquarelli Symonds in 2004. It is the only international ranking framework approved by the International Ranking Expert Group (IREG). 

    It employs six metrics to assess various universities’ performance and then rank them. The QS systems provide an overall global ranking, subject ranking, and regional ranking.

    Ranking Criteria

    The QS World University Ranking framework evaluates universities according to the following six metrics:

    Ranking MetricWeight
    Academic reputation40%
    Employer Reputation10%
    Faculty to student ratio10%
    Citations per faculty20%
    International faculty ratio5%
    International student ratio5%

    1. Academic Reputation (40%)

    The QS World University Rankings framework gives the highest weighting to a university’s academic reputation. This score is achieved through a survey submitted to over 100,000 experts in the higher education space. These experts survey the universities according to their perception of the quality of teaching and survey.

    2. Employer Reputation (10%)

    The employer reputation score is designed to assess whether a university’s students are equipped for the employment market. This score is determined through a QS employer survey issued to about 50,000 employers. In the survey, employers indicate the institutions that they go to for competent and innovative graduates.

    3. Faculty to Student Ratio (20%)

    The faculty to student ratio in the QS system is used as a metric for measuring teaching quality in a university. This ratio assesses whether a university has an adequate number of lecturers to adequately serve students.

    4. Citations Per Faculty (20%)

    The QS method recognizes that research output is a key pillar of university education. As such, the methodology employs the citations per faculty metric to measure an institution’s research quality.

    5. International Faculty Ratio (5%)

    And

    6. International Student Ratio (5%)

    A University with a high number of international students and faculty members shows that it has a strong international brand influence. It also shows that the university is keen on its global outlook. 

    The high number of international students and faculty members offers the entire student and staff community a crucial multinational environment for equipping world class graduates.

    Criticism

    The QS World University Rankings method is criticized among academic experts for being over-reliant on subjective indicators such as reputation surveys, which are difficult to measure and tend to fluctuate each year.

    Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU)

    The Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) is also known as the Shanghai Ranking as this method was first designed and implemented by the Shanghai Hiao Tong University in 2003. It was the first global university ranking method. Currently, this method is used to provide an overall global rank for universities and subject-based ranking. 

    Ranking Criteria

    The Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) methodology employs six ranking indicators under four categories as follows:

    Ranking CriteriaIndicatorWeight
    Quality of Education (10%)Number of alumni awarded with Nobel prizes, laureates, or medals10%
    Quality of faculty (40%)Number of staff members who have won Nobel prizes, laureates, and medalsHighly Cited (HiCi) researchers 
    20%


    20%
    Research Output (40%)The number of papers published in the areas of nature and science Number of papers indexed and cited under social science and science 20%

    20%
    Per capita performance (20%)Per capita academic performance of an institution20%

    1. Quality of Education (10%)

    To establish a university’s quality of education, the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) considers the number of the institution’s alumni who have won Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals. The quality of education weight is distributed according to the year the alumni graduated.

    2. Quality of Faculty (40%)

    The quality of faculty carries significant weight in the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) method. It is highly dependent on the number of awards received by faculty members. It is determined by two main indicators:

    • Number of staff members who have won Nobel prizes, laureates, and medals
    • Highly Cited (HiCi) researchers 

    3. Research Output (40%)

    Similar to the quality of faculty criteria, research output also carries a 40% weight and is determined by two main indicators:

    • The number of papers published in the areas of nature and science 
    • Number of papers indexed and cited under social science and science 

    4. Per Capita Performance

    This indicator measures the academic performance in an institution. This is obtained by dividing the weight of the above five indicators by the number of academic staff

    Criticism

    While the Academic Ranking of World University (ARWU) is highly praised for its objectivity, it is also criticized for favoring bigger universities over the smaller ones. It is also criticized for relying too heavily on award factors for ranking.

    Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings

    Times Higher Education World University rankings are credited to John O’Leary, who was once the Times Higher Education magazine editor. Times Higher Education initially partnered with the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) to rank and publish university rankings between 2004 and 2009. 

    However, the magazine opted to collaborate with Thomas System for an alternative ranking system between 2010-2013, citing that the QS system was not elaborate enough. Once again, in 2014, Times Higher Education magazine broke ties with Thomas Reuters and joined hands with Elsevier, who provided a ranking system and ranking method.

    Ranking Criteria

    The current Times Higher Education university comprises 13 criteria, each with a specific ranking weight. The 13 indicators fall under five categories as follows:

    CategoryIndicatorWeight
    Teaching (30%)Reputation survey15%
    Academic staff to student ratio4.50%
    Doctorates awarded to bachelor’s degree awarded ratio2.25%
    Doctorates awarded to academic staff ratio6.0%
    Institution income per staff2.25%
    Research (30%)Reputation survey18.0%
    Research income per staff6.0%
    Research productivity6.0%
    Citations (30%)Research influence30%
    International outlook (7.5%)Proportion of international students2.50%
    Proportion of international staff2.50%
    International collaborations2.50%
    Industry Income (2.5%)Knowledge transfer2.50%

    1. Teaching (30%)

    Teaching is one category that carries significant weight in the Times Higher Education university ranking criteria. This category analyzes various universities according to their learning environments. The indicators for the teaching category are:

    • Reputation survey
    • Ph.D. to Academic staff ratio
    • Ph.D. to Undergraduate degrees awarded ratio
    • Total students to Academic staff ratio
    • Institution income vs academic staff

    2. Research (30%)

    The research category also has a significant weight in the overall ranking. It ranks universities according to their research volume, income, and reputations for the following three research indicators:

    • Reputation survey
    • Research income per academic staff
    • Publications vs the number academic staff and research staff

    3. Citations (30%)

    This category also weighs 30% and has only one indicator – Citations. This is a critical indicator for measuring the influence a university has in spreading knowledge and ideas. It is determined by the number of times a university’s published work is cited in scholarly publications across the globe.

    4. International Outlook (7.5%)

    This category seeks to establish whether a university has an international impact by measuring the following three indicators:

    • Proportion of International Students 
    • Proportion of International Academic Staff 
    • International co-authorship 

    5. Industry Income (2.5%)

    The industry income category weighs the least and has one indicator: knowledge transfer. This category factors in whether a university has a role in helping various industries with innovations, inventions, and consultancy. It measures the amount of income a university can garner from commercial businesses in exchange for research.

    Criticism

    The Times Higher Education university ranking methodology is criticized for putting so much weight on citation to determine research influence. This is because it is difficult to determine accurately the number of times research was cited in other scholarly works. 

    Also, since most of the universities ranked with this method mostly use English in their publications, it puts non-English speaking countries at a disadvantage. Another criticism is that the Times Higher Education university ranking favors more universities that teach science-based courses as these institutions have a higher research output.

    The Top 10 International Universities in the World

    Below we briefly discuss some of the world’s best universities. This list constitutes of the universities that appear in all the above ranking method’s best ranked universities. Further on, we list 20 more of the best universities in the world.

    1. Harvard University

    Harvard University is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US. It has been the best university in the world for several years. The University’s wealth has been growing over the years mainly through grants and donations to reach a net worth of $25.5 billion so far.

    One of the reasons it is best ranked is the quality of alumni it produces. It has produced 32 heads of state, 49 Nobel laureates, and 48 Pulitzer prize winners. It has the largest library in the world, leading medical, law, and business schools, and a student and alumni community that is integrated across the globe.

    Harvard University is also leading in research. In fact, it has set the standards against which most other universities measure their research. Furthermore, this university is keen to collaborate with other universities in research, among them MIT, Cambridge, and Boston University.

    2. Stanford University

    Stanford University is located at Stanford, California, in the US. It is renowned as both an academic and research center. The university’s faculty constitutes some of the best world’s think tanks, including 22 Nobel laureates, 158 members of the National Academy of Science, 5 Pulitzer prize winners, and 27 MacArthur fellows, among other awards and prizes. So far, it has a net worth of $18.7 billion.

    3. University of Cambridge

    The University of Cambridge is located in Cambridge, England, in the UK. It is the 7th oldest university in the world. This university boasts of having educated some of the world’s best scientists, logicians, and mathematicians, among them Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Francis Crick, James D. Watson, etc. It has also empowered some of the world’s humanitarians, including John Milton, Francis Bacon, Ted Hughes, etc.

    Like Harvard University, it is one of the leading academic institutions in research. It has a diverse international student and faculty community and over 80 Nobel prize winners.

    4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, US, MIT is renowned as the best science research center. It is focused on finding first-class solutions to the top problems in the world. As a result, it has produced numerous scientists and engineers, 80 Nobel prize winners, 56 National Medal of Science Winners, and 28 National Medal of Technology, among other prizes and awards. 

    The MIT is not only a science-based university; it also has a leading school of social sciences and humanities that has produced notable people such as Kofi Annan, Ben Bernanke, and Buzz Aldrin, among others. It has a net worth of $10 billion.

    5. University of California – Berkeley

    Located in Berkley, California, US, this is one of the few state-owned elite universities. It offers over 350-degree programs and graduates more Ph.D. students than any other university in the world. It is keen on building an international community with students from over 100 countries.

    In the last 10 years, UC Berkley has received more graduate fellowships from the National Science Foundation than any other university. 7 out 30 of its Nobel Prize winners are faculty members. It also boasts of 108 Faculty Fulbright Scholars, 42 American Philosophical Society members, and 31 Faculty MacArthur Fellows. So far, it has a net worth of $4 billion. 

    6. Princeton University

    Located in Princeton, New Jersey, US. It is one of the earliest universities in the US. Unlike other elite universities on this list, Princeton University has a significantly smaller student population and fewer programs. 

    Notably, it has no law school, medical school, business school, or divinity school. It emphasizes the quality of education with professors required to teach, even undergraduates. It has a remarkably difficult grading system, and a lot of effort and resources go towards research. The university has a net worth of $18.2 billion.

    7. Columbia University

    Located in New York, in the US. It is the 5th oldest university in the US that was started as a colonial college. It is rich in history and has one of the world’s largest library with a volume of over 13 million books. 

    As of 2020, it has a net worth of $10billion. It has one of the leading medical schools that graduates at least 1,400 doctors per year. Ninety-six of its alumni have won Nobel prizes, and it has also produced 29 heads of state.

    8. California Institute of Technology

    Popularly known as the Caltech University, the California Institute of Technology is located in Pasadena, California, US.  Caltech has a low student/faculty ratio of 3:2 that allows students to work alongside some of the world’s best thought leaders on various research projects. It is one of the youngest elite schools with a significantly small student population. 

    The small student and alumni community notwithstanding, it boasts of 37 Nobel prize winners, 58 National Medal of Science recipients, 115 National Academies members, and 13 National Medal of Technology recipients, among other awards and prizes.

    9. University of Oxford

    Located in Oxford, England, U.K. The University of Oxford dates back to the 13th Century. It was founded by Catholics but has evolved to become one of the best contemporary universities. It has a high population of international students and faculty members, with 40% of its student body being international students. 

    One of its major achievements is the Oxford academic press, well known for publishing the Oxford dictionary among other materials. While it receives a significant income in student fees, its biggest income source is research grants and contracts.

    10. University of Chicago

    Located in Chicago, Illinois, US., the Chicago university was founded in 1890. While it is among the youngest elite universities, it has spearheaded numerous scientific innovations, including the Miller-Urey experiment and the Human Genome Project. The university also has some of the best social studies and humanity schools. 

    The Chicago University school of economics played a major role in recovering America’s 2008-2009 economic recession. It boasts of 90 Nobel Prize Winners. So far, it has a net worth of $7 billion.

    Other top Universities in the world include:

    • Columbia University
    • Yale University
    • University of Paris
    • University of Michigan
    • University of Edinburgh
    • Cornell University
    • John Hopkins University
    • King’s College London
    • University of Minnesota
    • LMU Munich
    • Ohio State University
    • University of Manchester
    • University of Pittsburgh
    • Leiden University
    • Lomonosov Moscow State University
    • University of British Columbia
    • University of Sydney
    • University of Arizona
    • Imperial College London
    • Purdue University

    Acceptance Rates at the Best Universities in the World

    Generally, acceptance universities at the best universities in the world are low. These universities are prestigious and reputable; therefore, they receive a lot of interest. As a result, they are quite competitive and have high standards for joining. 

    For instance, while Harvard received over 43,000 applicants in 2020, only 20 were admitted. Most of the best universities have an average acceptance rate of less than 10%. For example, Stanford has an acceptance rate of about 4%, Harvard 4.92%, while MIT has a 7.9% acceptance rate. The acceptance rate is the percentage of students admitted over a total number of applicants.

    Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Being Accepted to the Best Universities

    Being accepted in one of the best universities offers several benefits, including:

    • A higher chance of graduating with honors
    • Increases your employability 
    • Graduates from elite universities generally earn more than those from other universities
    • Opportunity to participate in world-changing research
    • Opportunity to network with some of the world’s best professionals

    However, seeing as the acceptance rates in these universities is quite low, you have to stand out to be accepted. Below are some tips to increase your chances of being accepted into the world’s top universities:

    1. Apply as Soon as the University Starts Accepting Applications

    While the most important factor when applying is to apply on time, at times, applying early on helps you stand out from the crowd and increases your chances of getting in early. Besides, most admissions are done in the early decision round of the recruitment process.

    2. Apply to at Least 3 of Your Dream Elite Universities

    It increases your chances of getting into at least one of them. Should you receive more than one acceptance, you will have an opportunity to narrow it down to your most preferred.

    3. Save Up On Application Fees

    Some elite universities have exorbitant application fees that can hold you back from applying on time if you don’t have the amount. If you anticipate that you will be applying to one or more of the top universities, find out early on how much their application fees are and start saving up.

    4. Ensure You Get Great Test Scores and Grades

    Since the elite universities are quite competitive, they only accept the best-performing students. Therefore, ensure you get great high school grades, get 4-5 in your Advanced Placement (AP) class, and pass your ACT and SATs.

    5. Have a Notable Involvement in Extracurricular Activities

    Most of the best universities do not only want students who are doing well academically, but they also want students who are engaged in other aspects of university life. While providing evidence of your involvement in numerous extracurricular activities can be advantageous, it can also be detrimental, especially if it is shallow. You could choose one or two extracurricular activities that you are fully involved in.

    6. Get Your Recommendations

    Recommendation letters from your teachers, extracurricular activities coaches, mentors, previous employers, and voluntary work employers reinforce your application. The key to a good recommendation letter is to have it written enthusiastically and in detail. Request people who you trust to vouch for you to write your recommendation letters. You can use the recommendation letters for application to various universities.

    7. Submit a Detailed and Proofread Application

    Remember, your application is the first representation the university has of you. It can either make or break your first impression. Ensure that it clearly presents your strengths and accomplishments. Carefully proofread it as any grammatical or spelling errors can create a bad first impression. If possible, get a professional editor, career advisor, or coach to look at it before sending it out. 

    8. Write Outstanding Supplemental Essays

    The reality is most of the other applicants are as qualified as you are in regards to grades and test scores. Supplemental essays that are part of the application process can be your perfect chance to stand out. When writing it, let it stand out by infusing your unique ideas, opinions, and personality in it. Build a convincing case for the subject matter of your essay.

    Top Most Affordable Universities in the US

    The best universities in the world are expensive. Although you could get scholarships and academic financial aid, in some cases, the best option is to choose a university that is within your budget. This will save you the stress of raising tuition fees, ensuring you can fully focus on your studies. It will also reduce your financial burden after graduating in terms of student loans. Below is a list of some of the top affordable universities in the US:

    • University of Washington
    • CUNY Brooklyn College
    • Purdue University
    • University of Florida
    • Oklahoma State University
    • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • California State University – Long Beach
    • California State University – Los Angeles
    • Indiana University – Bloomington
    • University of Illinois – Chicago

    4 Ways of Accessing University Education Affordably

    1. Enroll at a university that is within your budget. Generally, state owned-universities are cheaper than private universities.
    1. Apply for financial aid. The US Department of Education offers $120 billion worth of financial aid in scholarships, grants, and work-study to students. The best thing with financial aid is that you do not need to pay it back.
    1. Enroll as a resident student. Enrolling in an in-state university is up to 60% cheaper than pursuing higher learning out of your state.
    1. Pursue your degree online. Online programs are typically cheaper, whether you are pursuing a Diploma, Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. Do your due diligence to ensure that the program is reputable and has a high graduation rate.

    While there are numerous university ranking methods, the above mentioned are the most common, reputable, and easily accessible. When finding out which universities are the best, look at various lists and identify the ones that are common throughout the different lists. 

    Joining one of the elite universities will set you up for a successful career. However, even if you are not accepted, you can still access quality education at an affordable cost online or by enrolling in one of the affordable universities and colleges.

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