Choosing the best universities in the world is a complicated task. First of all, it is necessary to choose which factors will be analyzed, the weight of each criterion, and how to assign marks fairly. That’s what university rankings do: using the same ruler to measure the different higher education institutions. And it is based on these criteria that they decide which is the best university in the world.
Thus, every year, such publications release the general and specific ranking of universities around the world. For example, there are listings for MBA programs, or even filtering by area, such as the Social Sciences. Several lists can be useful when choosing a destination university for exchange, graduation, or post-graduation.
Discover the best universities in the world, according to two internationally respected rankings, and understand the method used by each one of them.
- QS Ranking 2022
- The Ranking 2022
Also, read The Best Scholarships with Open Applications.
The best universities in the world in 2022, according to QS Ranking.
Quacquarelli Symonds publishes this ranking from the United Kingdom, considering six factors to establish outstanding institutions. They are academic reputation, reputation with employers, the ratio between the number of students and professors, citations per professor, the proportion of foreign professors and international students.
In the 2022 edition, already released by the QS ranking, MIT continues to lead as the best university in the world. In the second position, however, there was a significant change. Oxford University moved from 5th place to 2nd, passing Stanford, which dropped to 3rd place. Tied with Stanford, the University of Cambridge dropped from 7th place and reached the third position. On the other hand, Harvard University dropped from the third position to fifth place in the ranking. Caltech was left out of the top 5, which dropped from 4th to 6th place.
In 7th place was Imperial College London, in 8th place were tied for ETH Zürich – Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich and University College London (UCL). The University of Chicago occupies 10th place.
Except for ETH, the QS Ranking is mostly led by North American and British institutions. Among the universities in Latin America, those that were in good positions were: University of Buenos Aires (UBA), in 69th; the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), at 105 °; the University of São Paulo, at 121st; the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC), at 135°; the Mexican Tecnológico de Monterrey, in 161st; and the University of Chile, at 183°.
MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)Score: 100
A worldwide reference for its research in the exact and biological sciences, MIT has graduated more than 80 Nobel Prize laureates. Located in Cambridge, USA, it was founded in 1861, and the institute has topped the QS rankings since the publication became autonomous in 2019. See all about MIT here!
- University of Oxford
It was the first English-language university globally and today is one of the world’s best-known and most respected higher education institutions. Because it was so old, it is not clear what year it was founded. Historians claim that in 1096 the first classes began, but still without the structure of a university. Oxford began to grow and strengthen only in 1167 when the King of England Henry II banned English students from studying at the University of Paris. The vast majority then enrolled at Oxford. Today, the university has about 22,000 students, distributed between the undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
- Stanford University
Leland Stanford Junior University, better known as Stanford University, was founded in 1891 by former California governor and senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Lathrop Stanford, and named after their son, who had died years earlier. . It’s known as the entrepreneurs’ university: alumni and professors founded big companies like HP, Google, Yahoo, and Nike. Read more about her at this link.
Also read: discover the best “new” universities in the world.
- Cambridge University
The University of Cambridge is the second oldest in the English-speaking world, after Oxford. Its foundation dates back to 1209 when some Oxford scholars fell out with the natives and went to Cambridge and founded a new institution. The university has 92 Nobel Prize winners among its alumni, professors, and researchers, such as Isaac Newton (one of the greatest geniuses in physics), Charles Darwin (father of the theory of evolution of species), Francis Bacon (creator of the scientific method), Alan Turing (formulator of the theory of computation) and Ian Wilmut (responsible for the first cloning of mammals, that of Dolly, the sheep). See more about Cambridge University here.
- Harvard University
Founded in 1636, it’s the oldest and best-known university in the United States — and it’s also long been considered the best university in the world. Synonymous with excellence in higher education, it has graduated more than 320,000 students. Eight American presidents passed through its classrooms, including Barack Obama (School of Law), George W. Bush (School of Business), and John Kennedy (International Affairs), as well as some of the most important intellectuals in history. Check out everything about her here.
Also read: Find out about some of the oldest universities in the world.
The best universities in the world in 2022, according to the Times Higher Education.
The Times Higher Education publication analyzes five aspects related to universities. Among them are the academic reputation and the volume of research carried out, and citations of studies produced at the educational institution.
Also read: Find out which are the best universities in Latin America.
Factors related to the student environment are also evaluated, such as the ratio between Ph.D. students and undergraduate students. Taking these criteria into account, the best universities in the world are:
- Oxford University
Oxford, considered the best university globally by ranking, has a tradition of excellence reflected in numbers. For example, 5% of academic researchers in the United Kingdom have graduated leading figures, 26 British Prime Ministers, and 26 Nobel Prize winners. Learn all about her here.
= 2) Caltech (California Institute of Technology)
In the 2022 ranking, Caltech returned to second place after dropping to fourth in 2022. Perhaps what makes the institution’s students most proud is that they are ahead of MIT in this ranking. There is a longstanding friendly rivalry between the two institutions, technology research hubs located on opposite sides of the US. While MIT is close to the east coast, Caltech is practically its equivalent on the west coast. See everything about Caltech here.
= 2) Harvard University
Tied with CalTech in THE ranking of 2022, Harvard University has taken a great leap in recent years: it has gone from seventh in 2020 to third in 2021, even taking Cambridge University out of the top 5, and has now taken the 2nd. Position with Caltech. With this, it became the top 5 universities with an equal distribution between male and female students: out of every 100 students, 51 identify with the male gender and 49 with the female. See everything about Harvard here, and on this link, a guide on how to get in there.
- Stanford University
In THE’s 2021 ranking, Stanford University dropped from 2nd (which it occupied in 2021) to 3rd. With that, it surpassed institutions like MIT, which traditionally won the silver medal. The interesting point is that it has a much more balanced proportion between male and female students: the proportion between them and women is between 56% and 44%, according to the ranking. Learn all about Stanford at this link.
Also read: Find out which are the best universities in Portugal
=5) Cambridge University
After spending a year out of THE world’s top 5 universities, the University of Cambridge has returned to the 2022 ranking. It is one of the most traditional educational institutions in the UK. Originally, the institution was created by researchers from the University of Oxford who, being dissatisfied with some changes, decided to create a new university.
- MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Named the best university globally by QS rankings, MIT is “only” fifth in the Times Higher Education ranking, tied with Cambridge and behind its west coast rival, Caltech. Despite this, MIT is a much larger institution: it has more than 11,000 students (compared to around 2,200 at Caltech). It is also more equal in gender: 39% of its students are women (compared to 36% for Caltech). Check out everything about MIT here.
Read more: For her, the master’s at Oxford is a “rest” after five intense years in Public Management.
It is not surprising that the ranking places prestigious institutions such as MIT and Stanford in the lead. These are universities that enjoy a good reputation among employers, for example, in the technology field. Stanford, in turn, is located in the Palo Alto region, in the heart of Silicon Valley, and has a longstanding connection with businesses in the region. More than that, it ends up attracting creative minds and driving the creation of dozens of tech startups every year.
These rankings consider universities in their general aspects. However, QS also annually prepares a ranking of the best universities in the world in each area of study. In this case, there is a greater variety of universities among the top 10, and some areas allow less traditional universities to stand out. Check here the ranking of the best universities by area in 2019.
MIT is not far away. The school has a strong business culture, and the aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni would collectively rank as the eleventh-largest economy in the world. Another institution that appears among the top five in the QS Ranking, Caltech, is also known for the cutting-edge research it produces and sometimes ranks as the best university in the world as well. And also for its laboratories such as the Rocket Propulsion Laboratory of NASA, American space agency. He was born at Caltech and is still played today by professors and students at the university.
History and comparison
It is common for the organizations behind the rankings to release each annual issue before the beginning of the year that gives it its name. The Times Higher Education (THE), for example, released the 2021 version of its ranking on September 2, 2020 — and QS released its own 2021 ranking even earlier.
The two organizations tend to agree on a lot about which are the best universities in the world. The top positions of the two rankings often have many institutions in common, albeit in a different order. But some notable distinctions have emerged between them over time.
In general, for example, the QS tends to give more space to universities outside the US-UK axis. Among the top 25 positions in THE’s 2021 ranking, 20 are from British or US universities (and one of the exceptions in Canada). The one that appears in the highest place is ETH Zurich, on 14th.
In the 2021 ranking, eight institutions in the top 25 are not from the US or UK. The most highly placed of these is (again) ETH Zurich, but it appears in 6th position. Then there is the National University of Singapore at 11th, Nanyang Technical University at 13th, and EPFL at 14th.
In both rankings, institutions from Asia in general — and China in particular — have been gaining prominence in recent years. In releasing its most recent ranking, THE commented that “in many ways, China’s record-breaking achievements — like being home to the first Asian university to enter our top 20 — are the most captivating highlights.”