The Top 8 Universities in The World 2024

Every year, Times Higher Education puts out its ranking of the best universities in the world. Looking at over 1,900 universities from 108 countries, it ranks the best educational institutions based on a number of factors.

This year, the rankings gave scores based on five factors: Teaching, Research Environment, Research Quality, Industry, and International Outlook, amounting to an overall score.

Below, we investigate the top 8 universities in the world, according to the Times Higher Education ranking, exploring what makes them some of the best educational establishments.

University of Oxford

The University of Oxford, based in Oxford, England, tops the list of best universities in the world for 2024, scoring a total of 98.5 out of 100. This is the eighth consecutive year that it has come first in the ranking.

The University of Oxford is one of the oldest universities of the English-speaking world, with there being evidence for teaching as early as 1096. This also makes it one of the oldest universities that’s been in continuous operation, second only to the University of Bologna in Italy. Today, it has around 22,000 students, 40% of which are international.

In the rankings, the university of Oxford obtained a perfect score in Research Environment and a score of 99 in Research Quality. The institution has a global reputation for research, with world-class facilities and resources. In the past decade, the University of Oxford has invested over £400 million into its Science facilities and infrastructure. This has included the construction of a state-of-the-art laboratory for experimental and theoretical physics, an interdisciplinary research centre that’s the world’s largest health data institute, and a range of specialised laboratories for earth sciences that are metal-free so trace metals can be analysed without contamination.

Stanford University

Stanford University, based in Stanford, California, USA, ranks second in the world’s best universities, with an overall score of 98.0.

Stanford is one of the largest universities in the US, occupying over 8,000 acres and with over 17,000 students. It was founded in 1885 and enrolled its first students in 1895, starting out as a co-educational and non-denominational institution.

In the ranking, Stanford University obtained a perfect score in the Industry category, which looks at income from industry and patents. It’s renowned for an entrepreneurial spirit and has strong connections with nearby Silicone Valley, a global centre of technology and innovation. Stanford alumni include 30 living billionaires, 17 astronauts, and 18 winners of the Turing Award (seen as the highest distinction in computer science).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, is the third best university in the world, with a total score of 97.9.

MIT was founded in 1861 with a focus on applied science and engineering. It now has over 11,000 students and has played a significant role in many areas of modern science and technology, including the first chemical synthesis of penicillin and the development of radar. The university puts a focus on “analytical rigor with curiosity…and an appetite for solving the hardest problems in service to society”.

Like Stanford, MIT obtained a perfect score in the Industry category of the best university rankings. The university has strong industry links, embracing collaborations through its Industrial Liaison Programme, which enables companies from across the globe to utilise MIT resources.

MIT alumni include 26 Turing Award recipients, 101 Nobel laureates, and 8 Field Medalists (a prize for mathematicians), and 41 astronauts and 16 Chief Scientists of the US Air Force have been affiliated with MIT in some way.

Harvard University

Harvard University, also based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ranks fourth on the list of best universities in the world. The Ivy League institution scored 97.8 overall.

Harvard was founded in 1636 as Harvard College, making it the oldest higher-educational establishment in the USA. With an endowment over $50 billion, it’s also one of the wealthiest education institutions in the world.

In the ranking, Harvard obtained a near-perfect score of 99.9 and 99.4 in the Research Environment and Research Quality rankings respectively. Harvard is renowned as a preeminent research university, with programmes across art, science, engineering and medicine. The university has one of the largest academic libraries in the world, compromising nearly 80 individual libraries that hold around 20.4 million items. Biomedical research is a particular strength of the university, and it is affiliated with 15 hospitals and other medical research institutes.

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge, based in Cambridge, England, is the fifth best university in the world, with an overall score of 97.5.

The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 and is the third-oldest university in continuous operation in the world. Today, it has around 24,000 students, which includes a number of international students representing over 130 different countries. The university offers 30 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate courses, covering a range of subjects and research areas which includes nearly every academic discipline.

Cambridge obtained a perfect score for the Research Environment category in the rankings, which looked at the reputation, income and productivity of the institution’s research. The university provides over 100 libraries across campus, nine specialist museums, as well as state-of-the-art laboratories and surgical suites.

Princeton University

Princeton University, based in Princeton, New Jersey, USA, is the sixth best university in the world. It scored a total of 96.9 overall.

Princeton was founded in 1746, making it the fourth-oldest university in the country. It has a relatively small student body, around 11,000, 12% of which are international students. Princeton has a commitment to teaching and offers residential accommodation to every undergraduate for their full four-year study period at the university. It also has a low student to faculty ratio of 5:1, allowing for close working relationships to be developed.

In the ranking, Princeton scored particularly highly in the Research Quality and Research Environment categories, scoring 98.8 and 97.9 respectively. It offers courses in a variety of disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering. The institution is known for it’s focus on the liberal arts and encourages students to explore ideas and broaden their outlook to form values. 

California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology, branded as Caltech, is based in Pasadena California. It ranks seventh in the world’s best universities, with an overall score of 96.5.

The university was founded in 1891 and was instantly popular with influential scientist of the time. Today, it remains committed to the instruction of pure and applied sciences, and the university has been responsible for many scientific advancements of modern times. Caltech has a small student body of around 2,200, including undergraduates and postgraduate students.

Caltech obtained a perfect score in the Industry category of the rankings, a testament to how the university impacts the world of science and technology. Innovations at the university include advances in sustainability science, quantum physics, soft robotics, and earthquake monitoring.

Imperial College London

Imperial College London is the eighth best university in the world. Based in London, England, the university has an overall score of 95.1.

Imperial College London was established in 1907, unifying the preexisting Royal College of Science, Royal School of Mines and the City and Guilds London Institute. Over the next century, the Imperial College School of Medicine was formed, and the Imperial College Business School opened.

Today, the school focuses on science, engineering, business and medicine. There are around 15,000 students, 59% of which are from overseas. The main campus is in South Kensington and is where the majority of teaching and research happens. There is a second campus in White City which focuses on innovation and entrepreneurship. There are also a number of teaching hospitals across London connected with the university.

Imperial College London scored particularly highly in the Research Quality of the rankings, with a score of 98.6. The university has a commitment to seeking out new areas “which are fruitful for new discovery”. The research that takes place there is seen as ground-breaking and innovative, helping to implement sustainable changes across society.

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