The Top 5 Universities In The World

With the rising cost of tuition and an ever-unstable job market, the place of higher education has been increasingly called into question as of late. So what does an exemplary university look in this day and age? For the most part, the answer won’t surprise you, as institutions ranked highly by the likes of US News and World Report or Times Higher Education are time-tested mainstays. This top 5 list uses the trusted QS World University Rankings as it’s source (read the full list here).

If you can earn a place at one of these ivory towers, then you’re probably doing all right for yourself.


5. University of Oxford

Founded: As long ago as 1096

Tuition: Varies depending on program and college

Famous Alumni: Rupert Murdoch (Worcester), J.R.R. Tolkien (Exeter and Pembroke), Jonathan Swift (Hertford), Margaret Thatcher (Somerville)…to name only a few

One of the most storied institutions in the world remains one of its best. Oxford is the oldest University in the Western world comprised of forty colleges and halls. It is heralded for its Rhodes Scholar program, hosting the best and the brightest postgraduate students from around the world.


4. University College London

Founded: 1826

Tuition: A basic program fee of £9000 for EU Students

Famous Alumni: Coldplay (yes, the whole band), G.K. Chesterton, and Alexander Graham Bell

This public research institution has only been around for 187 years (to Oxford’s 916), but it has still managed an impressive track record for that time. It is truly a university of firsts-the first in England to be established on an entirely secular basis as well as the first to admit women on equal status as men.


3. Harvard University

Founded: 1636

Tuition: $40,016 (for 2013-2014)

Famous Alumni: Mark Zuckerberg, Henry David Thoreau, and 8 US Presidents

Harvard isn’t just the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, it is one of the oldest American institutions period. It was first registered as a corporation called The President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Today it boasts the largest endowment of any academic institution in the world ($32 Billion!) and is made up of ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.


2. Cambridge University

Founded: c.1209 when conflicts between students and locals in Oxford caused them to move to Cambridge

Tuition: Like most English universities, EU students can expect £9000, while International students pay at minimum £13,662 for degrees conferred in the humanities and at most £33,069 to study Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

Famous Alumni: Sir Isaac Newton (Trinity), Emma Thompson (Newnham), C.S. Lewis (Magdalene), and 30 foreign presidents/prime ministers.

Cambridge’s 31 self-governing colleges are split into two groups. The 16 ‘old’ colleges were founded between 1284 and 1596, while 15 new ones were added from 1800 to 1977 (Robinson). Seven of these still restrict admission based on sex or age, though none are exclusively male, a practice that ended in 1988 with Magdalene becoming the last to allow mixed admission.

In 2000, Bill Gates donated $210 million towards Gates Scholarships that allow international postgraduate education at Cambridge. With an endowment of £4.3 billion, however, the institution as a whole is the wealthiest in the UK.


1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Founded: 1861

Tuition: $42,050

Famous Alumni: Ben Bernanke, Kofi Annan, and Buzz Aldrin


The Rogers Building, Boston, in existence from 1866 to 1938, the first building on MIT campus.

MIT’s position at the top of the list is due in large part to its ability to remain relevant and boundary pushing as we move forward into the digital era. From its involvement in defense research from WWII onward to its on-campus nuclear reactor, MIT is consistently at the forefront of innovation.

It is here that countless important contributions to modern computing and networks have been made by MIT’s faculty and student population alike. A group that includes 45 Rhodes Scholars and 78 Nobel Laureates.



Bummed that your alma mater didn’t make the list? Convince us that it should have been included in the comment section.


About Kale Hills

Kale Hills lives and works in Los Angeles, California. When he is not narrowing down lists of five things, he enjoys performing improv comedy and consuming unhealthy amounts of film and television.
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