The best research universities in the world.
Though the coronavirus pandemic has complicated attending college outside of one’s own country, international students persist in the face of the crisis. To help students decide where to study, the 2021 Best Global Universities rankings provide insight into how universities compare globally based on schools’ academic research and reputation. Out of the nearly 1,500 top institutions spread across 86 countries ranked this year, these 20 schools came out on top. Read on to learn how these universities, which are all based in the U.S., United Kingdom or Canada, provide opportunities for global learning and cater to international students.
20. Imperial College London
In addition to traditional yearlong study abroad opportunities, Imperial College London allows undergraduate students to conduct research at an international partner university as part of the International Research Opportunities Programme.
19. University College London
Dividing its work into seven regional focus areas, University College London teams up with institutions around the world, allowing faculty and students to conduct research collaboratively with global partners.
17 (tie). University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
The 17 programs and centers in the International Institute at the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor focus on world regions and global themes. More than 60 languages are offered as a part of the school’s curriculum.
17 (tie). University of Toronto
During the 2019-2020 academic year, the University of Toronto featured an international student body that hailed from 161 countries. The International Scholar Award provides students a scholarship of $80,000 to $180,000 over four years based on academic merit.
15 (tie). University of California–San Francisco
Partners like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization help students, faculty and staff at the University of California–San Francisco‘s Institute for Global Health Sciences work on hundreds of projects in more than 110 countries around the globe.
15 (tie). University of Chicago
The University of Chicago has opened centers in Paris, Beijing, New Delhi and Hong Kong to advance scholarship in their respective regions. Students have the chance to study abroad at these centers and more than a dozen partner foreign universities.
14. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania has seen a 182% increase in international students since 1990. Today, the school has a global network of more than 29,000 alumni outside of the U.S., with faculty working abroad in more than 170 countries and on all seven continents.
13. University of California–Los Angeles
Dating back to 1958, the University of California–Los Angeles International Institute hosts more than 700 visiting international dignitaries and professional leaders annually. In the 2018-2019 school year, UCLA was a host institution for nearly 3,600 international scholars, third among all U.S. colleges and universities.
11 (tie). Princeton University
Princeton University does not limit financial aid support for international undergraduates, pledging to fully meet need. A quarter of the school’s total enrollment is international students.
11 (tie). Yale University
Yale University‘s international collaborations have lasted centuries: In 1854, Yale student Yung Wing became the first person from China to graduate from a U.S. college or university. This legacy lives on in more than 3,000 international students from 120 countries who studied at Yale in 2019-2020.
10. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University‘s Bloomberg School of Public Health has ongoing work in more than 100 countries and has helped combat diseases such as malaria, polio and HIV/AIDS. Today, the JHU Coronavirus Resource Center tracks COVID-19 data and trends around the globe.
9. University of Cambridge
Hosting international students from more than 140 countries, the University of Cambridge has hundreds of international societies in which students can learn and socialize, as well as 420 volunteer-led alumni groups worldwide.
8. University of Washington
The University of Washington Department of Global Health works with more than 190 global partners, including ministries of health, foreign universities and NGOs, to improve health worldwide.
7. California Institute of Technology
The research-focused California Institute of Technology collaborates across borders on projects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as the STEM fields, including global networks of observatories making groundbreaking discoveries in astrophysics.
6. Columbia University
Working on education, research and public engagement around the world, Columbia University‘s network of nine global centers attract thousands of participants annually. Columbia students have the opportunity to study and work abroad through academic programs and internships at all nine locations.
5. University of Oxford
Since welcoming its first international student in 1190, the international student body at the University of Oxford has grown to more than 40% of the student population. Currently, the university’s Jenner Institute and Oxford Vaccine Group are working with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to develop, manufacture and distribute a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine is in global clinical trials.
4. University of California–Berkeley
Students at the University of California–Berkeley have the opportunity to participate in dual degree programs with Sciences Po in Paris and the University of Hong Kong, among other study abroad options.
3. Stanford University
The Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies collaborates with departments and faculty across the university. Research centers including the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Stanford Health Policy and the Cyber Policy Center focus on different areas to address international dilemmas.
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MISTI, or MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives, pairs Massachusetts Institute of Technology students with specific opportunities for internships, research and teaching around the globe. As a result, more than half of the school’s undergrads have an international experience by graduation.
1. Harvard University
The students, faculty and staff of Harvard University participated in 8,760 trips abroad in 2018. Harvard has 22 locations outside the U.S., and on campus hosts more than 50 international research centers and programs.
Learn more about the Best Global Universities.
These are the top global universities of 2021.
— 1. Harvard University
— 2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
— 3. Stanford University
— 4. University of California–Berkeley
— 5. University of Oxford
— 6. Columbia University
— 7. California Institute of Technology
— 8. University of Washington
— 9. University of Cambridge
— 10. Johns Hopkins University
— 11 (tie). Princeton University
— 11 (tie). Yale University
— 13. University of California–Los Angeles
— 14. University of Pennsylvania
— 15 (tie). University of California–San Francisco
— 15 (tie). University of Chicago
— 17 (tie). University of Michigan–Ann Arbor
— 17 (tie). University of Toronto
— 19. University College London
— 20. Imperial College London
More from U.S. News