Want to study in Texas? Read on to find out more about this distinctive (and massive) state, including the top universities in Texas and the state’s best cities for students.
A nation in its own right from 1836 to 1845, Texas is the second biggest US state (covering more than 261,000 square miles) and is famous for its distinctive culture and heritage – including well-known aspects such as country music, the art of the Texas barbeque, and reveling in a good old rodeo which sees modern-day cowboys become local, bull-riding heroes.
Part of the Deep South region, Texas borders Mexico to the south, Louisiana and Arkansas in the east, Oklahoma in the north and New Mexico in the west. Due to its large scale, Texas differs wildly in climate and geography depending on where you are. The east is swampy and forested, while the southeastern Gulf Coast (home to Houston) is tropical and often uncomfortably humid. There are mountainous deserts in the west and the snowy plains of Panhandle in the north.
Largely due to its location on large petroleum reserves, discovered in the early 1900s, Texas has a thriving energy industry. This has underpinned the economic growth of the state, helping other industries and the state’s higher education system to develop in turn. Texas also has a strong standing in the technology, biomedical sciences and aerospace sectors.
Those interested in studying in Texas will find plenty of choice, including seven universities in Texas which rank among the world’s best in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®. Keep reading to find out more about the top universities in Texas, and the Texan cities where you could be spending your student years.
Top universities in Texas
University of Texas at Austin
The highest ranking among universities in Texas, and the flagship institution of the state’s public university system, the University of Texas at Austin has an enrollment of over 52,000 students and is ranked 71= in the world and 25th in the US. Boasting 17 libraries and seven museums, the university holds one of the country’s largest research budgets and its sports teams are renowned for their success. The university is especially well known in the engineering and technology disciplines, ranking among the world’s very best for subjects such as civil engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering and computer science.
Texas’s second entrant in the global rankings is Houston’s Rice University, currently ranked 136= in the world. A private research university, Rice University has a current enrollment of just over 6,600 students. It’s best known for its applied science programs and is situated on a 295 acre campus near the Houston Museum District. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, it ranks particularly well for materials sciences.
Texas A&M University
The oldest of the universities in Texas, Texas A&M University has a massive student enrollment of just over 56,200 students and is the flagship institution for the Texas A&M system, one of the largest independent university systems in the country. (Originally A&M was an abbreviation of Agricultural & Mechanical, but the system has now expanded to cover a broad range of subject areas.) Currently ranked 153rd in the world, the university is located in the city of College Station in Brazos County, equidistant from the large student cities of Houston and Austin – each approximately an hour and half’s drive away. Texas A&M University lays claim to one of the US’s highest public endowments and is especially well known for its prestigious medical school and veterinary school – where one in ten of the country’s veterinarians are trained.
University of Texas at Dallas
Ranked 366= in the world, the University of Texas at Dallas is the top-ranked university in Dallas, situated about 25 minutes’ drive north from the city center. Like the University of Texas at Austin, it’s part of the public University of Texas system, which accounts for a total of nine universities spread across the state. The University of Texas at Dallas has a current enrollment of just over 18,800 students and is particularly known for its mathematics, science and engineering programs, as well as being home to one of the state’s most esteemed business schools.
University of Houston
The second high-ranking university in Texas to be located in Houston is the University of Houston, ranked 551-600 in the world. The university has a current enrollment of just over 40,700 students and is the flagship school in the public University of Houston system, which has three additional branches. The third largest university in Texas, the University of Houston offers a campus which spans over 660 acres just south-east of Houston city center. As well as spending US$130 million annually on research, largely within the fields of science and engineering, the school has a huge arts scene with a variety of theatrical performances and events put on every year.
Southern Methodist University
The Southern Methodist University is the second of the top universities in Texas to be located in Dallas, ranked 651-700 in the world. It’s located just 10 minutes’ drive north of the city center, and the city plays a major part of the student experience for Southern Methodist University students. With a student body of 12,000, the institution is among the smaller universities in Texas and is privately owned by the United Methodist Church. It is strong in the humanities and sciences as well as in its professional and graduate programs.
Situated in the city of Waco, Baylor University is approximately an hour and a half’s drive north of Austin and the same distance south of Dallas. Ranked 701+ in the world, the university ranks especially well in the field of biological sciences – within the world’s top 200 for this subject area in the 2013 QS World University Rankings by Subject. Baylor University currently has an enrollment of just over 15,600 students.
Top student cities in Texas
Once seen as the worldwide symbol of not just Texas but the whole of the US thanks to the hit TV series of the same name, Dallas is known as the city of cowboys and cheerleaders. It can’t be summed up just with its stereotypes however, as Dallas also boasts the largest arts district in the US and some brilliant museums, as well as tourist-attracting memorials for the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Home to the University of Texas at Dallas as well as the Southern Methodist University, Dallas truly is a student city.
Home to another two of the top universities in Texas (Rice University and the University of Houston), Houston is the state’s largest city and the fourth largest in the US. Simultaneously laid back and high-powered, Houston offers the best of a high-cultured city scene combined with popular celebrations such as week-long rodeos and barbeque cook-offs. Houston is the student city closest to the coast and the famous Bay Area Houston is just a half-hour drive outside of the center.
State capital Austin is renowned for its eclectic mix of residents, with tattooed creatives and suited millionaires living in close proximity. The locals revel in Austin’s so called ‘weirdness’ – you’ll even see bumper stickers, t-shirts and other merchandise bearing the slogan ‘Keep Austin Weird’. Local watering holes have a long-held performance culture, famous for having launched the careers of the likes of Janis Joplin and Willie Nelson. Today, Austin’s large and diverse live music scene means that almost any night of the week you can go to a gig of almost any musical genre. The University of Texas at Austin, established just 44 years after the city itself was founded in 1839, continues to play a central role in the city’s life and development.
- Population of 25.7 million, only beaten by California as the most populous state.
- Around a third of Texas’ population is Spanish-speaking.
- The name Texas derives from a Caddo Indian word meaning ‘allies’, which is why the state motto is ‘friendship’.
- Texas has the second greatest GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in the US, after California.
- The list of famous Texans is very impressive – a few examples are former president George W Bush, singers from Janice Joplin to Beyoncé, actors Woody Harrelson and Renée Zellweger, and comedian Steve Martin.
- The state’s Waggoner Ranch is the largest ranch in the contiguous United States and, at 520,000 acres, is bigger than the entire country of Mauritius.
- There are nearly 250 cities in Texas with a population over 10,000, and 28 with populations over 100,000.
- Texan cattle, although in decline in the last few years, still number around 10.9 million.
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Image credit: SMU.edu; RJN/Wiki Commons; Baylor.edu