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Top Universities in New York City

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Home of Broadway, Wall Street, Lady Liberty and more, New York City also boasts a world-class selection of higher education providers. With eight universities in New York featured within the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017 and an additional three in close proximity to the city, New York City is one of the most popular study destinations in the world, and ranks 20th in the QS Best Student Cities 2016.

To help you decide where you might like to study in New York City, here’s an overview of the city’s top universities, based on the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017.

1. Cornell University 

Cornell University

New York City’s highest ranking institution, Cornell University is currently ranked 16th in the world, and is among the top 10 US universities. A member of the prestigious Ivy League group, it offers a range of both academic and more vocational courses. Laying claim to being the first US university to offer a degree in veterinary medicine, Cornell University also bears the title of the first US university to teach modern Far-Eastern languages.

Cornell University’s main campus is actually in Ithaca, around 200 miles to the north-west of New York City, but it also has a strong presence in NYC. Its medical campus can be found in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and the Cornell Tech campus is in the Chelsea district, with an ambitious new campus currently under construction on Roosevelt Island – the island located in the middle of the river that separates Manhattan Island and the borough of Queens – set for opening in 2017. Cornell University’s schools of financial engineering and architecture are also based in Manhattan.

2. Columbia University 

Columbia University

Next on our list of top universities in New York City, Columbia University is currently 20th in the QS World University Rankings, and 11th amongst other top US universities. Another member of the prestigious Ivy league, it boasts famous alumni including US President Barack Obama. A world-leading center of research, Columbia University has a strong offering across the full subject spectrum. In the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2016, Columbia appears in the rankings for an impressive 38 out of a possible 42 subjects, including the top 10 for English language and literature, earth and marine sciences, history, social policy and administration and law. 

Columbia University has a central location in the Upper West Side of Manhattan – close to the northern tip of Central Park and just off Broadway, the boulevard which gives its name to New York’s famous theater scene. It boasts a highly diverse faculty (over 3,800 academic staff) and the third-largest international student population of any US university, with 32% of its 30,300 students coming from outside the US.

3. New York University (NYU) 

New York University (NYU)

New York University (NYU) is another of the top universities in New York City which is ranked among the world’s best, at joint 46th this year. Notably, New York University has a strong focus on internationalization, with a number of branch campuses around the world and an impressive study abroad program. As well as helping its own students spend time abroad, NYU also counts a large number of international students among its extensive student community.

While NYU has several New York locations, its main hub is the Washington Square campus, in Greenwich Village. Dubbed ‘the Village’, this area of Lower Manhattan is famed as one of New York City’s most creative and bohemian localities, offering a great atmosphere for NYU students. Over the years the school has attracted an eclectic mix of writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals to study in New York – and no doubt this is all part of the appeal for many creatively minded students.

4. Yeshiva University 

Yeshiva University

Ranked joint 330th in the world (up over 50 places from the previous year), Yeshiva University is another of the top research-focused universities in New York. It was founded over 100 years ago with the mission of combining Jewish traditions and culture with Western heritage, and the continuing influence of this cultural focus is seen in the Yeshiva University Museum, which explores Jewish life through art, architecture and history.

Relatively small compared to most of the other universities in New York listed here, Yeshiva University has around 7,500 students, of which just over 3,000 are undergraduates. With campuses and facilities spread across Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens boroughs (and some in Israel), Yeshiva University’s main campus is in the Washington Heights area of Upper Manhattan.

5. City University of New York (CUNY) 

Queen's College CUNY

While all the other universities in New York listed here are private, the City University of New York (CUNY) is NYC’s public university system. Currently ranked 501-550 in the world, CUNY is the largest urban university system in the US, composed of 24 colleges spread across Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn (plus one on Staten Island), with more than 516,000 students enrolled in a huge variety of courses.

From vocational training to PhD research, full-time study to evening classes, the City University of New York almost certainly has a program to match. CUNY also prides itself on having strong connections with the city’s neighborhoods, running a network of internship and fellowship programs across the five boroughs to enrich study life.

6. The New School 

The New School

Ranked 601-650 in the most recent world university rankings, The New School (previously named New School University) has more than 10,000 students, of which around 30% are international. Like NYU, The New School has its main campus in the Village. This famously creative neighborhood is an apt location, as The New School focuses largely on the arts, humanities and social sciences. Its seven academic divisions are: liberal arts, music, drama, jazz and contemporary music, public engagement, social research, and design. Among its famous alumni, The New School boasts forerunners in several artistic fields, including actor Bradley Cooper, fashion designer Tom Ford and composer Burt Bacharach.

7. Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology

Though actually located in the neighboring state of New Jersey, the Stevens Institute of Technology sneaks into our list of top universities in New York due to its proximal location across the river from Manhattan Island. It’s ranked in the 651-700 range in the 2016-2017 world rankings. Situated on a 55-acre campus on the west bank of the Hudson River, Stevens Institute of Technology provides a nearby escape from the city center, offering up some stunning views of NYC’s famous skyline.

As its name would imply, the Stevens Institute of Technology has a strong focus on engineering, science and technology subjects, marketing itself as “The Innovation University”. However, it also offers degrees in arts and humanities subjects – and in fact all undergraduates are required to take some humanities courses. Around 6,600 students are enrolled at the Stevens Institute of Technology, more than half at postgraduate level.

8. Fordham University 

Fordham University

Ranked 701+ in the QS World University Rankings 2016-2017, Fordham University calls itself the “Jesuit University of New York” and specializes in liberal arts, sciences and business. Fordham University is composed of 10 colleges – four for undergraduates and six for postgraduates. These enroll around 15,300 students in total, with two main campuses in New York City – the Rose Hill campus in the Bronx and Lincoln Center in Manhattan – as well as a much smaller campus in West Harrison, about 25 miles north of Manhattan. Fordham University’s Rose Hill campus is close to the Little Italy area, historically associated with Italian migrants and still characterized by Italian restaurants and shops, while the Lincoln Center is close to the south-east corner of Central Park.

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There are three more internationally ranked universities close to New York City, located in adjacent states. These are Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick (ranked 301st in the world), the University of Delaware (411-420) and Rutgers – The State University of New Jersey, Newark (651-700). Located outside of New York City center but still close by, these universities may appeal to you for their quieter surroundings and less expensive living costs.

To explore all of the top universities in the US by state, click here.

This article was originally published in January 2015. It was last updated in September 2016 to incorporate the latest QS World University Rankings® results.

Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker

Laura is a staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life. View her past articles and blog posts here.

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Cornell is indeed a great university but can hardly be considered to be in New York City.....

Hello, although Cornell's main campus is not in New York City, it does still have several smaller campuses in the city, including it's school of medicine, so it would be a shame not to include it in this list! :)