UChicago vs Northwestern | Top Universities

UChicago vs Northwestern

By Sabrina Collier

Updated June 1, 2021 Updated June 1, 2021

The University of Chicago (UChicago) and Northwestern University are the two highest-ranked universities in Illinois and are both consistently ranked in the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings: USA 2021. On a national scale, both are currently in the top 15 universities in the US

Of course, there’s more to consider when choosing a university than just how well it’s performed in this year’s rankings.  Let’s take a closer look at how these two universities compare. 

 
 

UChicago 

Northwestern 

QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 

  • Ranked 11th in the USA 

  • Ninth for research  

  • Joint first for learning experience 

  • 51-100 for diversity and internationalisation  

  • 15th for employability 

  • Ranked 16th in the USA 

  • 17th for research  

  • Joint seventh for learning experience 

  • Joint 44th for diversity and internationalisation 

  • 16th for employability 

Subject strengths* 

  • Ranked joint 13th in the world for arts & humanities 

  • 78th in the world for engineering & technology 

  • Joint 38th for life sciences & medicine 

  • Joint 18th for natural sciences 

  • 10th for social sciences & management 

  • Ranked joint 72nd in the world for arts & humanities 

  • Joint 60th in the world for engineering & technology 

  • Joint 55th for life sciences & medicine 

  • Joint 37th for natural sciences 

  • 19th for social sciences & management 

Location 

Main campus is located about eight miles (12km) south from Downtown Chicago (ranked 41st in the QS Best Student Cities 2017 index) 

Mainly located in Evanston, Illinois, but it has a campus in Chicago and a satellite campus in Qatar 

Student community 

Approximately 17,170 students enrolled in 2021 

7,011 undergraduates, 10,159 graduate, professional and other students 

Around 21 percent of students are international 

Around 21,000 students enrolled in 2021 

8,000 undergraduates, 13,000 graduate, professional and other students 

Around 22 percent of students are international  

Tuition fees 

For 2021-2022, undergraduate tuition is US$59,256 (~£51,700) per year, plus other fees. 

For 2020-2021, undergraduate tuition is $56,286 (~£40,000) per year plus other fees. 

*Based on the broad subject areas in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021. 

QS World University Rankings: USA 2021 

UChicago is ranked five places above Northwestern in the latest QS World University Rankings: USA 2021. UChicago places 11th in the USA (up one place from last year) while Northwestern is 16th.   

UChicago achieves its highest ranking for its learning experience (joint first in the USA). Northwestern is close behind, ranking joint seventh for this indicator. 

Looking at the level of research impact for each university, both schools rank in the top 50, with UChicago in ninth and Northeastern in 17th. Similarly, both schools earn high scores in the employability indicator, with UChicago in 15th and Northwestern in 16th. 

Finally, both universities receive their weakest scores for diversity and internationalisation. Northeastern ranks the highest in joint 44th, followed by UChicago ranking 51-100. 

Subject strengths 

If you’re still undecided on whether to attend UChicago or Northwestern, the QS World University Rankings by Subject allow us to get an idea of the strengths of each university in 51 different subjects.  

Of the five broad subject areas covered in the ranking, both UChicago and Northwestern achieve their highest position for social sciences & management.  UChicago takes the lead ranking 10th in the world, followed by Northwestern in 19th. 

UChicago is ranked higher than Northwestern for every broad subject area except engineering & technology where UChicago places in joint 60th to Northwestern’s 78th.  

The table below shows how UChicago and Northwestern directly compare for all of the 51 subjects covered in the ranking. 

UChicago vs Northwestern in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 

 
 

UChicago  

Northwestern  

Accounting & finance 

9th 

=29th 

Anatomy & physiology 

-- 

31st 

Anthropology 

7th 

101-120 

Archaeology 

-- 

-- 

Art & design 

51-100 

151-200 

Biological sciences 

=29th 

70th 

Business & management 

23rd 

14th 

Chemistry 

=34th 

14th 

Classics and ancient history 

24th 

-- 

Communication & media studies 

51-100 

15th 

Computer science & information systems 

=47th 

151-200 

Development studies 

20th 

-- 

Earth & marine sciences 

51-100 

151-200 

Economics 

7th 

14th 

Education & training 

=44th 

81st 

Engineering (chemical) 

-- 

27th 

Engineering (civil) 

-- 

51-100 

Engineering (electrical) 

-- 

119th 

Engineering (mechanical) 

-- 

33rd 

English language & literature 

12th 

53rd 

Environmental sciences 

101-150 

201-250 

Geography 

=31 

151-200 

Geology 

51-100 

151-200 

Geophysics 

51-100 

151-200 

History 

11th 

51-100 

Law 

=11th 

49th 

Linguistics 

21st 

89th 

Materials science 

-- 

11th 

Mathematics 

17th 

=74th 

Medicine 

27th 

=51st 

Modern languages 

14th 

101-150 

Performing arts 

51-100 

41st 

Philosophy 

24th 

51-100 

Physics & astronomy 

=18th 

63rd 

Politics 

19th 

51-100 

Psychology 

14th 

22nd 

Social policy & administration 

=16th 

101-150 

Sociology 

9th 

=53rd 

Sports-related subjects 

-- 

51-100 

Statistics 

23rd 

35th 

Theology, divinity & religious studies 

12th 

101-120 

See the full QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 

Location 

Another factor to consider when choosing between UChicago and Northwestern is their respective locations. Both have campuses in Chicago, the third-biggest city in the US, which was ranked 46th in the latest QS Best Student Cities index. 

If scenic, ivy-clad buildings sound like ideal surroundings when you study in the US, UChicago has you covered. Its 217-acre campus is in the city’s Hyde Park neighbourhood, near to Lake Michigan. It combines traditional English gothic buildings with award-winning modern architecture.  

Aside from its main campus, UChicago’s Booth School of Business also runs satellite campuses in Singapore and London, as well as the Streeterville neighbourhood in downtown Chicago. This is also where Northwestern’s Chicago campus is located, close to attractions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art and John Hancock Center. 

Northwestern’s Evanston campus is 240 acres and is where the undergraduate schools, the Graduate School, and the Kellogg School of Management are based. The campus sits on Lake Michigan, meaning it has its own beaches.  

The Evanston campus also features one of the biggest university libraries in a private university, with 4.6 million volumes. Evanston itself is located about 12 miles north of Chicago and is home to approximately 74,895 people, so it may be better suited to those who aren’t keen on big city life. 

Tuition fees 

Undergraduate tuition fees at UChicago and Northwestern are the same for all students. There is no separate tuition fee for out-of-state or international students. 

At UChicago, undergraduate tuition fees are set at US$59,256 (~£41,800), plus the Student Life Fee of $1,707 (~£1,200) at the University of Chicago. The university recommends students budget a total of $82,848 (~£58,300) per year to live on campus, a total which includes tuition, other fees, room and board, books and other personal expenses.  

Graduate tuition fees vary, but to give you an idea, a Master of Laws (LLM) degree at UChicago costs $70,710 (~£49,750) per year as of 2020/21, while a master's in computer science costs around $55,413 (~£39,000) depending on how many courses you take.  

At Northwestern, similar fees are charged at undergraduate level: $56,286 (~£40,000) per year, plus other fees totalling $475 (~£335). Northwestern estimates that students will need a total of $79,342 (~55,800) for all their costs including health insurance, room and board, personal expenses and books and supplies.  

Again, graduate tuition fees vary, with a Master of Laws (LLM) degree costing $71,670 (~50,400) per year, while a master's in information technology costs $35,274 (~ £17,800).  

Financial support 

With such high tuition fees to study in the US at either university, you’ll be pleased to know that financial aid is available. UChicago pledges to meet the demonstrated need of 100% of admitted undergraduates, and the average aid applicant receives $45,500 (~£32,000) in scholarships every year.  

First year international students are eligible for both need and merit-based financial aid on need-sensitive process, meaning that the university considers whether an international student has requested financial aid or not. 

If you think you may need financial aid at any point during your time at the university, you must apply for financial aid at the same time when you submit your application. The university’s net price calculator allows you to estimate the cost of your education and find out what financial aid you may be eligible for. First-year students are automatically considered for merit-based scholarships, which don’t consider the student’s financial situation. 

Northwestern University also offers financial aid to students based on demonstrated need. Approximately 64 percent of undergraduates received financial aid in 2020/21. The school awarded $207 million (~£145 million) in scholarships to students in 2020/21 and approximately half of undergraduates received a Northwestern University Scholarship.  

 A small group of first-year international students receive need-based aid every year, and again you must state it on your application form if you require aid. Need and non-need based loans are available, and US students from low-income families are also eligible to apply for federal & state grants. The university’s net price calculator can be found here

You can browse a range of scholarships to study in the US here

Which would you choose in the debate between UChicago vs Northwestern? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and get ready to study in the US with our complete guide

This article was originally published in July 2017 . It was last updated in June 2021

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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