Ivy League Colleges dominate the top of the 2017 Best Colleges ranking, published today by US News and World Report. Princeton University retains the overall top spot, followed by Harvard University in second place, and three more of the eight Ivy League colleges feature in the top 10.
Indeed, there are few surprises in this list of top US universities, which presents a very similar picture to that given in the latest QS World University Rankings, published last week. As the table below shows, the 10 top US universities are almost the same in both rankings – and the few differences are relatively small. Columbia University and Duke University, which both appear in the top 10 of the US News ranking, are only just outside the QS top 10 – and the reverse holds true for Caltech and Cornell.
US News and World Report – Best National Universities 2017
QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017 – Top US Universities
1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
2. Stanford University
3. Harvard University
5. University of Chicago
6. Princeton University
7. Yale University
9. Johns Hopkins University
10. University of Pennsylvania
How are the top US universities assessed?
While the two rankings produce similar overall lists of the top US universities, the methodologies used to do so are very different. The US News ranking uses 15 data sources, grouped into the following categories:
- Graduation and retention rates (worth 22.5% of the overall score)
- Undergraduate academic reputation (22.5%)
- Faculty resources (20%)
- Student selectivity (12.5%)
- Financial resources (10%)
- Graduation rate performance (7.5%)
- Alumni giving (5%)
While the QS ranking does not assess any financial or selectivity-related factors, it does assess universities’ levels of internationalization, alongside indicators related to research, teaching and employment:
- Academic reputation (40%)
- Employer reputation (10%)
- Student-to-faculty ratio (20%)
- Citations per faculty member (20%)
- International faculty ratio (5%)
- International student ratio (5%)
The relatively close alignment between the two rankings’ final lists shows the extent to which the top US universities tend to come out ahead regardless of the indicator chosen. In general, they are the best-funded, most selective, highest-reputed, best-staffed, and most international – with all of these factors in turn fuelling the others.
What does this mean for students?
For prospective students trying to choose between the top US universities, the relatively high levels of alignment between rankings is likely to instill greater confidence, while the different methodologies make for a rich pool of complementary data sets. Each ranking allows students to access information and scores for each of the indicators assessed, alongside additional information such as average tuition fees, providing extensive resources for online research and comparison.
All of the rankings providers are working to improve the presentation of results, allowing students to access more of the information they need in one place, as well as making more specialized comparisons. The US News ranking, for instance, publishes a selection of additional lists, including a ranking of National Liberal Arts Colleges. Meanwhile, the overall QS World University Rankings is accompanied by the QS World University Rankings by Subject – currently covering 42 subjects, with more added each year.
As international rankings continue to extend their scope, and with new specialized rankings dedicated to the top US universities being developed, students will soon have even more data to draw on when making their choice.