Top Universities in the World 2016/17 | Top Universities

Top Universities in the World 2016/17

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated June 24, 2019 Updated June 24, 2019

Click here for the latest version of this article, based on the 2020 results. 

The QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017, released today, showcases just over 900 of the top universities in the world. If you consider that there are an estimated 20,000 universities worldwide in total, it’s clear that ranking among the top 900 is quite an achievement – while those in the top 100 are truly part of a global elite. Here’s an overview of the very top universities in the world this year…

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Leading the list for the fifth consecutive year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is proving difficult to shift from the top spot, thanks to its strong international reputation, highly influential research, and healthy faculty/student ratio.

2. Stanford University

Stanford University

Based in Silicon Valley, Stanford University climbs one place in the ranking this year, overtaking Harvard in the process. It scores well across all of the indicators used in the ranking, particularly the global reputation surveys of academics and employers.

3. Harvard University

Harvard University

It may no longer be at the top of the ranking (which it led between 2004 and 2009), but Harvard University remains one of the world’s most-respected institutions across a broad range of subject areas – and in fact it’s still number one in both of the reputation surveys.

4. University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge
Breaking the US monopoly, the UK’s University of Cambridge is another former table-topper. Scoring well across all metrics assessed in the ranking, it has a particularly strong faculty/student ratio – reflecting its longstanding commitment to small-group tuition.

5. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Though much smaller than most of the top universities in the world, Caltech punches well above its weight, particularly in the science and technology subjects on which it is focused. Impressively, it beats both halves of Oxbridge on faculty/student ratio, and also stands out for its high research impact.

6. University of Oxford

University of Oxford
Never far apart, the two halves of ‘Oxbridge’ are almost neck and neck on each of the six indicators assessed, with Oxford in fact narrowly beating Cambridge for its proportion of international students and faculty, as well as claiming a slightly better faculty/student ratio.

7. UCL (University College London)


The UK’s third representative, UCL claims to be “London’s Global University” – and this assertion is well-founded. It has one of the most international student bodies amongst the top universities in the world, as well as being highly rated by both academics and employers.

8. ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich

The highest-ranked institution from outside of the US and UK, Switzerland’s ETH Zurich has been steadily climbing the table – this year improving its position by one. Its strongest scores are for international diversity of faculty and research impact, reflecting its status as a global research powerhouse.

9. Imperial College London

Imperial College London
Though one place further apart than previously, Imperial College London is still hot on the heels of fellow London institution UCL, and remains renowned for its work in scientific and technical subjects, as well as its prestigious business school.

10. University of Chicago

University of Chicago
Stable in 10th place, the University of Chicago rounds out the top 10 once again. Scoring particularly well in the academic reputation survey, it is further bolstered by its strong reputation with employers, and its high research impact.

Top universities in the world by country

Excluding the US, UK and Switzerland – whose top universities all feature within the global top 10 – here’s an at-a-glance review of the highest-ranked institutions in each of the countries represented in the top 100:

Top in Argentina: Universidad de Buenos Aires (joint 85th)

Top in Australia: Australian National University (22nd)

Top in Belgium: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven; 79th)

Top in Canada: McGill University (30th)

Top in China: Tsinghua University (joint 24th)

Top in Denmark: University of Copenhagen (joint 68th)

Top in Finland: University of Helsinki (91st)

Top in France: Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris (ENS Paris; 33rd)

Top in Germany: Technische Universität München (TUM; 60th)

Top in Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong (27th)

Top in Ireland: Trinity College Dublin (joint 98th)

Top in Japan: University of Tokyo (34th)

Top in the Netherlands: University of Amsterdam (57th)

Top in New Zealand: University of Auckland (81st)

Top in Singapore: National University of Singapore (12th)

Top in South Korea: Seoul National University (35th)

Top in Sweden: Lund University (73rd)

Top in Taiwan: National Taiwan University (joint 68th)

To discover more of the top universities in the world, check out the full interactive ranking table, and sort the results by performance indicator and by country. Registered site members (join for free!) can also directly compare up to four universities on additional criteria, including average tuition fees, size and ranking history.

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This article was originally published in August 2016 . It was last updated in June 2019

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