Study in Michigan | Top Universities

Study in Michigan

By Laura Tucker

Updated June 7, 2019 Updated June 7, 2019

Located on two peninsulas in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest, Michigan shares a border with Canada as well as four other US states (Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and Illinois – across Lake Michigan).

Michigan gets its name from the Ojibwa word meaning ‘large lake’ and this becomes understandable upon learning that within the state you can never be more than six miles from a natural water source. It is the only state to border four out of five Great Lakes – not to mention the Straits of Mackinac, which separates the two peninsulas.

Other than water, Michigan is home to the US’s largest state forest system, and over half of the state’s land is forested. This natural landscape means snowmobiling is a popular activity – more snowmobiles are registered in Michigan than in any other state – and water-based activities such as fishing and boating are also common, unsurprisingly. 

Thanks to the prevalence of water, Michigan has a selection of islands which freckle its coastline. Of these, Mackinac, Beaver and Isle Royale make top tourist destinations for their surf-friendly shores, colored sandstone cliffs and trekkable sand dunes.

Wholesome outdoorsy-ness is not Michigan’s only feature, however, as it is home to a number of urban metropolises. These include state capital Lansing, vibrant student city Ann Arbor, and Detroit, the largest, grittiest and best known among cities in Michigan.

Three universities in Michigan are featured in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings®, one of which – the University of Michigan – is ranked among the very best universities in the US.

Top universities in Michigan

University of Michigan

The state’s top institution, the University of Michigan is ranked 22nd in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings and is based in the student city of Ann Arbor. The school is a public research university and currently has an enrolment of just over 43,400 students (15,400 of which are postgraduate), divided across the four divisions of the Ann Arbor campus: North, Central, Medical and South.

Boasting a total of 25 programs within the top 50 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject, the University of Michigan is particularly notable in psychology (7th in the world), mechanical engineering (10th), environmental science (11th), pharmacy (11=) and sociology (11th).

A member of the Big Ten Conference and just outside of the top 10 universities in the US, the University of Michigan is not only noted for its academic excellence but also its successful sports teams.

Michigan State University

A fellow Big Ten Conference member, Michigan State University is another of the universities in Michigan to take sports competition very seriously. The school is a public research university located in the small city of East Lansing, directly east of the state’s capital.

Home to a total of 49,300 students (11,355 postgraduates), Michigan State University offers a sprawling 5,200-acre campus on the banks of the Red Cedar River.

As well as boasting prowess on the sports field, the school also scores well academically, placed at 171st in the 2013/14 QS World University Rankings. At individual subject level, it ranks within the world’s top 30 for communication and media studies, education and training, and agriculture and forestry.

Michigan Technological University

Often known as Michigan Tech, Michigan Technological University is another of the public research universities in Michigan and is ranked 551-600 in the world. Located in the city of Houghton on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Michigan Technological University sits on a campus, 925 acres in size, overlooking Portage Lake.

The university, which hosts a relatively small student population of just over 7,000 (1,300 postgraduates), has changed its name as many as three times to reflect the expansion of offered programs (now at 130 programs throughout its five schools).

Other universities in Michigan

Outside of the QS World University Rankings, there are still numerous other universities in Michigan to choose from. In the public sector, options include Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Wayne State University in Detroit, and Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo.

Student cities in Michigan


Detroit, a city which was once among the world’s wealthiest, is now commonly thought of as a gritty and industrial ‘Motor City’. But Detroit has its own particular charm, and while it is no longer the world capital of the car manufacturing industry, it is still a city with a vibrancy, urban culture and sass that has survived the industrial steamroller.

Detroit has a long history of musical success, nurturing talent from an eclectic range of musicians including Alice Cooper, Diana Ross, The Rockets, Iggy Pop and Stevie Wonder through to more recent successes such as rapper Eminem and rock band The White Stripes. The city is also home to the Motown Historical Museum, which charts the fame of Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin among others.

Along with its musical spirit, Detroit also offers a rich arts and culture scene. The Detroit Institute of Arts, found near the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, is set to the backdrop of Detroit’s eclectic selection of street art and will show you exactly why Detroit is still culturally important.

Ann Arbor

Home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is the epitome of a college town. Students seem to run the place, from the collegiate sporting events which turn the entire town into endless seas of Maize and blue, to the sway students have over liberal political demographic and good/cheap places to eat and drink.

Ann Arbor has also managed to retain much of its small-town charm; the farmer’s market is still a weekly occurrence and the Dexter Cider Mill is still selling juice and donuts after 148 years.

The University of Michigan campus is a key part of the town’s culture and heritage and this can be seen by the university-led Museum of Art and Museum of Natural History which are free to enter and located on site.


Lansing, the state capital, is an important center for Michigan’s government, industry, education, commerce and culture. The city is home to one ranked institution in the QS World University rankings (Michigan State University), two medical schools, two nursing schools, one veterinary school and two law schools (including the Michigan State University College of Law). The city also holds the state capitol, the state’s Supreme Court, as well as an historical center and famous library. Music, festivals and theater are all readily available too.

Michigan: Fast Facts

  • Michigan’s capital city is Lansing and its largest city is Detroit.
  • People from Michigan are known as Michiganders, Michiganians or Yoopers (to refer to residents from the Upper Peninsula – derived from ‘UP-ers’).
  • In Michigan, you’re never more than six miles from a lake or stream.
  • The state has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world.
  • Michigan boasts the largest dedicated state forest region in the US, spanning 3.9 million acres.
  • The state is the leading producer of tart cherries in the US.
  • Michigan is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes – Lakes Superior, Michigan, Eerie and Huron.
  • Michigan is nicknamed the ‘Wolverine State’.
  • The Sleeping Bear Dunes on the western shores of the state rise 460 feet above Lake Michigan.
  • Companies headquartered in Detroit include General Motors, Chevrolet, Buick and Olympia Entertainment.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in June 2019

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