Elizabeth Entenman
August 26, 2015 4:25 pm

Choosing a university is NOT an easy decision. There are numerous things to consider, like location, size and particular subject you want to study. To help the decision making process, lists are curated to show off the best of the best: most beautiful campus, most fun social scene, most active Greek life. And then, there’s this list, aka the mother of ALL college lists.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities, or the ARWU, ranks the top 500 universities in the world—and the 2015 rankings were just released. This list is based purely on academics; things like social activities and cafeteria food quality have no influence whatsoever. ARWU states that “several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, papers indexed in major citation indices, and the per capita academic performance of an institution.”

The US owns #1-4 on the list, and eight of the top 10:

  1. Harvard University (US)
  2. Stanford University (US)
  3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US)
  4. University of California, Berkeley (US)
  5. University of Cambridge (UK)
  6. Princeton University (US)
  7. California Institute of Technology (US)
  8. Columbia University (US)
  9. University of Chicago (US)
  10. University of Oxford (UK)

Harvard has quite the nice streak going: The University has held the #1 position for 13 years now. In fact, the entire top 10 is unchanged from last year.

Other US schools that top the list include Yale University, University of California at Los Angeles, Cornell, University of California at San Diego, University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania. The US and Europe are the most represented nations, followed by China with 32 universities on the list, Japan with 18 and the UK with nine.

So, how can universities ensure a spot at the top of the rankings for years to come? “Increasing funding in science, research and innovation is essential to keep our leading universities at the top of the table,” says Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group.

Of course STEM-focused research isn’t the only element that increases the educational value —class size, class availability, on-campus activities, quality of professors, and campus culture are all important parts of a college experience. So, if your college didn’t “make it” on the list, this doesn’t mean it’s worse than these ranked schools.

Still —it’s pretty fun to scroll through the rankings and learn about colleges you may have not even known about.

Featured image via iStock