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Harvard Tops the QS USA University Ranks for 2020

JUN 14, 2020 • 8 min read

Recently QS Top Universities released their first-ever QS USA Rankings and have crowned Harvard the top university in the USA!

To claim the top place they have beaten out long-time university rankings rivals Stanford (2nd place) and MIT (3rd place). Out of the nearly 300 universities evaluated, check out the top-20 below:

1. Harvard University

2. Stanford University

3. MIT

4. University of California, Berkeley

5. Columbia University

6. University of California, Los Angeles

7. Yale University

8. University of Pennsylvania

9. Princeton University

10. Cornell University

11. NYU

12. University of Chicago

13. Duke University

14. Johns Hopkins University

15. University of Southern California

16. Northwestern University

17. Carnegie Mellon University

18. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

19. Caltech

20. Brown University

QS World Rankings vs. QS US Rankings

You might be thinking why the QS USA rankings are different to the QS World rankings. For instance, in the world rankings MIT is currently ranked #1 in the world, but in the USA rankings Harvard and Stanford are higher. Another example is Caltech, who are ranked 5th in the world, but then 19th in the USA. How can this be?

The answer is methodology. In their first ever set of US rankings, QS attempted to use datasets and metrics unique or most relevant to the US education system. Accordingly, the QS US rankings were evaluated on 17 different metrics falling into 4 broad groupings:

  • Employability (27%): includes metrics that include the results of the employer reputation survey, alumni outcomes and salary after 10 years.
  • Diversity & Internationalisation (25%): includes metrics such as the gender pay gap, faculty gender diversity, the ratio of undergraduate students receiving Pell grants, students’ ethnicity mix, the number of Fulbright recipients per institution, and the proportion of international students.
  • Learning experience (22%): includes metrics such as average instructional expenditure per FTE student, retention rate, Pell grant student graduation rates compared with other students, and student-faculty ratio.
  • Research (26%): includes metrics such as the results of the academic reputation survey, citations per paper, international research network (IRN), and partnerships with employers per faculty.

Not only can you look at each university’s overall score, but you can also look at their scores in each of these broad categories. To reach the top, Harvard attained the top score for both employability and research. However, it was Brown, Duke, Yale, Northwestern and Johns Hopkins that attained the top score for learning experience, and NYU, UC Davis and UCLA who tied for the top score for diversity and internationalisation.

On the other hand, the ranking system of the QS World Rankings is much more simple. The annual world rankings use only 6 metrics, including academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio. Additionally, 50% the world rankings are made up of metrics derived from survey responses from members of the public and employers, as opposed to 22.5% of the US rankings. Thus it could be said that the world rankings have a greater subjective element.

At the end of the day, it is irrelevant whether you prefer the QS world rankings or the QS USA rankings; picking universities based on rankings can be inherently unhelpful. They may be a useful indicator of academic performance and prestige, but they certainly do not capture all the things you might be looking for in a college.

At Crimson we are dedicated to helping students find the best-fit university for them, which starts with looking at each university and learning as much as possible about where they are, what majors and courses resonate, and exactly what they have to offer.

For more help picking your perfect university, check out our new university profiles on some of the US and UK’s top universities.

Also try Crimson's US College Admissions Calculator to generate a list of recommended colleges that are the best fit for you.

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