Unmasking Academic Prestige: Top USA Universities Analyzed
US higher education system was the undisputed leader in the international scientific arena during the ХХ century and is still rated as the most prominent in the world. At the initial stage of its formation, this system largely followed European countries’ academic traditions, and universities established in America had European features.
The first US university (Harvard) originated in 1636. Therefore, American higher education is much younger than European. Despite this, it has become the most competitive in the world. Continuing the best European traditions, cooperating with leading foreign scientists, attracting better minds, higher education, and the science that is inextricably linked to it has become a significant element of the US’s worldwide competitive leadership in the international arena.
Basic Characteristics of Modern US Universities
The ranking of the best universities in the world illustrates that the USA has 30 educational institutions from the top-100 list, which makes the country an undisputed leader in terms of concentration of highly efficient establishments in the higher education system.
Modern top universities in USA are effective research centers in the field of high technology, which are often supported by public and corporate funding, the centers of real integration of science and education within higher education by actively involving teachers and students in research activity. At the same time, universities are centers of influence on regional economic development, the formation and implementation of special economic zones and technology parks, business incubators’ creation, and support for small businesses. Simultaneously, they largely act as a center for the development of a national elite, which aims to play a significant role in the country’s progress.
Most institutions belong to one or another cluster. Thus, the Boston / Cambridge Biotechnology Cluster includes the two most powerful establishments: Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Four prominent institutions (San Jose University, the University of California at Berkeley Stanford University, and Santa Clara University) are encompassed by Silicon Valley. The Southern California Biopharmaceutical Cluster comprises the University of California and San Diego University for Integrative Studies.
List of Top Universities in the USA
The top 5 universities in the USA include MIT, University of Chicago, Harvard University, Stanford University, and California Institute of Technology. Read their brief description below.
This educational establishment is located in Cambridge and occupies a theory of 168 acres. It is rated as the most atypical American university. It was originally established as a professional technical school for the advancement, development, and practical application of natural sciences. Thus, at the university, signs of technological transfer to the industry (a term unknown at that time but reflecting the essence of the mission of this university) were present from the moment the university was founded. In 1921, the Division of Industrial Cooperation and Research was founded, through which the resources of the institute became more accessible to US industry. Companies could contact the institute for advice from faculty members and for joint research projects.
After World War II, the university’s reputation as a first-class engineering school began to be recognized worldwide, not only due to the quality education in the basic sciences – physics, chemistry, and biology but importantly, due to the expansion of relationships with industry.
Today, this institution is a private non-profit structure, which employs almost 3000 teachers. If you want to enter this university, pay attention that in addition to the standard package of documents, which must include a certificate of language proficiency, you also need a certificate of completion of complete secondary education with a high average score and passing exams.
The university provides many advantages for both residents of the country and for foreigners, including exchange programs and other student mobility projects, hostel, distance learning, material support, other financial assistance, libraries, and comfortably equipped laboratories.
It is the first university in the United States. It was founded in 1636. Today it is one of the most prestigious educational establishments in the modern world, which consists of 9 faculties with 15,000 undergraduate students with a strong master and graduate degree. Furthermore, Harvard University is a well-known international center with 17 research institutes and a great system of specialized libraries.
Harvard College was created by the Massachusetts Bay Colony Legislature in 1636. The institution was named after its first sponsor, the young priest John Harvard of Charleston. Its first students were 9 people taught by one teacher. For the first hundred years of its existence, Harvard College was a relatively small, provincial conservative theological institution, copying the English educational model of Cambridge and Oxford’s Universities, following Puritan principles in education. However, in the 18th century, the professors, who had earned professorships at German universities and saw the shortcomings of the English university model, initiated the opening of three vocational schools at the college: theological, medical, and law schools with master’s departments. From the second half of the XIX century, the college was transformed into a classical university with its own observatory (1846), graduate school (1847), chemical laboratory (1857), museum of natural history (1860), agricultural and business school.
Since the reign of Charles Eliot (1869-1909), Harvard University has prioritized educational excellence and the best and most accessible educational institution’s status in the United States. As an equivalent of the German education system, the Faculty of Philosophy (Arts and Sciences) was opened, and in 1872 the degree of Master and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) was introduced. Drawing on long-standing traditions, the university’s leadership sought to bring together talented students from all over the country, proclaiming the principle of equal access to quality education for all, regardless of an ethnic and religious group and wealth. The contingent of university students at this time reached three thousand.
The university’s teaching staff has developed a system of the educational process that stimulates each student to maximize the development of talents. Thus, the selection of students for the study is based on a competitive complex system, which consists of tests of several types, creative essays, as well as school results, which allows getting capable and ambitious students. The annual cost of university tuition is 40 thousand US dollars, but most of the entrants (up to 70%) use a flexible system of personal rating of knowledge and skills to receive financial assistance (Harvard Education Fund for the most gifted, state fund, individual sponsors or founders of special nominal scholarships – university graduates, including the practice of state soft loans).
The university focuses on creating an academic community where individuals will be able to engage in research work in any academic discipline. At Rector Lawrence Lowell’s (1909-1933) initiative, the curricula underwent significant reforms, which focused on the principle of free choice by students of disciplines of future specialization. Students’ interest in education shows that most of them (97%) successfully graduate. The high quality of training is evidenced by the fact that six US presidents are graduates of this educational institution. Most well-known owners of firms, corporations, bankers, lawyers also have a Harvard degree.
This university was created in 1885 by a railway tycoon, California Senator Leland Stanford, and was named after his only son who died a year earlier.
Today, the university consists of 7 schools (business school, a school of herassing, a school of education, an engineering school, a school of humanitarian and social sciences, a medical school, a law school); 90 departments (units); 67 undergraduate programs are offered in three schools (humanities, engineering and geological sciences).
Each university school has its own mission, but the general document governing the goals and principles of activity is the “Stanford University Founding Grant” (Statutory donation of Stanford University), in which Leland Stanford substantiates the need to achieve the highest level in various branches of science, strive for individual success and benefit for society. The role of spreading the ideas of freedom within the framework of the law and human rights to life, freedom, and happiness is especially noted.
It is worth noting that Stanford University is rated as the world leader among research universities, occupying a leading position in terms of academic entrepreneurship and the number of innovative enterprises created. The strong manifestation of business ideas at Stanford University and the presence of a developed venture infrastructure contribute to the creation and development of spinning academic enterprises.
The formation and development of the university’s academic entrepreneurship became possible thanks to Frederick Terman, the Silicon Valley academic architect. During Stanford University’s history, its graduates and employees have created about 5,000 companies, which employ about 700 thousand people. Currently, Stanford University makes a significant contribution to the development of the technology park, acting as a center for the generation and implementation of scientific and technological developments, an engine of innovation, and an employer for 20,450 people in Silicon Valley.
California Institute of Technology
This educational institution was founded in 1891 by the well-known politician Amos Gager Throop. The university changed its name several times and obtained the final version in 1920.
Education is characterized by a complex curriculum, close cooperation with teachers. Students can participate in research through a variety of programs. The university management system is based on three benchmarks, such as excellence (teaching staff of the institute improves the educational process based on the use of advanced educational experience), ambition (risks often accompany radical changes, innovations of scientists), perspective (defining the problem as a promising direction in order to ensure the highest impact of research and technological findings).
University of Chicago
This private university was originated by D. Rockefeller in 1980. However, there is evidence that the University of Chicago began its operation in 1857.
The library was created in 1892. Today it includes over 3.6 million books and a great number of unique manuscripts. Jurisprudence, physics, economics, marketing, and sociology are the most studied directions. 79 university professors are Nobel laureates.
So, in this review, you received a description of the top universities in the USA. Each of them has its own history, peculiarities of activity and offers students a number of opportunities for their own development. The choice of university for training should be based on individual preferences.