When it comes to a tertiary education, most people are looking for the best-of-the-best. But this begs the question: what makes a university prestigious, and which university is the most prestigious in the world? Canstar Blue is here to dive right into these questions so you can make the most informed choice possible. So don’t slack when it comes to your university education – and read on to find out which universities are at the top.
What is the most prestigious university in the world?
The title for the top university in the world may be a surprise to some. It’s not Oxford, Stanford, or even Harvard – it’s the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The QS World University Rankings for 2024 put the American university at top spot with a score of 100, with the rankings based on academia, staff, reputation and similar factors.
How much does MIT cost?
The Boston-based university has a full-fee admissions cost of around $82,730 for the 2023/24 academic year, with that cost including tuition, housing, meals and books. However, money is not the deciding factor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with the application process a gruelling one, with only the top undergraduates in American being accepted.
Of course, the cost of a university degree can play a bit part in deciding where you decide to study, with Australian domestic students thankfully afforded the opportunity to defer payments through the HECS-HELP scheme. Or you may be able to score a scholarship to help cut down the cost.
What are the top universities in the world?
MIT may have taken top spot on the QS World University Rankings, but there’s still some well-known universities following it. Of the most prestigious universities in the world, there is only one that isn’t based in the United States or the United Kingdom. Here are the top 10 universities worldwide for 2024, according to the QS World Rankings:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (United States)
- University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
- University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
- Harvard University (United States)
- Stanford University (United States)
- Imperial College London (United Kingdom)
- ETH Zurich (Switzerland)
- National University of Singapore (Singapore)
- UCL (United Kingdom)
- University of California Berkeley (United States)
Read more: How much does university cost in Australia?
How are the top universities in the world ranked?
The QS World University Rankings have become one of the most consistent and highly-regarded university ranking websites in the world, and this is largely due to their methodical practice in comparing institutions. Fortunately, the site lays out the metrics it uses to weigh universities against each other, including:
- Academic Reputation
- Faculty Student Ratio
- Citations per Faculty
- Employer Reputation
- International Faculty Ratio
- International Student Ratio
- International Research Network
- Employment Outcomes
This category has the heaviest weighting of all the metrics – with a weighting of 30% – and uses an academic survey to gauge the thoughts of practitioners in the tertiary education sphere on a university’s teaching and research quality. In previous years, this was weighted at 40%, but was dropped to 30% for the 2023/2024 results.
Faculty Student Ratio
This metric gauges student accessibility to a member of faculty, including lecturers and tutors and other academic staff resources. This is the most solid indicator of whether the learning experience is sound at a university. This metric has a weighting of 10%, having previously been weighted at 20% before the 2023/2024 results.
Citations per Faculty
The Citations per Faculty metric looks at how many citations were received by all papers produced by a university over a five-year period, and divides that figure by the amount of faculty members at the institution. Subjects like Philosophy have a different citation weighting to faculties such as Medicine to account for any disparities. This metric also has a weighting of 20%.
The QS Employer Survey looks to ascertain how highly-regarded universities are in the eyes of employing companies. This means employers will consider from which institutions their best recruitments would have come from. The Employer Reputation metric has a weighting of 15%, having been weighted at 10% in previous years.
International Faculty Ratio
Faculty sourced internationally implies a sense of attraction instilled in the university. Therefore, the QS World University Rankings look at international faculty members to gauge the pull a university has. This metric accounts for 5%.
International Student Ratio
Much the same as the International Faculty Ratio, the QS rankings also looks at the number of international students at an institution for similar reasons. This metric has a weight of 5%.
International Research Network
A new area for the 2023/2024 results, International Research Network measures how institutions create and sustain research partnerships resulting in co-authored publications with other publications from around the world. The has a weighting of 5%.
Another new measurement for the 2023/2024 year, Employment Outcomes centres around the institutions’ ability to ensure a high level of employability for its graduates. It has a weighting of 5%.
With a weighting of 5%, Sustainability is the final new area for the 2023/2024 QS rankings, looking to encapsulate the institutions’ policies and commitment to a more sustainable existence, as well as sustainability-centered education and research at the institution.
What is the most prestigious university in Australia?
The highest entry in this list is the University of Melbourne, which enters the rankings at 14, with an overall score of 87.9. Established in 1853, the University of Melbourne has a student body of approximately 65,000 students across its various tertiary offerings.
Of course, there’s plenty that goes into making a university a great place to study and be a part of. If you’re interested in finding the best university in Australia, check out our national and state-based ratings on Australian universities to help you narrow down which universities to look at.
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