No.1: Harvard University
Second in the world rankings behind Cambridge, Harvard is the oldest and most prestigious university in the US. The private Ivy League university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has educated eight US presidents, including Barack Obama, and more than sixty living billionaires. Unsurprisingly, Harvard receives the largest financial endowment of any academic institution in the world, standing at more than £17 billion in 2010. Students pay yearly tuition fees of approximately £25,000.
No.2: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Situated in the same city as Harvard, MIT is ranked as the third best university in the world and has recently been responsible for leading a NASA planetary spacecraft mission to map the moon's gravitational field. Fees at the private research university are in line with Harvard, and like Harvard it boasts a thriving entrepreneurial culture. According to reports, if aggregated revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni were combined, it would become the eleventh largest economy in the world.
No.3: Yale University
Yale is the third oldest university in the US and once penalised students for cardplaying and tavern-going. Much has changed, and Yale is now regarded as a liberal, forward-thinking university with a student body deriving from a variety of ethnic, national and socio-economic backgrounds, and promotes an open campus for the gay community. The university's motto is 'Light and Truth', while its mascot is called Handsome Dan, a bulldog bought by English student Andrew Graves from a New Haven blacksmith in 1989.
No.4: University of Chicago
The University of Chicago was ranked eighth in this year's world rankings, directly below UK universities UCL, Imperial and Oxford. It was established in 1890 with a donation from oil magnate John D. Rockfeller and is considered one of the most intellectual US universities. A fairly small institution with approximately 5,000 undergraduates, it charges some of the highest fees at approximately £27,500 a year
No.5: University of Pennsylvania
Commonly referred to as Penn or UPenn, the University of Pennsylvania is America's fourth oldest and ranked 9th in the world. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, its notable alumni include one US president, nine heads of state and approximately 20 billionaires. For nearly 150 years Penn's motto read Sine Moribus Vanae, which when pointed out that it could be interpreted as "loose women without morals" was changed to Leges Sine Moribus Vanae or "laws without morals are useless". The picture shows early Penn veterinary students watching their teacher perform a difficult operation. The hunting horse was suffering from a chronic cough caused by a dysfunction of the larynx
No.6: Columbia University
The fifth oldest university in the US, Columbia University closes out the world's top ten universities and is famed for educating three US presidents and 27 heads of state. It is linked to more Nobel Prize winners than any other academic institution, has a renowned journalism course and is responsible each year for handing out the Pulitzer Prize. It shares the same high costs as Chicago, charging students approximately £27,500 each year. In 2007, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was controversially invited to speak on campus, an opportunity he seized to defend Iran's nuclear programme, deny the presence of homosexuality in Iran, attack US foreign policy, question the historical accuracy of the Holocaust and fuel 9/11 conspiracy theories by raising questions as to the identity of the real perpetrators. The speech was televised worldwide, protestors descended on the campus en masse and an estimated 2,500 graduates turned out for the lecture.
No.7: Stanford University
Stanford is a major research university that focuses on computer science, maths and natural and social sciences. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page (pictured) studied there, as did Hewlett-Packard bods William Hewlett and David Packard. It came 11th in world rankings. Unexpectedly for such a tech-minded institute, Stanford athletes won eight golds and 17 other medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing - more than any other US university
No.8: California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Located in Pasadena, California, CalTech is a small university by US standards with approximately 1,000 students who each pay in the region of £24,000 a year. The university specialises in science and engineering and trusts its students to the point where departments allow students to sit their exams at home. CalTech came 12th in global university rankings.
No.9: Princeton University
Students at Princeton University traditionally gather at midnight at the end of each term, one day before the deadline for all written work is due and let out a collective scream to relieve the stress of their hard work. Students at the New Jersey-based university pay £22,000 each year in fees
No.10: University of Michigan
Michigan is a large, four-year research university with more than 25,000 undergraduates, 15,000 postgraduates and 20,965 acres in total campus space in the university town of Ann Arbor. Ranked 14th in the world, Michigan is cheap by American standards, with fees capped at £7,500 for US students and £11,000 for overseas.
The QS World University Rankings 2011/2012 is drawn from surveys of over 33,000 global academics and 16,000 graduate employers and based on research teaching, employability and internationalisation
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