The 25 Best Research Universities – 2016 University Rankings

Here's our list of the 25 Best Research UniversitiesResearch universities do much of the nation’s most important research and development for a wide array of areas. From developing new pharmaceuticals and nanotechnology to helping us understand the origin of our species and our universe.

Not all students at these colleges will study science–or do research–but, research universities, in general, tend to share common themes, such as medium to large class bodies.

Many students find that research universities have the right atmosphere, offering a sense of the scholarly pursuit of knowledge.

So, whether you’re an aspiring Chemistry Ph.D., or seeking a bachelor’s degree in English, if you’re looking for an enriching research university experience, one of these colleges may be right for you.

Here are the 25 research universities in the US:

25. Emory University

Emory University - Best Research Universities

By Revesq (Own work (Revesq)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta, GA

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,836

Emory University is a private research university that boasts an endowment of nearly $7 billion, making it among the top 20 in the country. Its 9 academic divisions include schools and colleges for programs ranging from Public Health to Theology, though it is most often noted for its extensive health sciences and medical research programs.

Learn more about Emory University


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24. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Best Research Universities

UNC South Building” by YeungbOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

Chapel Hill, NC

Undergraduate enrollment: 18,370

Regularly regarded as one of the nation’s top research universities (not to mention their legacy for dominance in NCAA basketball), UNC Chapel Hill is home to more than 18,000 undergrads from every state in the union. It’s known not just for academic excellence, but also for offering generous scholarships and financial aid, as well as an extensive study-abroad program that takes students to 70 countries around the world.

Learn more about University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


23. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University - Best Research Universities

View from Levering Plaza” by Iracaz – iPhone photo. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Baltimore, MD

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,117

Johns Hopkins University enrolls over 6,100 undergraduate students each year, with Biomedical Engineering being one of the most popular majors. JHU is America’s oldest research university and offers degrees in a number of engineering, science, and art fields.

Learn more about Johns Hopkins University


22. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Undergraduate enrollment: 28,283

Located in southeastern Michigan, U of M is a public research university which enrolls about 28,300 undergraduate students. The university offers many majors for undergraduate students, but its top 3 majors are Experimental Psychology, Business Administration, and Economics.

Learn about University of Michigan-Ann Arbor


21. University of California-Berkeley

University of California-Berkeley - Best Research Universities

UCBerkeleyCampus” by brainchildvn on Flickr – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Berkeley, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 25,951

UC Berkeley is a public research university in the San Francisco Bay area. The California flagship educates the most diverse undergraduate student body of any public university in the U.S., made up of about 26,000 students. Common major choices include Economics, Cell and Molecular Biology, and General Biology.

Learn more about University of California-Berkeley


20. Tufts University

Tufts University - Best Research Universities

Tufts Tisch library entrance” by HereToHelpOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Medford, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,180

Tufts University is a private research university near Boston, which attracts more than 5,100 undergraduate students. Until the late 1970’s, Tufts was a small, liberal arts college. It was later transformed into what is now a world-renowned research university that is regularly regarded as one of the best in the country.

Learn more about Tufts University


19. Georgetown University

Georgetown University - Best Research Universities

Georgetown Riverview” by PatrickneilOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Washington, D.C.

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,636

Probably best known for its prestigious Law and Public Policy programs, Georgetown University is a private research university that enrolls over 7,500 undergraduates in the nation’s capital, just above the Potomac River. They offer 48 majors across four undergraduate schools and colleges. President Bill Clinton graduated from Georgetown.

Learn more about Georgetown University


18. Cornell University

Cornell University - Best Research Universities

Matt Hintsa via Flickr

Ithaca, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 14,393

Cornell is located in the Finger Lakes regions of New York near Cayuga Lake. The research university enrolls around 14,400 undergraduate students and about half that many graduate students. Biology, Hotel Administration, and Labor and Industrial Relations are Cornell’s top three undergraduate majors.

Learn more about Cornell University


17. Rice University

Rice University - Best Research Universities

Lovett Hall” by The original uploader was AniRaptor2001 at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Houston, TX

Undergraduate enrollment: 3,965

Rice is a private research university located in downtown Houston. The school boasts a student-to-faculty ratio of just 5:1–one of the lowest in the nation–as well as a $5.5 billion endowment. Its 3,965 undergraduate students study in a range of areas, with Biochemistry, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering being the most popular majors.

Learn more about Rice University


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16. University of Virginia-Main Campus

University of Virginia - Best Research Universities

Bob Mical via Flickr

Charlottesville, VA

Undergraduate enrollment: 16,087

UVA is a public research university located in north-central Virginia near the Appalachian Mountains. It boasts an undergraduate enrollment of about 16,000 students and has the highest first-year retention rate of any college in the Southeast. Business, Liberal Studies, and Biology are UVA’s 3 most popular undergraduate major choices.

Learn more about the University of Virginia


15. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University - Best Research Universities

By Jbaker08 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Nashville, TN

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,835

Comprising 4 schools (Arts and Science, Engineering, Education and Human Development, and Music), Vanderbilt enrolls nearly 7,000 undergrads and offers more than 70 academic majors. The private research university is located in one of the nation’s most vibrant cities, Nashville, but it is also noted for its abundance of green space despite the urban setting.

Learn more about Vanderbilt University


14. Washington University in St Louis

Washington University in St. Louis - Best Research Universities

Brookings“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

St. Louis, MO

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,336

Considered one of the premier research universities in the nation, Wash U has a relatively modest undergraduate enrollment of just over 7,000. Students are heavily involved in research, with more than 60% of undergrads participating in some kind of research across all areas. The three most popular majors: Psychology, Finance, and Biology.

Learn more about Washington University in St Louis


13. Brown University

Brown University - Best Research Universities

Brown university robinson hall 2009a” by chensiyuan – chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.

Providence, RI

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,455

Brown University is well known for its unique “New Curriculum”, which has no general education course requirements and instead allows students to build a class schedule entirely of their own choosing. Students at this Ivy League college are then graded as simply having completed the course in a “satisfactory” manner or receive a mark of “unrecorded no-credit”.

Learn more about Brown University


12. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN

Undergraduate enrollment: 8,477

With a rich tradition in academics, athletics, and faith, ND is a popular college for students from around the country. Almost all of Notre Dame’s 8,500 undergraduate students live on campus, as this private research university is home to 29 separate residence halls. Majors of choice include Finance, Accounting, and Political Science.

Learn more about the University of Notre Dame


11. Duke University

Duke University - Best Research Universities

Source: Flickr user OHinOZ.

Durham, NC

Undergraduate enrollment: 6,646

Duke University enrolls about 6,500 undergraduates and offers 46 art and science majors, plus 4 engineering majors, and the IDEAS program, which allows students to construct their own custom engineering major–one of the only such programs in the country. Its reputation for education excellence extends to nearly every program offered at the college, and its Durham campus extends more than 8,500 acres and contains more than 250 campus buildings, making it among the largest college campuses in the country.

Learn more about Duke University


10. Northwestern University

Northwestern University - Best Research Universities

University Library at Northwestern” by Madcoverboy (talk) – self-made. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia.

Evanston, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 9,283

Just 12 miles north of Chicago lies the Northwestern campus in Evanston. Its 9,000+ undergrads choose from more than 120 undergrad majors, including their world-renowned Journalism and Engineering programs.

Learn more about Northwestern University


9. California Institute of Technology

Cal Tech - Best Research Universities

Source: Flickr user joebehr.

Pasadena, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 877

CalTech is primarily a science and engineering university located in southern California. The school serves both undergraduates and graduate students and has a total undergraduate enrollment of around 1,000. Popular majors at CalTech include Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, and Chemical Engineering.

Learn more about California Institute of Technology


8. Columbia University in the City of New York

New York, NY

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,970

Just under 8,000 undergraduate students attend Columbia located in Upper Manhattan. As one of the nation’s oldest colleges, Columbia was originally founded as King’s College in 1754 but was renamed after the end of the Revolutionary War.

Learn more about Columbia University in the City of New York


7. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Undergraduate enrollment: 11,525

Penn, located in Pennsylvania’s largest city, has a total undergraduate enrollment of about 11,500 students. Its three most popular undergrad majors are Finance, Nursing, and Economics. At 87 percent, Penn has the highest 4-year graduation rate of any college in Pennsylvania.

Learn more about University of Pennsylvania


6. University of Chicago

University of Chicago - Best Research Universities

Source: Flickr user lmgadelha.

Chicago, IL

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,703

This medium-sized, private research university is among the most well-respected in the world. From its numerous scientific breakthroughs and award-winning faculty, to its urban campus setting, UC has much to offer to potential students.

Learn more about the University of Chicago


5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Best Research Universities

MIT Main Campus Aerial” by DrKennethOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons.

Cambridge, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 4,357

As one of the most highly-regarding scientific and engineering research universities in the world, MIT enrolls approximately 4,300 undergrads each year on its campus just outside of Boston. Although their sports mascot is a beaver, MIT’s sports teams are even named The Engineers.

Learn more about Massachusetts Institute of Technology


4. Stanford University

Stanford University - Best Research Universities

Source: Flickr user naotakem.

Stanford, CA

Undergraduate enrollment: 7,274

One of the world’s foremost private research universities, Stanford has a long history of alumni entrepreneurs and technology tycoons. Among their ranks, 30 living billionaires call Stanford their alma mater and businesses founded by Cardinal alum generate $2.7 trillion in annual revenue.

Learn more about Stanford University


3. Yale University

Yale University - Best Research Universities

Yale Peabody Museum 2“. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

New Haven, CT

Undergraduate enrollment: 5,430

An iconic college known the world over, Yale’s undergraduate population is just more than 5,400 students. Although lauded in all academic pursuits, Yale is especially notable for having graduated five U.S. Presidents and hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress. Its endowment is more than $25 billion.

Learn more about Yale University


2. Harvard University

Harvard University - Best Research Universities

Chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons

Cambridge, MA

Undergraduate enrollment: 10,534

Harvard enrolls about 10,500 undergrads on its campus in the greater Boston area. It neighbors many other prestigious and well-known colleges, including MIT and Boston University. As one of the nation’s best and most well-respected colleges, Harvard also boasts the largest endowment (more than $36 billion) of any college in the U.S.

Learn more about Harvard University


1. Princeton University

Princeton University - Best Research Universities

Princeton (6035183309)” by popejon2 from Paddington, Australia – PrincetonUploaded by russavia. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Princeton, NJ

Undergraduate population: 5,323

Among the 5,300 undergraduate students at Princeton University, Economics, Political Science, and Public Policy are some of the top majors. Princeton is one of the oldest colleges in the U.S. and once housed the United States government for a short period of time in the oldest campus building, Nassau Hall.

Learn more about Princeton University

About our methodology

Colleges are ranked based on a combination of factors, including graduation rates, campus diversity, endowment per student, and other data as reported via the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the most recently-available enrollment year. Some colleges may have been excluded from rankings based on certain criteria, including specialization and classification. Learn about our full methodology

View all of the 2016 Best Colleges rankings from College Raptor

One thought on “The 25 Best Research Universities – 2016 University Rankings”

  1. Arvindo Shukla says:

    My vote will got to Princeton University. The best University in world.

Comments are closed.

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