This is a ranking of the top 20 universities in the United States ranked relative to each other by average world rank for the year 2020-2021.

The ranking was created by using metadata sourced from the four prominent rankings of world universities (each ranking released in 2020): Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Times Higher Education (THE), and U.S. News & World Report (USNWR).

Rank was checked on each list for every university in the United States ranked on all the lists. Then for each university all its rank placements were averaged across lists to create the new list of average ranking for each university. The universities were then ranked according to their average ranking. The university with the highest average is thus ranked 1st, the one with the second highest average 2nd, and so on. 

Finally, the results were tabled, and are shown below (Figure 1). The leftmost column shows the final relative placement (relative placement based on average rank, i.e.), the “institution” column shows the institution ranked, the next four rightward columns (ARWU, QS, THE, USNWR) show the rank for each given institution in each of those selected world rankings, and the rightmost column (“Average World Rank”) averages the four ranking lists’ rank placement for each university. A “=” next to a rank indicates a tied position.

Some observations —

  • The original ranking which best predicts the summed average is THE.
  • The original ranking which most poorly predicts the summed average is QS.
  • The worst prediction is QS’s University of Washington at 72 — approximately 41 places away from its average of 31.25.
  • The most agreed upon rank is Stanford, with ARWU, QS, and THE all ranking it 2nd.
  • 20% of the top 20 universities in the U.S. are California universities (Stanford, Caltech, Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego).

If anything appears to be in error, please email me at

Ranking of Universities in the United States, 2020-21

RankInstitutionARWUQSTHEUSNWRAverage World Rank
10=Johns Hopkins1525121015.5
18University of Washington167229831.25
19UC San Diego1854332131.5
Figure 1.

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*The US flag image used in this article is under the Creative Commons license.

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