This is a ranking of the top 20 California universities ranked relative to each other by average world rank for the year 2020-2021. In this ranking “California universities” is defined as being constituted by any university within the U.S. state of California.

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 California university ranked on any of 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 (Table 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. 

Some observations —

  • The original ranking which best predicts the summed average is USNWR.
  • The original ranking which most poorly predicts the summed average is ARWU.
  • Both ARWU and USNWR predict the top 10, but in the wrong order.
  • The top 9 California universities are all within the top 100 universities in the world; the top 5 are all within the top 20 universities in the world.

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

Ranking of Universities in California, 2020-21

RankInstitutionARWUQSTHEUSNWRAverage World Rank
6UC San Diego1854332131.5
8UC Santa Barbara49152685681.25
9UC Davis91112646683.25
10UC Irvine692109878113.75
11UC Santa Cruz15141620181212.25
12UC Riverside201449251158264.75
13UC Merced401(NR)301693465
14Fresno State(NR)(NR)(NR)494494
15San Diego State401801601614604.25
16University of San Diego(NR)801(NR)(NR)801
17Cal State Fullerton(NR)(NR)(NR)868868
18Cal Poly(NR)(NR)(NR)925925
19Cal State Long Beach(NR)(NR)1001(NR)1001
20SF State(NR)(NR)(NR)10891089
Table 1.

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*The header image used in this article (depicting the California flag) is under the Creative Commons license.

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