Top 10 US Universities 2016-2017 in Pictures

Top 10 US Universities 2016-2017 in Pictures

Sabrina Collier

Updated January 16, 2020 Updated January 16

The US has a strong presence within the QS World University Rankings® 2016-2017 – occupying 154 out of 916 possible places. Here’s a look at the top 10 US universities, and the distinctive buildings each is known for…

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Ranked 1st in the world, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is located in the university town of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on a 168-acre campus. If you’re attracted to the idea of studying with the backdrop of a grand classical building, MIT has you covered with Building 10 (pictured above), complete with the iconic Great Dome. Classical isn’t the only architectural style featured at MIT; other notable buildings include the post-war style Kresge Auditorium, the unique Ray and Maria Stata Center and the undergraduate accommodation of Simmons Hall – nicknamed ‘The Sponge’ for its shape. You won’t be surprised to hear that MIT’s School of Architecture was the first of its kind in the US!

2. Stanford University

Stanford University

Stanford University is ranked 2nd in the world and is located at the heart of California’s Silicon Valley on a large 8,180-acre campus located 35 miles south of San Francisco and 20 miles north from San Jose. To the west lie the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, providing stunning views of the Bay Area. The campus itself is home to a picturesque quad, which is the central and oldest part of the university grounds. Other landmarks include the Hoover Tower, the highest building on campus, which attracts about 200 visitors a day, and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, home to a large collection of Auguste Rodin sculptures.

3. Harvard University

Harvard University

Heading back to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University is ranked 3rd in the world in the 2016-2017 rankings. The 209-acre main campus is centered on Harvard’s Yard, which extends to the surrounding Harvard Square neighborhood. Although the university is most associated with a traditional red-brick style of buildings, it actually has a more architectural diversity than you might think. For instance, the white granite University Hall, designed by renowned architect and Harvard graduate Charles Bulfinch in 1813, was selected as a National Historic Landmark in 1970 for its architectural significance. The oldest university in the US, Harvard’s oldest surviving building, Massachusetts Hall, dates back to 1718.

4. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)


Ranked 5th in the world, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is the smallest of the 10 top universities in the US, located on a 124-acre campus in the city of Pasadena, California, around 11 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Pictured above is the Millikan Library, the highest building on campus at nine stories, which is named after Nobel Prize-winning physicist Robert Andrews Millikan. As an institute of technology, the campus includes a large number of laboratories and other scientific and technological facilities. Fans of the TV show The Big Bang Theory may know Caltech as the main characters’ university workplace; however the show is not actually filmed on campus.

5. University of Chicago

University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is ranked 10th in the world this year and is of course located in the city of Chicago, Illinois, which is ranked among the world’s best student cities. Located in the Hyde Park area of the city, not far from Lake Michigan, the university’s 15,700 students enjoy a 217-acre campus rich in traditional Collegiate Gothic architecture such as the Rockefeller Chapel, which mimics the likes of the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge. The Gothic style gave way to more contemporary designs after the 1940s, with many prominent architects creating award-winning structures. One example is the recently built Center for Care and Discovery, the tallest building on campus, which houses the latest technology for medical diagnosis and treatment.

6. Princeton University


Princeton University places 11th in the world this year, and is located in Princeton, New Jersey on a roughly 500-acre campus. It’s another of the oldest US universities, dating back to 1746. The university’s oldest building, Nassau Hall (pictured) was completed in 1756 and now houses Princeton’s administrative buildings, including the president’s office. Continuing the Collegiate Gothic style that it’s known for, the Princeton University Chapel is one of the largest university chapels in the world, able to seat almost 2,000 people. On the southern side, the university also has its own man-made lake; Lake Carnegie (named after Andrew Carnegie, who donated money for its construction), used by the university’s rowing team as well as members of the public.

7. Yale University

Yale University

Ranked 15th in the world, Yale University is based in the city of New Haven, Connecticut, around 90 minutes’ drive from New York City. Yale continues the theme of Collegiate Gothic buildings, giving the campus a distinct medieval feel. This includes the Sterling Law Building, erected in 1931, which houses Yale Law School and was modeled after the English Inns of Court. Pictured above is the Old Campus, which includes buildings associated with the famous Vanderbilt family, including Vanderbilt Hall and Phelps Hall. The university’s oldest building, Connecticut Hall (completed in 1752) is the only surviving colonial-era hall on campus, with a Georgian style that is very similar to Harvard’s Massachusetts Hall.

8. Cornell University

Cornell University

Located on a hill overlooking the small city of Ithaca and the picturesque Lake Cayuga in the state of New York, Cornell University is placed 16th in the world this year. It’s one of the greenest US universities, made up of a large 2,300 acre campus, complete with easy access to local gorges that are ideal for hiking or swimming. The university also owns a 2,800-acre botanical garden, Cornell Plantations, and has taken part in a number of green initiatives to improve sustainability. The campus buildings themselves have an irregular layout and a mix of architectural styles, including elaborate Collegiate Gothic, Victorian, and Neoclassical buildings, as well as less common transnational and modernist structures.

9. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

Ranked 17th in the world, Johns Hopkins University was established 1876 in Baltimore, Maryland, and is considered to be the US’s first research university. It’s organized into 10 divisions on campuses in Baltimore and Washington D.C, with international campuses in Italy, China and Singapore. Most undergraduates study at Homewood (pictured), the 140-acre north Baltimore campus, which houses Homewood Museum, one of the finest existing examples of US Federal architecture, serving as inspiration for other campus buildings. Over on the East Baltimore campus you’ll find the illustrious School of Medicine, with the Johns Hopkins Teaching Hospital widely considered one of the best hospitals in the world. The hospital complex, built in 1889, is listed in the US’s National Register of Historic Places.

10. University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Last but not least is the University of Pennsylvania, also known as Penn, ranked 18th in the world this year and based in Philadelphia. It’s another historic US university, founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, and again offers a range of attractive backdrops of Oxbridge-inspired Collegiate Gothic buildings, including the oldest building, College Hall, which is made of a distinctive green serpentine stone. Penn’s campus also boasts extensive college greens and recreational spaces, with the nearly 300-acre main campus joined in the past decade by five million square feet of new and renovated space, including the $46.5 million 24-acre Penn Park, an expanse of playing fields and open spaces for recreational activities.

This article was originally published in September 2016 . It was last updated in January 2020

Written by

The former Assistant Editor of, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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