Top Universities in Chicago

Top Universities in Chicago

Laura Tucker

Updated February 20, 2024 Updated February 20

Nicknamed ‘The Windy City’ by the press because of long-winded politicians who wouldn’t stop hyperbolizing about the 1893 World’s Fair, Chicago, it seems, still has a lot to boast about.

Over 33 million people visit Chicago every year, and are welcomed by 70 museums, 200 theaters, 6,500 restaurants and some 200 annual parades spread out across the 228 square mile city. As well as being home to the world’s largest free public zoo and three of the world’s tallest buildings, Chicago is known for its cultural and historical significance, and in particular for its role in the emergence of the Blues music scene as well as African-American urban culture.

The Ferris wheel, Bi-focal contact lenses, Twinkies and softball were all invented here, and these are just a few examples of Chicago as a hub of innovation. Also described as a ‘city in a garden’, Chicago’s landscape is one of the greenest cities in the world and offers acres of botanical gardens and parks to explore.

The diversity of life and surroundings in Chicago make its reputation as a student city well known. But for those of you who don’t know much about the city’s higher education landscape, here’s our guide to the top universities in Chicago.

University of Chicago

The highest ranked among  universities in Chicago, the University of Chicago is currently 9th in the world in the QS World University Rankings®. This private research university is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood, a lush expanse of green intermeshed with urban culture along the southwest shore of Lake Michigan. The campus blends traditional English Gothic architecture with state-of-the-art modern builds, offering numerous playing fields and 215 acres of botanical gardens, as well as many community and student events throughout the year. There are 5,369 undergraduates and 9,850 graduates and professionals enrolled at the school, which also claims connections with 89 Nobel Prize winners.

Find out more about the University of Chicago >

Northwestern University

There are 12 branches of Northwestern University split across three campuses; two in Illinois and one in Qatar. The main campus is located in Evanston, a town just north of Chicago, and the university also has a campus in downtown Chicago, which is home to the Feinberg School of Medicine, the School of Continuing Studies, the School of Law and Kellogg Business School. Northwestern’s 16,000 full-time students enrolled in total are fairly equally split between those in undergraduate and graduate studies. The institution is ranked 29th in the world in the latest QS World University Rankings.

Find out more about Northwestern University >

University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

The largest of universities in Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is a public university which is part of the University of Illinois family, which also has branches in Urbana-Champaign and Springfield. It ranks ranked 192nd in the world, and has some 28,000 students enrolled at 15 colleges across three campuses, covering 311 acres of land in the University Village and Little Italy areas of the city. In 1993 UIC launched its Great Cities Commitment Program which allows students and faculty members to partner with government organizations, corporations and the community in order to help solve urban problems. UIC also boasts the largest medical school in the United States.

Find out more about the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) >

Illinois Institute of Technology

With an undergraduate population of 2,300 and a total enrollment of just over 7,400, the Illinois Institute of Technology is one of the smallest top universities in Chicago. The main campus is situated across 120 acres in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood in the south the city, one of the nation’s most important landmarks in African-American urban culture and credited as the birthplace of Black History Month. The area, at its cultural peak in the 1920s-1950s, is today popular with young urban professionals. Ranked 441-450 in the world (but in the top 200 for civil, structural and mechanical engineering), the university is a private research center dedicated to furthering knowledge in the science and technology sectors.

Find out more about the Illinois Institute of Technology >

Loyola University Chicago

The largest Jesuit Catholic institution in the US and the only one in Chicago, Loyola University Chicago currently enrolls 9,154 undergraduates and 5,914 postgraduates. With four campuses throughout the city, Loyola’s main campus is named the Lake Shore Campus for its location along the banks of Lake Michigan – just south of the city center. A total of US$100 million has been spent in the past few years to rebuild and regenerate the old campus. The institution, ranked 601-650 in the world, is host to the new Loyola Museum of Art and offers fieldwork opportunities at many local organizations including the Adler Planetarium and the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Find out more about Loyola University Chicago >

Image credits:;; UIC - Steinkamp Photography; IIT – Joe Ravi; Loyola – Amerique.

This article was originally published in December 2013 . It was last updated in February 2024

Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.


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