If you are looking for the best Engineering universities in the world, the UK and, particularly, America, lead the way. But, as our research shows, they are not the only places where you can get a world-class Engineering education.
Engineering is a discipline that makes it possible to have a big impact on the world. Almost every time you open your eyes, you will see the work of engineers. From massive infrastructure projects to the smallest everyday devices, Engineering is central to our daily lives. So, if you want to have that type of impact, then it’s natural to seek the best Engineering universities.
Universities reflect the history of Engineering. In the Times Higher Education (THE) world top twenty, the UK, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, holds three places. Indeed, when it comes to specialized disciplines, UK universities are good for mechanical Engineering. Asia, undergoing its own economic revolution, has four places, two of which are in China, demonstrating the rapid progress of Asian economies in recent years.
However, America’s rise as an economic superpower in the twentieth century had an impact. And the US dominates the rankings. Ten of the top twenty spots, and the top four places, are held by US institutions.
In compiling these lists, we have used the THE world rankings. We chose these because of the balanced scores they offer, which consider not just educational outcomes, but also things like engagement with industry which is an important part of Engineering courses. However, every student and university is different, and if you want to find out more about the world rankings and how they can help you select a university, then our article on how to interpret university rankings will get you started.
The US: the world leader for education
America doesn’t just have the best Engineering universities; it tends to have the best universities for any subject. While they face competition for the top spots, most notably from the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge, it’s a sure thing that US universities will dominate the upper ranks of any league table.
Perhaps the big surprise is that it isn’t a name like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or California Institute of Technology (Caltech) that tops the list, but instead Harvard, America’s oldest university.
In fact, MIT does top other lists, like the QS rankings, but in the THE rankings Harvard reigns supreme. In fact, there’s only one discipline, chemical Engineering, where it isn’t in top spot, and that’s because it doesn’t offer the course! If you are looking for the best universities for general Engineering, or anything other than chemical Engineering, then Harvard is the best option.
Harvard offers a full range of qualifications, from undergraduate Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs to Ph.Ds. They also offer, through the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Harvard Business School, an MBA program that prepares future tech entrepreneurs with the mix of Engineering knowledge, vision, and leadership they will need to succeed.
One of the advantages that Harvard offers is that it’s not traditionally associated with Engineering. This means it has a smaller cohort of Engineering students than competitor institutions, and this creates some of the advantages that help it do well in the THE rankings.
Students often comment that because the Engineering community is smaller, it is also tighter than in many other universities. This is not just an advantage for the student community, but also when it comes to access to staff. The lower student-to-staff ratios means students will have more opportunity to discuss their subject with professors and lecturers, whether it’s covering their work or fleshing out ideas they want to pursue.
The advantage extends to getting internships and placements during the course. Harvard is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an area with a significant tech and Engineering sector (partly driven by MIT also being close). Harvard is exceptional at securing intern places for students, so a Harvard student is likely to face significantly less competition to secure a place at a company than one at a university with a much larger student body.
Top US’s Engineering universities
These are the top ten US universities for Engineering according to the THE rankings (they all feature in the world top twenty).
- Harvard University
- Stanford University
- University of California, Berkeley (UCB)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
- Princeton University
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- University of California, Los Angeles
- Yale University
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
The UK: birthplace of the Industrial Revolution
The UK has a long history of Engineering prowess. Indeed, at one time, engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel achieved celebrity status. The first place where industrialization transformed the economy and life, the power of Engineering soon spread from the factories of the north into infrastructure projects, many of which are still in use today. The railways that cross the country and the subway tunnels under central London are still mostly the ones that were built over 150 years ago.
Indeed, when you look at the list, and particularly which UK universities are good for Mechanical Engineering, there is a strong link between the history of places like Manchester, Sheffield, and Bristol and the Engineering degrees they offer.
The University of Oxford
Oxford, the UK’s oldest — and world’s second oldest — university, is comfortable at the top of league tables. Like Harvard, it’s regularly listed as one of the best, if not the best, universities in the world. In part this is down to it history, a long track record of academic prowess becomes self-sustaining since it attracts the investment and the students to keep that reputation of academic reputation. But the structure of Oxford, with students entering individual colleges, also helps. Again, like Harvard, it results in low student to staff ratios, and a tight-knit community that is focused on educational, and Engineering, excellence.
The University of Oxford’s four-year undergraduate program begins with a two-year, broad-based approach to Engineering, before students can focus on one of six specialisms: Biomedical, Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Information, and Mechanical Engineering. The university’s reputation has attracted a significant number of industrial links, creating numerous opportunities for practical project work and placements.
For postgraduate students, Oxford, unsurprisingly, has an international reputation for research. All tuition and research takes place in a single Department of Engineering Science. This means students and researchers at all levels are exposed to different areas of Engineering. In part, this has helped Oxford develop not only a strong research reputation, but also numerous spinout companies that are monetizing the practical benefits of the research in successful startups.
Top UK Engineering universities
It’s well worth researching individual universities for the specific discipline you are looking to study, since many universities have strengths that connect to their local heritage. If you are wondering what UK universities are good for Mechanical Engineering, for example, you might like to look at a regional city, such as Manchester, where there will be a strong link between local industry and academia.
These are the top universities for Engineering in the UK. The top three all feature in the world top twenty:
- University of Oxford
- University of Cambridge
- Imperial College London
- University of Manchester
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Sheffield
- University of Bristol
- University of Leeds
- University of Nottingham
Europe: the home of precision Engineering
Europe, and especially Germany, has a strong reputation for Engineering. This is especially true in the automotive sector, where marques from Germany and Italy in particular are known throughout the world, even if only as objects of envy. But it’s Switzerland (better known for the somewhat smaller engineering in watches) that takes the top spot among the best Engineering universities.
Located in Switzerland’s largest city and with a modern campus on Zurich’s outskirts, ETH Zurich has, over its 150-year history, established itself as a world-leading university for science and technology. It boasts over 20 Nobel Laureates and includes Albert Einstein as a graduate (although he studied for a teaching diploma while there).
Engineering teaching and research is split between several departments, including Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical and Process Engineering. Like most universities, ETH Zurich begins all courses with an Engineering foundation, but even these are tailored, building into the specialist elements of the course.
For international students, most courses are delivered in English, although some are delivered in both English and German or German-only. Proof of proficiency is needed for the appropriate languages.
Europe’s top ten
These are Europe’s best Engineering universities. Although Switzerland takes the top two spots, the remaining universities are spread across the continent. The top three are in the world’s top twenty:
- ETH Zurich
- Technical University of Munich
- Delft University of Technology
- RWTH Aachen University
- KU Leuven
- KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- Technical University of Denmark
- Technical University of Berlin
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Asia: The future of Engineering
After more than a century of the west dominating the world’s economy, Asia, and especially China, have started to catch up, and are on course to surpass the previous economic super-powers like the US and EU. This is reflected in the emergence of Asian universities in the world’s top twenty.
National University of Singapore
Singapore’s leading university, it is regularly listed as one of the world’s best. As well as its academic and research excellence, NUS is notable for the work it has done in developing academic and industrial partnerships throughout the world.
It has also taken an innovative approach on its way to becoming one of the best Engineering universities, merging its Engineering faculty with its school of design and environment to create the NUS College of Design and Engineering. It aims to bring real benefit by working at the intersection of the two disciplines, improving both design and Engineering to help better solve real-world problems.
Engineering is one of the focuses for research at NUS, and it appears in the world top ten for six subjects, including as one of the best universities for mechanical Engineering, chemical Engineering, and civil Engineering.
The university’s global outlook means that tuition is in English. And the work NUS has done on international partnerships means that students will have the opportunity to study at international partner universities throughout the world as part of their course.
Asia’s top ten
Although the National University of Singapore tops the list of Asia’s best universities for Engineering, China occupies four of the top ten places, with Hong Kong taking a fifth place. This reflects China’s rapidly growing economy, and the Engineering expertise needed to support that growth. The top four universities below are all in the world top twenty best Engineering universities.
- National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Peking University
- Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU)
- Tsinghua University
- The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
- Shanghai Jiao Tong University
- Zhejiang University
- The University of Tokyo
- Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)
- University of Science and Technology of China
>> Do you already know what type of Engineering you want to study? Learn about the best schools in the world for Mechanical Engineering and the best schools in the world for Aerospace Engineering.