By: Tyler Curry and AnnMargaret Tutu

What’s in a name? A common question to ask when deciding which college to attend. Every year, universities receive an abundance of material from college applicants – all in hopes for a coveted degree and prosperous future.

Before the 2008 financial crises, a sound degree was a way for students to distinguish themselves in the job market. Affordable access to education, a more competition and a globalized market, however, have made many rethink the return on investment to avoid the growing pool of student debts.

A report found in the Atlantic addressed the institutional returns. Findings show that a university name does matter when it comes to longterm earning potential and bridging employment gaps. With that said, we used Visart software to analyze the top 100 universities in the world, to see where educational investments are best spent.

First let’s take a look at the maps below which show to us the number of top 100 universities by country in 2014:


A quick observation: the world’s top universities are in a select few regions of the world. As of 2014, the United States still boasts the highest number of top universities, followed by regions in Europe, Canada, Asia and the South Pacific.

A closer look into the European region show exactly which countries follow behind the U.S.


Number100Pivottable20142The U.S. has an enourmous lead, but as indicated in the second map, runners-up are United Kingdom and Switzerland, each with less than a 10% share on the list. France, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden follow, hosting three to four top universities per country. Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Belgium at one or two.

By far, the U.S. is a leader in higher education, hosting over half of the world’s top universities. As identified by the pivot table, top countries are the U.S. (52), the United Kingdom (8) and Switzerland (5).

Compare the top 5 countries with the most universities. Take a look below:


Canada maintained a consistent number of top universities compared to other countries in 2014, which were in decline across the board. Canada had the lowest number of top universities until 2012. Four of the countries – UK, Germany, Canada and Japan – have a separation from the U.S. And Germany’s number of universities were once higher than Canada’s, but they have been equal since 2012.

Observations on the pivot table below show the number of universities for each of these top countries by years:


Compare the rankings of the top 5 universities from years 2003 – 2014. Take a look at the pivot table 3 and line chart 2 below.


The first four universities in the top 5 are from the U.S. The pivot table recognizes that Harvard University had the highest ranking in 2014, followed by Stanford in 2nd, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 3rd, UC Berkeley in 4th and Cambridge University (Great Britain) in last. We can compare these top Universities longitudinally, referring to the line chart below:


Harvard has been the number one school for over ten years. Stanford, UC Berkeley and Cambridge University weave together for second place, ultimately with Stanford on top. MIT was in last place until 2010 when Cambridge fell behind.

As previously mentioned, the U.S. is a distinguishable leader in top university offerings. With exception to Great Britain, four of the five of the world’s top universities are from the U.S.

Pivot table 4 allows us to see which Universities could be in the running for top 5 sometime in the future, given their expedient rate of growth from 2003 to 2014. Note that numbers are ascending to number one.


As you can see the fastest growing rankings from 2003 to 2014 has been the University of Manchester (Great Britain) with an average growth per year at 4.64 positions.  The second place – University of Melbourne (Australia) with 4.36 positions per year. University of Maryland (United States) in third with 2.91 positions per year. And then Pierre and Marie Curie University and University of Paris (both in Paris), growing at a rate of 2.73 positions each year.


Values identifying the average rate of growth per year were calculated by: (2003 year number value minus 2014 year number value)/divided by 11

Data Sources: