For the second year in a row, UC Berkeley was ranked the top public university in the country and fourth-best overall, in the QS World Rankings 2021 list of best American universities.
Out of a total of 352 institutions featured, Harvard University, Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the top three scores ahead of UC Berkeley. UCLA secured the fifth-place ranking overall, having moved up one position from QS’ 2020 ranking of U.S. schools.
“We are pleased to consistently rank in the top tier of colleges and universities nationally and globally year after year,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email.
Universities were evaluated based on 17 metrics making up four broad categories: employability, learning experience, research and “diversity and internationalisation.”
According to Simona Bizzozero, head of public relations for QS, the U.S.-specific ranking is designed to evaluate university performance in areas affected by issues unique to American higher education.
“The American higher education sector is wrestling with questions that do not fall within the scope of our global rankings – questions of equity, access, representation, and social justice,” Bizzozero said in an email. “The QS USA University Rankings have been carefully crafted to shine some independent light on which institutions are doing most to foster the essential relationship between education and social change.”
Within the criteria, UC Berkeley ranked third highest in the area of research, eighth in employability, 13th in diversity and 38th in learning experience.
The latest ranking was made with minor adjustments to the methodology used to assess university performance.
In response to a March 2019 executive order on accountability at public universities and colleges, QS diminished the weight of one metric — institution-wide salary values 10 years after matriculation — by 2.5%. The difference was redistributed to other indicators, including academic reputation and the international research network.
In addition to UC Berkeley and UCLA, four other UC campuses were ranked within the top 50. UC San Diego came in at 27th, UC Davis at 34th, UC Santa Barbara at 43rd and UC Irvine at 45th.
UC institutions have also performed particularly well within the areas of diversity and internationalization. According to Bizzozero, UC Davis is the nation’s highest-ranking university within the metric, and UC Santa Barbara has shown the highest improvement in this area, having increased 43% since last year.
“The recognition the University of California has received is gratifying,” said Stett Holbrook, UC Office of the President spokesperson, in an email. “UC’s status as a top-tier university allows us to attract the brightest students as well as top-flight faculty and staff and we are glad they are being recognized for their incredible dedication and work.”
A previous version of this article omitted the fact that UC San Diego also ranked within the top 50 U.S. universities. In fact, UCSD was ranked 27th.