These cities are home to the highest number of top-ranked institutions in the world
Aerial view of the city of Los Angeles. Image via Shutterstock.

If you’ve ever wondered which cities have the highest concentration of the world’s brainiest, look no further – The Atlantic’s City Lab has unveiled which cities have the most top universities.

A team of researchers from the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) sifted through data and found that, unsurprisingly, many leading universities are in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe, “with a sprinkling in Asia and Australia”.

“There are virtually no leading universities in big parts of the Global South, including Africa and South America, or in much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia,” said MPI director Richard Florida.

Using the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-2017, the team determined where the top 100 institutions are located.

Metros Universities and Rank # of Top 100 Schools
Los Angeles Caltech (2), UCLA (14), University of Southern California (60),
University of California, Irvine (98)
London Imperial College London (8), University College London (15),
London School of Economics and Political Science (25), King’s College London (36)
Hong Kong University of Hong Kong (43), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (49), Chinese University of Hong Kong (76) 3
Boston-Cambridge MIT (5), Harvard University (6), Boston University (64) 3
Berlin Humboldt University (57), Free University of Berlin (75), Technical University of Berlin (82) 3
Beijing Peking University (29), Tsinghua University (35) 2
New York Columbia University (16), New York University (32) 2
Chicago University of Chicago (10), Northwestern University (20) 2
Singapore National University of Singapore (24), Nanyang Technological University (54) 2
Atlanta Georgia Institute of Technology (33), Emory University (82) 2
Sydney University of Sydney (60), University of New South Wales (78) 2
Melbourne University of Melbourne (33), Monash University (74) 2
Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon University (23), University of Pittsburgh (80) 2
Stockholm Karolinska Insitute (28), Uppsala University (93) 2
Munich LMU Munich (30), Technical University of Munich (46) 2
Liège RWTH Aachen University (78), Maastricht University (94) 2
The Hague Delft University of Technology (59), Leiden University (77) 2
Durham-Chapel Hill Duke University (18), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (56) 2
Utrecht Wageningen University & Research (65), Utrecht University (86) 2

The two metropolises with the most high-ranking universities are Los Angeles and London, with four universities each – however, Los Angeles has the edge over London, thanks to Caltech (2) and UCLA (14).

The team also expanded their dataset to include the top 500 universities globally to see how the diffusion changed in terms of geography, which saw London, Paris, and Seoul emerge as the top three cities, with 15, 12, and eight universities in the top 500 respectively.

However, when researchers examined the distribution of the top 500 universities per million people, and only including global metros with at least five top institutions in it, a surprise contender rose to the top: Stockholm, with 3.365 universities per million people.

In second and third place were Melbourne (1.665 universities per million) and Boston-Cambridge (1.507) respectively, with each having seven leading universities.

Florida went on to conclude that most of the Global South did not have a high concentration of prominent universities.

“For this reason, these places continue to export their talent to the world’s leading knowledge clusters,” he explained.

“In this increasingly spiky world, not only does the economic divide separating the world’s leading cities and metro regions from the rest continue to widen, the gap in knowledge generation and talent attraction – two critical functions of top universities – grows wider still,” he added.

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