The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, the most definitive provider of the best international universities, has published rankings defining the 20 institutions classed as the world’s best small universities.

These 20 intimate and inclusive institutions provide a holistic education for fewer than 5,000 students, while the universities featured in the majority of THE’s league tables host a population of around 25,000 students.

The modest universities in THE’s latest rankings provide a broad variety of academic disciplines, including subjects from the arts, humanities, engineering, technology, medicine, life sciences, physical sciences and the social sciences.

Featured institutions represent 10 different countries in Europe, Asia and the USA.

Here are the World’s Best Small Universities, according to THE:

20. Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, Japan

Located on the beautiful Minato waterfront, the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT) provides a comprehensive education for 2,597 students. The School is entirely dedicated to Marine Science disciplines, so unlike other schools featured on the list, students of TUMSAT do not study medicine, the arts or the humanities.

This tiny school has been providing a marine-based education since 1957, and has achieved an overall THE World University Ranking of 601-800 in the league table for 2016.

19. National University of Science and Technology (MISiS), Russia

This specialist school tutors 4,441 in the study of steel and other metals, but first started life as the pioneering institution for the study of mining.

Unlike TUMSAT, students at this school have the opportunity to take classes in the humanities and social sciences, but the MISiS education is truly outstanding in the fields of engineering and physical sciences.

The institution has been ranked 601-800 in this year’s THE World University Rankings.

18. Savitribai Phule Pune University, India


A day out at university of Pune #punecity #unipune #india

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Positioned in the North-western part of Pune City, Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) occupies 411 acres, and hosts a student population of 4,858 students.

Last year, less than 2 percent of degrees awarded at this institution went to undergraduate students. The School awarded 1,583 Master’s degrees and 290 Doctorates, but only 29 students were awarded a Bachelor degree.

This year, the School achieved an overall ranking of 601-800.

17. Florida Institute of Technology, USA

Located on a residential campus and technology research park, this institution provides an education for 4,408 students, and boasts a strong focus on aviation, engineering and technology – the only subjects not offered at this university are those in the field of medicine.

The school is renowned for providing excellent social and extra-curricular opportunities, and is ranked 601-800 in the general THE Rankings.

16. Yokohoma City University, Japan



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Despite its location in a large metropolitan Japanese city, this university educates just 4,122 students. The institution boasts just two faculties and fewer than four students for every one teacher – it also hosts an impressive number of international students at 3 percent.

YCU is ranked 601-800 in the THE World University Rankings.

15. University of Tulsa, USA

Located in Oklahoma, this university tutors 4,597 students in all six subject areas. The School is ranked 501-600 in the 2016 THE World University Rankings.

14. Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, India


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IITG, based in Assam, teaches 4,710 students. It predominantly focuses on engineering and technology, and though it does provide a small number of arts and humanities-based courses, it does not teach any social science or medicine.

The school is ranked 501-600 in the general THE Rankings.

13. National Yang Ming University, Taiwan


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This is the only Taiwanese university featured in the rankings, teaching a student cohort of 4,496. The school specialises in medicine and life sciences, and last year awarded just 196 undergraduate degrees.

The School is ranked 401-500 overall in the 2016 Rankings.

12. Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU), Japan

TMDU is a national university situated in the heart of Tokyo. Despite its specialised name, the school teaches 2,872 students in all six academic disciplines, and is the second-highest Asian institution featured on the table.

The school is ranked 401-500 in THE’s general 2016 Rankings.

11. University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

This university teaches 4,358 students across all subjects but medicine, and more than 50 percent of its student population are enrolled in subjects from the arts or humanities.

The school achieved an overall ranking of 401-500 in the 2016 World Rankings.

10. Sabancı University, Turkey

This private, Istanbul university teaches 2,739 students, and guarantees a small and inclusive student experience. Despite this however, the school has one of the highest student-teacher ratios, with almost 16 students for every one teacher.

Sabancı is ranked 351-400 in THE’s general rankings.

9. University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA

UAF is the flagship campus in the University of Alaska system, and has a strong focus on education in agricultural and environmental development; though it teaches 3,837 students in all academic disciplines.

UAF is ranked 301-350 in THE’s 2016 World University Rankings.

8. Koç University, Turkey

Koç University is the highest ranked Turkish institution on the list, teaching 4,488 in all six academic disciplines.

The institution is ranked 251-300 in THE’s general rankings.

7. Oregon Health & Science University, USA

This university is home to 2,838 students, and functions as an academic medical centre, teaching and researching across all disciplines except the arts and humanities.

The School is ranked 201-250 in THE’s 2016 World University Rankings.

6. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden


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Although this is a specialist university, its curriculum features all subjects with the exception of human medicine. The school boasts a 1:5 teacher-student ratio, and even made the top 250 in THE’s 2016 World University Rankings.

The School teaches 3,879 students, dispersed across five beautiful Swedish campuses in both rural and metropolitan areas.

5. École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France

ENS de Lyon is the smallest university in the ranking, teaching just 2,218 students. Despite this, the university landed a top 250 position in this year’s THE World University Rankings.

4. Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), South Korea


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POSTECH represents Asia’s top entry in the ranking, teaching 3,055 students. The school is modelled on Caltech and is renowned for the high quality of its facilities as well as its academic provisions. The school is predominantly focused on STEM subjects, though high-quality tuition in other disciplines is available.

POSTECH achieved 116th position in this year’s THE Rankings, which is impressive when the considerable size of its competitors is considered.

3. École Polytechnique, France

This university is one of three in the rankings that does not offer an education in the arts and humanities, but the provisions it does offer are presented to the highest of standards, as it ranked 101 overall in this year’s THE World Rankings.

The school is located just outside Paris, and currently teaches an intimate cohort of 2,429 students. Students cite an inclusive, community feel in which students can get the one-to-one attention they require among the school’s best qualities.

“You get to know nearly everybody on campus and there are lots of traditions that emphasise solidarity among students,” says Gustave Ronteix, an engineering student at the university. “This also stems from the ‘village’ atmosphere on campus…we have open access to an incredible amount of sports infrastructures and facilities,” he adds.

2. École Normale Supérieure, France


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This university, located in Paris, is the highest-ranked French university in the league table. The school teaches 2,400 students in all disciplines, except medicine, engineering and technology, and all students benefit from a campus that perfectly blends rural and urban aspects.

The student-centred school offers flexible learning options based on the needs of the student, and students are encouraged to give feedback to ensure the curriculum consistently meets the needs of an ever-changing cohort.

“Having courses in small classrooms instead of attending them in a huge lecture hall enables everyone, even shy people like me, to ask questions and get answers quickly thanks to close contact with the teacher,” says geoscience student Valentin Melot.

The school is ranked 51 out of 800 in THE’s 2016 World University Rankings.

1. California Institute of Technology (Caltech), USA

Despite being the second smallest university featured in the rankings with just 2,243 students, Caltech’s broad curriculum – which only excludes medicine – paired with a small student-teacher ratio snags the institution top spot in the THE World’s Best Small University Rankings for 2016. But, the university also landed the number 1 spot in this year’s general THE World University Rankings, proving that prestige does not depend on having a large campus or student cohort.

“How can I compete with an excellent place like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” asks Ares Rosakis, chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Caltech. “We have to have engineers interact with all of the sciences and vice versa – it is a matter of survival. We don’t have the breadth to do things in a big way unless they interact.”

Due to a modest student cohort and dedicated faculty, Caltech is able to compete with larger, similar institutions, and its interdisciplinary, holistic education has earned it the title of not only the best small university, but the best university in the world, overall.

Click here to view the full description of the THE World’s Best Small Universities Rankings, 2016.

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