Top Universities for PhD Study in the USA in 2023 |
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Top Universities for PhD Study in the USA in 2023

Written by Ben Taylor

The USA has a well-earned reputation as one of the world’s most pre-eminent destinations for ambitious PhD researchers, with its universities making up the majority of several global league tables. The sheer size of the American university system means that there are countless research opportunities to be taken advantage of.

But this also means that the American higher education system can seem overwhelming for a prospective PhD student looking to find the perfect institution and research programme. One way to narrow down the options is to check out the various university league tables. This page showcases the top American universities in the world.

Top ranked American universities for PhD study

The following table illustrates the best universities in the USA, according to three of the most prominent league tables.

Top 20 American Universities in 2023
University THE 2023 QS 2023 ARWU 2022
Harvard University 2 5 1
Stanford University =3 3 2
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 5 1 3
California Institute of Technology 6 =6 9
Princeton University 7 =16 6
University of California, Berkeley 8 27 5
Yale University 9 18 11
Columbia University =11 22 8
University of Chicago 13 10 10
University of Pennsylvania 14 13 15
Johns Hopkins University 15 24 8
Cornell University 20 20 12
University of California, Los Angeles 21 44 13
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 23 25 28
New York University 24 39 25
Duke University 25 =50 31
Northwestern University =26 32 30
University of Washington =26 80 17
Carnegie Mellon University 28 52 101-150
University of California, San Diego 32 53 21
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

So, how good are universities in the USA for PhD study?

Although the above table doesn’t show any research-specific metrics, the number of American universities among the top 100 in the world shows just how dominant universities in the USA are internationally.

Both private and public universities in the USA do very well in the league tables, showing the strength in depth across the sector, as well as the importance placed by American institutions on funding world-class research – one of the key metrics in the rankings.

For more information on how the ranking system works, check out our guide to PhD rankings.

Search for a PhD in the USA

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse PhDs in the USA on or read our guide to studying a PhD in the USA.

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Last Updated: 02 November 2022