When many people think of the best universities in the US, they think of the Ivy League – a group of eight highly ranked private universities.
However, while the resources available to the country’s top private institutions can mean that they dominate the upper echelons of university and college rankings, the best public universities in the US should not be overlooked. Most public universities in the US are state universities, operated by the state government, and are often grouped into “systems”.
1. University of California, Los Angeles
Located in the Westwood district of Los Angeles, the University of California, Los Angeles is part of the University of California system.
The university offers more than 125 majors and 80 minors for undergraduates and nearly 150 graduate degree programmes.
The most popular undergraduate majors are business, economics, biology, psychology, political science, economics and psychobiology.
The university is also affiliated with 13 Nobel laureates, 12 MacArthur fellows and 113 National Collegiate Athletic Association titles, while 261 Olympic medals have been won by alumni or students. Additionally, more than 140 companies have been created based on technology developed at UCLA.
Notable alumni include NFL Super Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman; the first African American mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley; actor James Franco, and Taylor Wang, the first Chinese-born astronaut.
2. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan was founded in 1817 with just seven students taught by two professors. By 1866, there were 1,205 students and the first women were admitted to the university in 1870.
The university was also the first in the US to hold seminars as a method of study.
Student-run newspaper The Michigan Daily was founded in 1890 and is published five days a week during the academic year.
Other student publications include The Michigan Review and the Michigan Independent. Students also run humour publications Gargoyle and The Every Three Weekly. Several academic journals are also published at the institution.
3. University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley is one of 10 research universities affiliated with the University of California system.
Alumni, faculty and researchers include 94 Nobel laureates, 20 Academy Award winners, 14 Pulitzer winners, 117 Olympic gold medallists and 13 Fields Medal winners.
The university is split into 14 colleges and schools covering chemistry, engineering, business, natural resources and optometry, among others.
4. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of 17 campuses that are part of the University of North Carolina system.
It was chartered in 1789 and the university first started enrolling students in 1795, meaning that it is one of the oldest public universities in the US.
The university offers 71 bachelor’s, 107 master’s and 74 doctoral degree programmes.
Students are able to participate in more than 550 student organisations and the student-run newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, has won national awards for collegiate media.
5. University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis is the third campus of the University of California system to feature in the top five of the US College Ranking.
It was founded primarily as an agricultural campus but has since expanded over the past century to cover medicine, law, education, nursing, veterinary medicine and business management.
The university is well known for its commitment to sustainability, with 29 per cent of the food bought for the dining rooms being sustainably grown and an on-campus biodigester, which was invented at the university, with the daily capacity to turn 50 tons of waste into energy for the campus.