The Top 10 Most Influential Public Universities in the US

3. University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)

Neeta Lind, Powell Library, UCLA, CC BY 2.0

Ranked in 2021 as the top public university in the country by US News, UCLA may very well be the most desirable college in the country. Evidence for this happened in the fall of 2016 when the school received an unprecedented 119,000 applications for admission, the most of any college in the country

UCLA’s influence spans science, the arts, music, technology, politics, and even athletics, with over 250 Olympic medals awarded to alumni and coaches at UCLA. UCLA alumni have also been leaders in civil rights; one alum, Ralph Bunche, won a Nobel Prize in 1950 for negotiating a truce in Israel. UCLA has acknowledged his seminal accomplishments in the form of a dedicated building on campus.

UCLA has been perhaps the most influential school worldwide when it comes to film. Alumni of UCLA include actors, directors, writers, and cinematographers featured in countless Hollywood feature films. Some of these names include Francis Ford Coppola, Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Tim Robbins. Star Wars composer John Williams also attended UCLA.

People associated with UCLA have won 105 Academy Awards, 50 Grammy awards, 12 MacArthur fellowships, 78 Guggenheims, and 278 Emmy awards.

2. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, MI)

University of Michigan
AndrewHorne, University of Michigan Dental School, CC BY-SA 3.0

The University of Michigan’s influence globally is undeniable. With its annual research and development expenditure of over $1.6 billion, Michigan is the 2nd most productive college in the country for research, ranking it higher than every Ivy League university in this category.

Michigan’s influence on advancing science and healthcare is unprecedented. Many necessary scientific instruments, including the EKG and the gastroscope, were created by people at the University of Michigan. Additionally, Michigan’s Medical School spends over $400m on healthcare research.

Advances in digital technology have long been part of the Michigan tradition. In the 1960s, UM created, alongside two other public universities, the Merit network, one of the first computer networks. The Merit Network technology paved the foundation for advances in computer science and telecommunications throughout the next several decades.

Socially, Michigan may very well be the most influential university in the entire world. The University of Michigan, alongside its parent town of Ann Arbor, have long been leaders in social awareness and cultural liberalism. Michigan students led famous protests of the Vietnam War. Additionally, Michigan has made incredible strides in favor of creating a diverse student body.

Alumni include 53 MacArthur “Genius” Fellows, 26 Nobel Prize winners, 6 Turing Award winners, and even a President of the United States.

1. University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

UC Berkeley
Louis H. G., Memorial Glade, CC BY-SA 4.0

The most influential public university in the country, UC Berkeley, has produced an unparalleled 110 Nobel Laureates, 103 MacArthur “Genius” Awards, 30 Pulitzer Prize winners, 25 Turing Awards, and 19 Oscars. UC Berkeley has also graduated hundreds of Fulbright and Marshall Scholars.

Situated right outside of Silicon Valley, Berkeley alumni have founded or co-founded many of the world’s most valuable companies, including Apple, Intel, eBay, Tesla, the Gap, and Activision, among thousands of others. 

Although it has been influential in business and academics, UC Berkeley has long been influential in student activism. The Free Speech Movement is a product of UC Berkeley, and its legacy on political dialogue continues to this day.

Several facilities at UC Berkeley have produced significant innovations that have changed the world. These include the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute as well as the Space Sciences Laboratory. Through the Space Sciences Laboratory, UC Berkeley has collaborated with NASA, making significant contributions to astronomy.

UC Berkeley is among the most decorated colleges for athletics, with over 200 Olympic medals awarded to alumni. 

Data analysis from Academic Influence:

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