Today’s universities are on the forefront of technological advancement, and greater access to technology can result in a more valuable college experience. Whether a university is creating the next wave of technology in its laboratories and research centers, or using it everyday in its classrooms, university campuses are proving themselves to be some of the most technologically advanced places in the world. As part of our quest to find schools that will offer students the greatest educational value, we were naturally curious to know which are the techiest of these high-tech schools. To find them, we consulted university websites, reviewed national surveys from college students about their schools, searched various databases on subjects like computer science, biometrics and social media, and looked over winners of prestigious national awards such as the Innovators Awards. While we realize the system is not perfect, we needed a useful way of helping readers compare features among these various high-tech universities. The point system we developed is explained below.
2 points — Major (national or international) award for technology or innovation
1 point — Regional or local award for technology or innovation
1 point — Per declared 10,000 square feet of subject-specific laboratory or research center
1 point — Facilities or research departments allowing research opportunity to undergraduate students
1 point — Nobel laureates on campus or listed amongst the alumni
1 point — The offering of tech features beyond traditional universities, whether in the classrooms, residence halls, or department.
After reviewing several hundred candidates, we believe these fifty universities are tops. They are ordered based upon points awarded, from least to greatest. In the event of a tie, the editors used their discretion.
While Wofford College offers the usual Computer Science majors, cable hookups in its residence halls, and extensive Wi-Fi support for its students, it makes this list because of its unique site called “FYI: First Year Interface.” Nearly every incoming freshman creates a profile on the MySpace-like site to share profiles, photos, bedtimes, partying habits, and any other useful information about themselves. Students who become friends via FYI then have the opportunity to become roommates once school begins.
Athabasca University is a world leader in distance education. In fact, at Athabasca all teaching, learning, and administrative functions are executed in virtual space, or “Open Knowledge Environment.” In order to move toward their goal of becoming a fully online, virtual organization, Athabasca created systems for desktop virtualization, synchronous web conferencing, research collaboration, a tutor portal, course content management, online assessments, student program planning, and more. Athabasca now boasts more than 38,000 students from all over the world, and was the recipient of Campus Technology magazine’s 2012 Innovator’s Award for Leadership, Governance, and Policy.
Columbia has also implemented Tegrity lecture capture software into classrooms. This software enables the University to capture course lectures including slides, audio, video, document camera activities, instructors’ pens, and interactive whiteboards. Students can then access the recordings via the Internet, iPods and iPhones (which every Columbia student is required to have), or other mobile devices. Later, students can search for any word or phrase presented in class. With Tegrity, Columbia classes and lectures are available 24/7.
New York’s Hamilton College boasts a computer to student ratio of nearly one computer for every two students — one of the highest in the United States. For those students wishing to bring their own computers to campus, Hamilton has serious requirements as to which computers will be allowed to connect to Hamilton’s extensive Wi-Fi network. Technology and engineering are both heavily present on Hamilton’s campus, and companies like IBM, Google, and Apple have recruited recent graduates.
Colgate, a private, liberal arts university located in New York, was one of the first colleges to introduce an independent Computer Science program. Colgate’s Computer Science Club has also had the unique honor of hosting Google Code Jam, an international programming competition through which Google identifies top engineering talent for potential employment. Though Colgate is known as a cutting edge university when it comes to technology and engineering, the University still receives all its electricity from hydroelectric power generated by Niagara Falls.
Recipient of the Innovation Challenge Award, University of California San Diego is one of the most technologically advanced campuses in the University of California system, a convenient thing considering the University’s most popular majors include those within the schools of science and engineering. Regardless of major, students at UCSD have access to the state of the art, user-focused Science & Engineering Library. As California’s premier library south of Los Angeles, the library serves as a major intellectual resource for both students and the region’s biotech and corporate communities. The library helps more than 450,000 in-person and over 173.5000 online guests each year with everything from patents and science information, to help with the over 3,000 e-journals and thousands more e-books.
Pomona is one of the five colleges making up the Claremont College system (see also Harvey Mudd on this list). Students at Pomona have access to all of the facilities, programs, and resources of the other four schools, and can also participate in the Science, Technology, and Society Program as either a concentration or major. The unique program includes courses in “science and technology practice” and three concentration courses on a specific science and technology issue of the student’s choosing.
The University of Richmond’s entire campus is wireless, which is a good thing since 85% of the University’s courses include an online component that allows students to share documents, notes, and other class materials. Unlike many other universities, Richmond’s Tech Support offers free, on-campus tech diagnosis for student computers. For those students without a computer, Richmond boasts a computer to student ratio of 1:3. As an added bonus, Richmond students are able to enjoy free cable in each of the University’s residence halls.
Computer Science and Engineering majors at Harvey Mudd College complete their degrees with a capstone course referred to as the “Clinic.” Throughout the yearlong course, students work in industry and research laboratories to complete a product for an external client. Recent student projects have included a proton accelerator for Los Alamos National Laboratory, video surveillance applications for The Aerospace Corporation, and a music recommender system for Fox Interactive Media/MySpace.
Technical University of Dortmund is a university highly ranked for its research performance in the areas of physics, electrical engineering, chemistry, and economics. Dortmund has especially strong programs in robotics and artificial intelligence, and the University’s robot soccer team, the Dortmund Droids, were vice world champions in the RoboWorld Cup 2002 and third in 2003. Students at Dortmund also have study abroad and collaboration opportunities with Dortmund’s many partner universities in countries throughout Europe, Asia, and North America.
At Utah State University, students don’t bring notebooks, or even laptops, to class. Instead, Utah State employs “Smart Classrooms” equipped with Panopto lecture capture technology. The University also collaborates with smart furniture companies like Steelcase and Izzy+ to maximize the design of their intelligent classrooms. In fact, in an attempt to encourage a collaborative environment amongst both students and professors, Utah State now refers to rooms not as “classrooms,” but as “pods.”
Ben-Gurion is one of the most important centers in the Middle East for teaching and research. The University is a major collaborative partner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition to a 15-week Summer exchange program for students from both campuses, the two schools have now implemented a joint seed fund to encourage research collaboration. Ben-Gurion boasts eight research institutes, including the Ilse Katz Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the Edmond J. Safra Center for the Design and Engineering of Functional Biopolymers.
University of Massachusetts, Boston’s only public university, implemented a unique toolkit that allows students with vision or hearing impairments to participate in classes. The initiative began when a student both blind and deaf signed up for online classes. The University, which at the time could not accommodate such a student, responded by creating a system in which a professional captioning writer transcribes the live dialogue of the classroom and sends the captions to both a Jaws screen reader and a braille keyboard. There are currently multiple blind and/or deaf students taking classes through the University.
Brigham Young University (BYU) makes a huge effort to emphasize mentorships and research opportunities for its undergraduates. Faculty are provided with strong incentives to make money from tech innovations, and are offered 45% of royalties, creating ample opportunity for student research positions. In addition to a Technology Transfer Office, BYU has a Creative Works Office that manages licensing for BYU-created software, videos, and instructional materials, among other things. Additionally, BYU is consistently ranked near the top of the list for number of patents applied for.
Founded in 1829, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) separates itself from other institutes of technology by focusing on career education and experiential learning. RIT ranks third nationally among schools companies prefer when recruiting and hiring for aerospace and defense industry positions. RIT graduates are employed by leading organizations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Electric, and a number of others. Many of these graduates got their starts in RIT’s student incubator, the Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is ranked first in the nation for incubator programs.
Aalborg University is one of the leading universities in the world with health technology research, wireless communication, energy, computer science, innovation economics, and comparative welfare studies. At Aalborg, research is conducted within all faculties, and cross-disciplinary study is key to its methodology. The University has also established additional research centers at universities in India, Indonesia, Italy, and China, allowing study abroad opportunities to its students, and cross-cultural research ability to its researchers and faculty.
The student to computer ratio at Wake Forest University is 1.08 to 1, one of the highest in the country. As if that weren’t impressive enough, the North Carolina University also boasts the “Wake Forest Campus Life,” an app that updates 24 hours a day and keeps students, faculty, and parents connected to what is happening on campus. To access the app, students have the benefit of extensive Wi-Fi throughout both campus buildings and residence halls. Recently, Google awarded Wake Forest’s Computer Science and Physics departments a grant with which to organize computation-thinking workshops for local schools.
Established in 1842 by King William II of the Netherlands, Delft University of Technology, or TU Delft, is a well-known research institution. TU Delft is home to more than 3,300 scientists and 2,200 members of support staff in the University’s numerous research institutes. These research institutes strive to combine cutting edge education, training, and research opportunities for postgraduate students, PhD candidates, and postdoctoral researchers in a variety of fields.
The Australian National University (ANU) boasts two Research Schools within their College of Engineering and Computer Science alone. Student- and faculty-run research groups include Algorithms and Data, Applied Signal Processing, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Vision and Robotics, and much more. ANU students and staff also take part in Innovation ACT, a program designed for learning entrepreneurial skills in scientific and technical industries. The program consists of a series of workshops and seminars, and ends with a business planning competition with a first prize of $20,000.
Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, one of the oldest and most established universities in Central Asia, offers 14 schools in Science, Engineering, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Through its close relationships with a number of leading universities from around the world, al-Farabi is a member of the Indo-US Collaboration for Engineering Education and in 2011, launched a Global Classroom with the support of Columbia University. The University is also home to the first (and currently only) Hewlett-Packard training and research center.
University of Texas at Austin has established quite a name for itself in the world of science and technology. The city, with big help from the University, hosts the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival, where panel discussions on various technological breakthroughs draw thousands. Earlier this year, university students and researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering successfully built the world’s smallest and fastest nanometer, which they hope will eventually lead to the ability to deliver insulin to diabetes sufferers or focus on individual cancer cells.
National University of Singapore (NUS) is a top global university. With over 37,000 students from 100 different countries, NUS strives to offer a global approach to both education and research opportunity. The University boasts three Research Centers of Excellence, 23 university-level research institutes, and shares a close working relationships with at least 16 national-level research institutes. NUS is best known for its research in engineering, life sciences and biomedicine, social sciences, and natural sciences. In recent years, NUS students have participated in major research thrusts in fields such as quantum technology, cancer medicine, digital media, and the environment.
University of Melbourne enjoys a long history of technological development, and continues to base its curriculum on innovation. Melbourne’s numerous laboratories continue to be at the forefront of international scholarship, and students and faculty are conducting research on diverse topics that include human rights law, climate change, telecommunications, and medical research. In fact, in the same University lab in which the Bionic Ear was created in the 1970s, researchers are now making advances with the Bionic Eye, which they say will provide high-resolution images to thousands with severely impaired vision.
Auckland University of Technology is dedicated to providing its students with the ability to provide unique solutions to the many problems of the world. Most notably, the University owns Auckland UniServices Limited, the largest research and development company of its kind in Australasia. UniServices manages the intellectual property of the University and the University’s students, and is responsible for all research-based consultancy partnerships. By connecting companies and other clients with the University’s brightest minds, UniServices provides students with unique opportunities for success and commercial organizations with innovative technologies.
In order to stop the brain drain of graduates and other talent from Montana, Montana State University developed its technology transfer program in 1990. The University is now equipped with incubators and accelerators to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, and grants students access to state of the art facilities and mentorship. Through the program TechLink, students are given opportunities to develop start-up companies or conduct research with funding from the Defense Department, NASA, and other government buyers. The University’s technological advancements have successfully turned university-level innovation into local companies and jobs.
Considered to be Canada’s most innovative university, Waterloo boasts multiple programs of advanced research and teaching in science, engineering, health, environment, arts, and social sciences. With students conducting research in everything from quantum computing and nanotechnology to clinical psychology and health sciences, Waterloo strives to bring brilliant minds and state of the art laboratories and research centers together to advance science and technology. Waterloo also boasts additional education centers on three other continents and academic partnerships worldwide.
University of Tokyo, better known as Todai, is a world-class research university with five campuses throughout the Tokyo region. The University is home to a number of research laboratories, each of which is segregated by the age of the students using it — a nice perk for those students whose class status would otherwise limit their laboratory time. Considered to be the most prestigious university in Japan, Todai ranks as the highest in Asia and the 21st in the world according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
This San Francisco-based university offers 23 different art and design schools that range from Architecture and Advertising to Fashion and Web Design. Almost every school is located in its own building throughout San Francisco, and offers its students access to state of the art equipment, software, recording booths, film sets, and just about anything else students need to study at industry-level standards. All computers are leased and replaced every two years to ensure students are using the newest equipment, and each school (led by working industry professionals) strives to keep its equipment and teachings six months ahead of its respective industry.
In recent years, Washington University has taken on the task of integrating technology into all aspects of campus life: academics, research, and administration. For those interested in technology as a major, the Computer Science and Engineering department offers students more than 80 courses ranging from business ethics to team formation, to finance and intellectual property. Though some Washington students complain about high fees for internet and television access, a high-speed campus network connects all of Washington University’s campuses and provides easy links to the Internet2 and National Lambda Rail research networks.
The oldest university in Europe is also the most technologically advanced. Each month, there are more than three million accesses to the University of Bologna’s web portal, making it the most visited university website in Italy. The website’s success is the result of the University’s computerized library services, through which end-users can perform electronic searches in the University of Bologna’s catalog as well as other national catalogues. The University’s library contains several million volumes and provides access to the very best in scientific and academic publications from all over the world.
Ranked as one of the most influential institutions in the world, the University of Sussex considers research to be at the heart of its academic activity. The University is on its way to reaching its goal of doubling its research income to £54m, and creating three new, interdisciplinary research centers. World-class research is conducted within the Sussex Schools of Business and Management, Education and Social Work, Engineering and Informatics, Life Sciences, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, and others.
University of Toronto has become the new focus for not only those in the tech world, but prospective students interested in technology and Artificial Intelligence. Professor Geoffrey Hinton recently began an Artificial Intelligence company incubated at the University before being purchased during only its first phase. Another professor, Steve Mann, has made significant progress with his smart devices known as “wearable technology.” University of Toronto has become synonymous with the idea of innovation in recent years, and has produced ten Nobel Laureates to prove it.
Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is a research-intensive public university with 32,500 students (both undergraduate and graduate) and four colleges, including Engineering and Science. NTU’s College of Engineering has a research output among the top three universities globally and is the 5th most cited in the world, while the College of Science boasts an award-winning faculty and world-class laboratories. The University is also home to several world-class institutes, including the Earth Observatory of Singapore, the Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering, and the National Institute of Education — all of which employ NTU students in roles such as research assistant.
The University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university and only public research university. With technology at the forefront of many of U of M’s departments, it is no wonder Michigan students enjoy a plethora of technological advancements that make their on-campus life easier. In addition to the usual IT Services and extensive Wi-Fi available throughout campus, Michigan students are given Cloud storage, access to more than 2,500 Windows and Mac computers and printers, and free security software. They can also use the Community online directory to find contact information for anyone in the Michigan community.
Technische Universität München (TUM) is one of the top universities in Europe. In fact, it was one of the first universities in Germany to be named a University of Excellence. TUM has multiple Corporate Research Centers in which students are able to conduct research independently of the faculties in anything from life sciences to neutron physics. With its “Emerging Field Policy,” TUM’s researchers and faculty are dedicated to discovering new ways to move society forward. Organized according to the highest international standards, it is little wonder TUM was also rated by the International Shanghai Ranking as the best German university in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
By endowment per student, Princeton is the wealthiest university in the world, making it a place of opportunity for ambitious students interested in science, technology, or research of any kind. The newest building on campus, the Frick Chemistry Laboratory, is a state of the art facility designed especially for research in the 21st century. The Mass Spectroscopy Facility and the Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Laboratory both house a variety of spectrometers and serve a large community of users.
Israel has become one of the world’s hotspots for tech, and Technion is where many of the country’s brightest minds go to work and train. Fully committed to technological advancement, Technion is currently collaborating with Cornell University to build a $2 billion tech campus and startup incubator in New York. The project, meant to generate 600 start up companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades, will provide Technion students with ample opportunity to research and create on a professional, international level. The main campus in Israel boasts 52 research centers, and has produced four Nobel laureates, three of which currently serve on the faculty.
The IT departments at Purdue University have developed multiple social media-related systems that enhance Purdue students’ abilities to communicate before, during, and after classes. For example, the app “Hotseat” employs a Twitter-like interface that enables a flow of student questions and answers in a classroom setting. The app ”Mixable” helps students create their own learning networks and study groups, while “Doubletake” allows students to capture, share, and watch lecture videos with their cell phones. According to Purdue IT, these applications have successfully boosted student engagement, collaboration, and success.
In addition to being one of the top universities in the world, Oxford University provides its students with a vast array of technology services. The University’s IT services and help center acts as the initial point of support for students’ personal computers. The same department also manages a Podcasting service through which University talks, lectures, and activities are developed and published. Oxford students also have access to OxFile, a file exchange that allows both students and faculty to exchange larger, usually academic, files over the Internet.
“Georgia Tech” is considered one of the country’s foremost technology schools. Currently, the school’s College of Computing is leading the way towards what it calls the “new face of computing” by implementing programs aimed at bringing in more women engineers and establishing a more diversified engineering discipline. Georgia Tech is also home to the Advanced Technology Development Center, which has helped entrepreneurs launch more than 130 tech companies since its start in 1980.
Founded in 1209, Cambridge University casts a big shadow when it comes to the making of the modern world. Notable alumni include Newton and his laws of motion, Rutherford’s splitting of the atom, Darwin’s theories of evolution, and Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA, to name but a few. Today, Cambridge still teaches and conducts research with the same focus on methods and processes. Students learn and conduct research in Cambridge’s many institutions within the school, including the Department of Engineering, Judge Business School, School of Technology, and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Since the inception of the Nobel Prize in 1904, Cambridge has produced 90 Nobel laureates — more than any other academic institution.
Stanford’s success in the fields of technology and engineering solidify its spot as one of the most technologically advanced universities in the world. Their long lists of notable alumni include the founders of corporate giants like Hewlett-Packard and Google. Not surprisingly, Stanford has played a major role in the development and growth of Silicon Valley, and the University’s main campus is a short drive to large tech companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, all of whom recruit heavily from Stanford.
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) exhibits innovation and technological advancement throughout their many departments. UCLA Health is home to some of the most technologically advanced hospitals in the world, while UCLA Neurosurgery has experienced massive success with EVA, the first Robo-doc. Between robotic surgery, robotic telemedicine, and EVA, UCLA medical students are given the unique opportunities to learn from one of the most successful and innovative medical schools in the world.
Founded in 1900 by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Carnegie Mellon University is a private research facility boasting a number of departments and programs having to do with all aspects of technology. For example, the University’s Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creations connects inventions developed on campus with companies capable of bringing them to market, while the Quality of Life Technology Center focuses on the development of intelligent systems that enable older adults to live more independently. For those interested in A.I. or “Robot Soccer,” professor Manuela Veloso, whose study in automaton led to the creation of the sport, teaches in the computer science department.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, better known as MIT, has a long history of success in the world of collegiate research and technology. In the school’s 150 year history, it has produced more than 70 Nobel laureates, eight of whom are members of the current faculty. In addition to its groundbreaking research facilities, MIT has also pioneered a unique app and web page called iSpots, through which students on the MIT campus can let others know of their location at all times. The app shows others where the student is based upon the location of their laptop on a map of the campus.
Imperial College London is home to the Centre for Bio-Inspired Technology, a leading research institute dedicated to inventing, developing, and demonstrating devices to meet global challenges in healthcare and well-being. Fifty to sixty students (most of whom are postgraduate students) work in the Centre, which is housed within the school’s Institute of Biomedical Engineering. The Centre’s facilities include a number of state of the art research facilities and laboratories, all of which are specifically designed for core research in biomedical and electronic engineering.
Cornell University’s Duffield Hall is one of the country’s most sophisticated research and teaching facilities for nanoscale science and engineering. It supports research and instruction in a number of fields, including electronic devices, microelectromechanical devices, advanced materials processing, and biotechnology devices. In addition to numerous state of the art laboratories and research centers, both of which have allowed Cornell to bring together students and leading research groups, Duffield includes a large atrium where faculty and students interact in a more relaxed environment.
The California Institute of Technology, better known as CalTech, is a highly focused science and engineering university, specializing in astronomical and aeronautical research. Though a smaller school, with only 2,300 students and 300 faculty, it has produced a whopping 32 Nobel laureates among its past and current faculty and alumni. CalTech also manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA, and owns and operates a global network of astronomical observatories and research facilities.
Dedicated to innovation, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology supports would-be company founders with “Pioneer Scholarships” that include access to the Institute’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Labs (ieLabs), personalized workspaces and labs, a world-class faculty, and mentorship opportunities with external coaches and industry representatives. Students are also given guidance with funding their research and, in some cases, their business. Each year, research carried out at the Institute results in 60 to 80 registered patents.
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) is dedicated to education, research, and the advancement of technology. Located near Lake Geneva on 136 acres, EPFL offers students more than 250 laboratories in which they are able to conduct personalized research. Unlike many schools on this list, EPFL was founded by the federal government as a national center of excellence in science and technology, and as a hub for interaction between the scientific community and industry. Known as the “parc scientifique” because of its unique architecture, EPFL has 7,000 students and 3,000 professors, assistants, and entrepreneurs throughout the school’s seven research institutes. Throughout its history, Lausanne has produced 21 Nobel laureates.
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