International collaboration has been challenged in 2020 and 2021 like never before. The coronavirus pandemic has restricted travel, which has naturally strained the ability of colleges to conduct global operations. But it’s also true that the pandemic has resulted in the need for a new form of international cooperation. To end the pandemic, global knowledge centers such as colleges have had to work together to find. This ranking is going to highlight 30 American colleges that have been successful in overcoming the challenges that coronavirus restrictions created and in strengthening their connections around the world.
Prior to the pandemic, many American colleges had the goal of increasing their ties across the globe. When the pandemic hit, these institutions had to adapt their international ambitions to a situation that was unprecedented in recent times. Some colleges were able to find solutions that benefited these aims, while others struggled. The 30 colleges ahead are all able to demonstrate not only that they maintained existing global connections but also that they created new opportunities.
As many colleges have been working on solutions to end the coronavirus pandemic, this ranking has given precedence to colleges that can demonstrate that they have created international cooperation opportunities that helped with coronavirus prevention efforts. But this ranking also takes into account non-coronavirus-related international cooperation efforts, as these are likely to be beneficial to students once the pandemic recedes.
Any one of the 30 colleges ahead is a strong choice for a student who wants to study in an institution that is able to rise to unprecedented challenges and is successful in discovering new solutions. But it’s also possible that none of the colleges ahead are right for you. If that’s the case, then this ranking can still be a vital resource. Each entry has a detailed summary that highlights how the college has boosted international cooperation. These have been included for you to compare and contrast with your own college options. If any college that you’re considering has boosted international ties like any of the colleges ahead, then that’s a strong sign that it’s a college worth attending.
To identify the colleges that have boosted their global ties during the pandemic, we analyzed a number of sources that indicated higher education internationalism. These sources vary from a list of colleges with the best international relations degrees in 2021 to an article that highlights colleges that had strong overall international connections prior to the pandemic. After sourcing the colleges from these lists, we conducted further research to see how the colleges had responded to international outreach during the pandemic. Finally, we ranked the strongest colleges.
The list of our sources is as follows:
Best Colleges, Colleges With the Most International Students
Times Higher Education, Most international universities in the world
The final selected colleges have been ranked with this criteria: evidence that the college has been proactive in maintaining and growing a wide range of international connections, innovative solutions in building global ties, and aggregated mentions on the methodology lists.
Our ranking, from 30 to one, is here:
30. University of California, Irvine
In 2020, the Hasso Plattner Institute, which is based in Germany, announced that it was opening the HPI Research Center in Machine Learning at the University of California, Irvine. This collaboration has created, “an unparalleled research environment for exploring artificial intelligence technologies that have a positive impact on our world,” stated the University of California, Irvine’s dean of its school of information and computer sciences. In December 2020, the college’s medical school also partnered with Korea University’s medical school to host a joint virtual symposium upon coronavirus. Niche considers the University of California, Irvine to be the 72nd best college for international relations. Times Higher Education considers it to be the world’s 67th most international university.
29. University of Virginia
In December 2020, the University of Virginia launched a new program that was designed to boost student and faculty connections, despite the pandemic, The Global Mentors Program. Naturally, the early part of this program involved virtual connections between mentor and mentee. In the spring of 2022, this program will involve mentors undertaking 10-day residencies at the college campus, showing that the college is planning to make this program even better in a post-pandemic world. The college has also helped Bangladesh manage coronavirus, thanks to the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health. Researchers from this department were able to detect evidence of the virus spreading before the case count increased in individuals, helping the Bangladeshi government plan an appropriate response. Niche considers the University of Virginia to be the 19th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 125th most internationally connected university in the world.
28. University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, California
When coronavirus spread across the world, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Climate Hazards Center focused on identifying which groups across the world needed famine assistance brought on by the pandemic. This data was then used by the college’s partner, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network to distribute food. Other college community members focused on creating a strategy for protecting indigenous populations in Bolivia from the virus. This project involved reaching out to a number of Bolivian tribal leaders. Also in 2021, the college was instrumental in making much of the research of the University of California system in general freely accessible to the entire world online. Niche considers the University of California, Santa Barbara to be the 38th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education considers it to be the world’s 69th most internationally connected college.
27. University of California, Davis
When coronavirus became a threat to the world, the University of California, Davis was proactive in coordinating mitigation and research efforts thanks to its decade-long administration of the One Health PREDICT Project. When the pandemic struck, the One Health PREDICT Project had trained almost 7,000 people in 30 countries. These individuals then formed an international coalition to fight the pandemic. The college has also been also successful in developing new projects in matters that are not directly linked to the pandemic in the last two years. One example is the $6 million Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation, and Networks project, which the college launched in May 2020, in partnership with the International Centre for Evaluation and Development in Kenya. This project aims to jumpstart a range of African research leadership projects. Niche considers the University of California, Davis to be the 91st best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 74th most international university in the world.
26. University of California, Berkeley
By the end of March 2020, faculty members of the University of California, Berkeley had joined an international group to study methods of improving coronavirus treatments. More recently, the college has continued to build ties around the world. In fact, in October 2021, the college announced that a program at the college’s Center for Effective Global Action was, “reporting remarkable results achieved by building multinational, cross-cultural partnerships to address needs in low-income countries.” Niche considers the University of California, Berkeley to be the 62nd best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 57th most international university in the world.
25. Washington University in S. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
In September 2020, Washington University in St. Louis announced that it had partnered with the Indian Institute of Science. This partnership will lead to, “collaborative research opportunities and mentoring for students on both campuses.” The college has also been working with the World Health Organization to fight coronavirus. In August 2021, the WHO accepted a report on reform recommendations for pandemic preparedness from the college’s school of law. Niche considers Washington University in St. Louis to be the eighth-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the world’s 106th most international university.
24. Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan
The students at Michigan State University have proved that international outreach is not just restricted to faculty/college leadership. When the delta variant of coronavirus was surging across India, a group of the college’s students was able to raise $40,000 in under a week to donate to a number of international charitable organizations. In October 2021, The college also announced an official partnership with the Peace Corps to help with volunteer preparation. These are just two of many examples of the college expanding international ties in the last year. Best College notes that Michigan State University has the 11th highest number of international students of any American college. Times Higher Education considers it to be the world’s 86th most international college.
23. Arizona State University
Thanks to Arizona State University’s international connections, students have been able to gain a wide range of perspectives in their education, even during the pandemic. For instance, in the last year, students of conservation have been able to be lectured by and talk with wildlife conservationists around the world via video conferencing. The college is also consistently creating new opportunities for it to have a physical impact upon other countries, such as recently being awarded $2.6 million from the US Department of State to advance transitional justice in Ukraine and South Sudan. In late 2020, the college’s students won a global hackathon for outlining a method of containing the spread of coronavirus by combining artificial intelligence with internet-connected thermal imaging cameras. Best Colleges notes that Arizona State University has the fifth most international students of any US college. Times Higher Education names the college the 94th most international university in the world.
22. Carnegie Mellon University
In late September 2021, Carnegie Mellon University announced that it was establishing a center in formal mathematics, with the primary aim of improving access to math across the globe. This center has received $20 million in funding. One tool to come out of the college to be recognized internationally for its potential to fight coronavirus is the Tetrad Automated Causal Discovery Platform, which won the Super Artificial Intelligence Leader Award at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai in July 2020. Niche considers Carnegie Mellon University to be the 25th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 47th most international university in the world.
21. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
One of the most ambitious international responses to coronavirus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is The Center for Health Informatics Mobilizing Experts in Illinois. This project gets students to work on data information projects that are then sent to public health agencies to improve coronavirus responses. The college created this initiative in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Pan-American Health Organization. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has also benefited from its wider college system in growing international connections during the pandemic. For instance, in December 2020, the system announced that it had launched a research and design collaboration with Hebrew University. Best Colleges notes that the college has the eighth-highest amount of international students. Times Higher Education ranks it as the 105th most international university in the world.
20. University of Pennsylvania
During coronavirus, the University of Pennsylvania has not just sustained its global engagement efforts but also created a number of international means of fighting coronavirus. The key to sustaining the existing programming was to move to a virtual model, such as the Penn in Latin America & the Caribbean Symposium and the Global Order Colloquium, which shifted to online formats. Two parts of the college that responded to coronavirus internationally were The Wharton School and the Zicklin Center for Business and Ethics Research, which teamed up to make the college’s COVID-19 Africa Initiative successful. Niche considers it to be the sixth-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education considers the University of Pennsylvania to be the 81st most international university in the world.
19. Indiana University
In September 2021, Indiana University announced that the US government had selected it to lead a $14.5 million project to strengthen universities in Vietnam. The college was awarded this project due to its rich prior experience in the country. One of the most innovative ways in which the college has tackled coronavirus across the world has been the School of Informatics and Computing’s COVID Challenge. This challenge was aimed at international students, and part of it tasked students, “to apply existing knowledge of their country’s health care systems to challenges related to disease prevention and quarantine.” Best Colleges notes that Indiana University has the third-highest amount of international students. Times Higher Education ranks it as the 112th most international university in the world.
18. The University of Chicago
For years, The University of Chicago has been focused on building connections in India. It is especially integrated with Indian medical education. In 2021, the college stated that it is now focusing on improving the diagnostic reasoning skills of Indian medical students. Other new projects that the college is supporting in India include an initiative to improve the treatment of trans people, and an initiative to improve career advancement at both The University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and the Indian School of Public Policy. And in 2021, the college also partnered with Wuhan University to research both coronavirus and other diseases. Niche considers The University of Chicago to be the 28th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 60th most international university in the world.
17. Northwestern University
Coronavirus has resulted in Northwestern University gaining funding for international research. In November 2020, the college announced that it had received $100,000 for collaborative research into coronavirus prevention with Tel Aviv University in Israel. The college is also building its international ties outside of coronavirus research. In May 2021, the U7+ Alliance of World Universities elected Northwestern University to house its first-ever secretariat for the next three years as the colleges coordinate interactions with world governments. The college has also worked on setting up international education as the pandemic recedes, such as a dual master’s degree with The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Niche considers Northwestern University to be the 12th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 92nd most international university in the world.
16. Brown University
Providence, Rhode Island
In 2020, Brown University’s Office of Global Engagement managed to form new partnerships with Chinese University of Hong Kong and Charles University in Prague. Both of these partnerships are agreed to last until 2025 and will ensure that faculty/students will have numerous opportunities for engagement. One particular member of the Brown University faculty who is ensuring that the college’s international ties remain strong is Dr. Ruhul Abid, In 2020, he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his non-profit named Health and Education for All, which has been fighting coronavirus in refugee camps. Niche names Brown University as the third-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 88th most international university in the world.
15. Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
In May 2021, Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs announced that it was launching a center on leadership that would also integrate international security research into its work. The hopes for this new center are primarily to prevent conflicts and build better societies. The college has also proactively worked across the world to fight coronavirus. For instance, it has assisted the Indian government by providing research and data into the virus’s effect on the country’s most vulnerable populations. Niche considers Yale University to be the fifth-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education considers it to be the world’s 66th most international college.
14. Johns Hopkins University
The Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University has been tracking the global spread of coronavirus and presents this data in an interactive map on the college’s website. The college’s Center for Global Health also created a range of responses to fight coronavirus on an international scale. For example, it created a $4,000 fellowship for students to contribute to international data collection on coronavirus and develop ideas for solutions based on this data. The college has also seen recent success in building international ties in matters not directly related to coronavirus. For instance, the college’s Center for Communication Programs is currently working with its partners to address teenage pregnancy prevention in the Philippines with a social media campaign that encourages parents to talk to their children about love, sex, and relationships. Niche considers Johns Hopkins University to be the ninth-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 58th most international university in the world.
13. Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
In June 2021, Purdue University launched a new campaign to expand its education across the world, named Purdue Global Moves. This new campaign consists of four strategic initiatives, student success, professional skills, the classroom of the future, and transformative education. The college’s Office of Global Partnerships has also formed literally dozens of partnerships with international organizations since the coronavirus pandemic affected the world. Some examples include the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Colombia, and ESCP Europe in France. The college has also been utilizing its international connections to fight coronavirus. For instance, a team that usually researches the spread of malaria in Africa has turned its attention to the spread of coronavirus variants. Best Colleges notes that Purdue University has the seventh-highest amount of international students enrolled in an American college. Times Higher Education also considers the college to be the 62nd most international university in the world.
12. Northeastern University
For the 2021 to 2022 academic year, Northeastern University’s London campus expanded significantly by relocating to a larger campus. This new campus is six times larger than the former London campus. Perhaps the individual college community member who has done the most to fight coronavirus internationally is Allesandro Vespignani, who is the director of the Network Science Institute. Throughout the pandemic, he has advised both the Italian and American governments. In fact, the Italian government even awarded Vespignani a knighthood for his work. Niche considers Northeastern University to be the 32nd best college for international relations. Best Colleges states that it has the ninth highest international student population.
11. Stanford University
The Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health has been proactively working to address global issues during the pandemic. For example, one of the center’s faculty members recently published a paper on how to promote vaccination based on successful US strategies. Other faculty members of this center worked to re-purpose sleep apnea machines into low-cost ventilators, with hundreds of these machines being donated to hospitals in India. Stanford University has also been proactively building global connections that are not directly related to the pandemic. For instance, in July 2021, the college launched a predoctoral research program that focuses on recruiting people from low and middle-income countries. Niche names Stanford University the fourth-best college for international relations. Times Higher Education considers the college to be the 41st most international university in the world.
10. Columbia University
New York City, New York
Thanks to its existing global centers, Columbia University was able to launch a number of proactive international coronavirus programs during the pandemic. One example is the center is Santiago in Chile, which selected seven different projects to pursue based on alumni proposals. These projects include creating a Spanish language online learning platform for children and a study that assessed how the pandemic may automate many jobs in Chile. The college’s strong connections in Chile have continued to grow in non-pandemic-related areas. For instance, in August 2021, it announced that it was co-leading a $7 million fellowship program for researchers based at the Vera Rubin Observatory. Best Colleges notes that Columbia University has the second-highest number of international students. Time Higher Education ranks it as the 47th most international university in the world.
9. Penn State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Thanks to prior connections to research partners in Uganda, a faculty member at Penn State University was able to assemble, “a multi-country collaboration to develop a surveillance modeling tool that provides a weekly projection of expected COVID-19 cases in all African countries.” This tool is now freely available online. And the college’s international connections show strong signs of continued growth. One example is the new Ukrainian Rural and Agricultural Development Program. One of the major goals of this program is to build new relationships with institutions in Ukraine. Niche considers Penn State University to be the 86th best college for international relations. Best Colleges notes that it has the 13th highest international student population in America. Times Higher Education names it the 120th most international university in the world.
8. The Ohio State University
One of the most established international institutions at The Ohio State University is the India Gateway. During coronavirus, this institution has been focused on fighting the disease. A recent example of this is the International Infectious Diseases Conference, which the India Gateway recently co-hosted in Sri Lanka. And despite the pandemic, the college’s international partnerships have continued to function. In all, the college formalized 27 partnerships in 2020, and 12 of these partners were collaborating with the college for the first time. Some of these new partners include Kameda Medical Center in Japan, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in Saudi Arabia, and The University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda. Niche considers The Ohio State University to be the 73rd best for international relations. Best Colleges notes that it has the 10th most international students. Times Higher Education considers it to be the 99th most international university in the world.
7. Georgia Institute of Technology
In November 2020, the Georgia Institute of Technology released a new strategic plan. One of the major areas of focus in this plan is connecting globally. The college has been successful in this goal, even with coronavirus restrictions in place. For instance, faculty members have participated in webinars held by European institutes, and students have completed internships with NATO. The college also even recently hosted the Icelandic ambassador. One example of how the faculty has incorporated coronavirus mitigation efforts into its international education is Assistant Professor Abigail Vaughn, who connected her class with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office so the students could understand how Taiwan had managed to cope with the disease. Niche considers the Georgia Institute of Technology to be the 70th best college for international relations. Times Higher Education names it the 50th most international university in the world. GoAbroad.com considers the college’s Metz, France campus to be the 14th best US international campus.
6. Boston University
At the beginning of March 2020, Boston University announced that scientists at the college’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories had joined an international collaboration to fight against coronavirus. More recently, there is plenty of evidence that highlights that the college has successfully engaged with global opportunities. For instance, in October 2021, the college announced that it had joined the Task Force on Climate, Development, and the International Monetary Fund, which is composed of global experts who interact with governments around the world. Niche considers Boston University to be the 20th best college for international relations. Best Colleges notes that it has the 15th highest number of international students at a US college. Times Higher Education names it the 73rd most international university in the world.
5. University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Thanks to their international collaboration, the University of Michigan and The Aga Khan University recently secured $6.5 million of funding to build a data science hub that will use artificial intelligence. The hub will be located in East Africa and has the goal of improving health and care deliveries in the region. In the summer of 2021, the college’s global division announced that it had appointed a President’s Award winner, John Godfrey, to advance its international mission based on his successful work in allowing international doctoral students to study from their home countries during the pandemic. And when coronavirus came to the US, the college’s community was fast to use international connections to stop the spread. An example is the U-M Association of Chinese Professors, which was able to import thousands of medical items from China to the US in the early stages of the pandemic. Niche names the University of Michigan as the 18th best college for international relations. Best Colleges notes that the college has the 12th highest international student population. Times Higher Education considers it to be the world’s 101st most international university.
4. University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the University of California, Los Angeles has managed to form many collaborations with international organizations, including The University of Hong Kong, the American Research Center in Egypt, and the Berlin School of Business in Germany. The college community has also ensured that its international connections extended to the fight against coronavirus. For instance, by May 2020, faculty members at the college’s Promise Armenian Institute had gone out of their way to provide expertise and deliver equipment to the Armenian medical community. Niche considers the University of California, Los Angeles to be the 37th best college for international relations. Best Colleges notes that it has the sixth-highest number of international students. Times Higher Education names it the 75th most international college.
3. Duke University
Durham, North Carolina
The Global Health Institute at Duke University managed to conduct significant work in the 2020-2021 academic year. In total, it secured $75 million in funding and conducted research projects in 33 different countries. These activities spanned from creating low-cost versions of expensive medical devices for developing countries to conducting research into animal viruses that could pose future threats to humans. Additionally, the Center for International & Global Studies at the college has been finding ways to build global connections virtually. For instance, it has been collaborating in this way with the United Nations to discover ways to solve worldwide issues. Times Higher Education names Duke University the 84th most international university in the world. GoAbroad.com ranks the college’s Chinese campus, Duke Kunshan University, and the Singaporean campus, Duke-NUS Medical School Singapore, as the 12th and 13th best international campuses of a US college.
2. University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
A number of events have ensured that the University of Southern California has managed to maintain its international connections during coronavirus. For instance, it recently participated in an online simulation to build consensus over climate change challenges with colleges in nine other countries. The college also has an Africa Hub, which has focused on improving the Kenyan health system as a result of the pandemic. In October 2021, the college was able to host the inaugural class of a program it had created in collaboration with Tsinghua University, with students arriving from China, showing that the college is rapidly recovering its in-person international programming. Niche names the University of Southern California the second-best college for international relations. Best Colleges states that it has the fourth most international students. Times Higher Education names it the world’s 85th most international college.
1. New York University
New York City, New York
In June 2021, New York University’s School of Global Public Health announced its latest initiative. Thanks to a $500,000 gift from the La Ka Shing Foundation, the new initiative focuses on developing global leaders to improve mental health and wellness across the world. In early 2021, one New York University professor launched an online dashboard that allowed users to compare coronavirus statistics between different countries. The college’s Abu Dhabi campus was also largely responsible for forming a global research team of 500 people that analyzed different government responses to coronavirus. Best Colleges notes that New York University is the college with the most international students. Times Higher Education considers it to be the 68th most international university in the world. GoAbroad.com considers New York University’s Florence campus to be the eighth-best international campus belonging to an American college. Niche considers the college to be the 44th best for international relations.