Oldest Universities In US, Years Of Establishment, and Rankings

Joseph Kanu
Joseph Kanu  - Content Writer, Editor and Blogger January 21, 2023
Updated 2023/01/22 at 12:48 PM
Oldest Universities In US
Oldest Universities In US

Are you searching for the oldest universities in US? if yes, search no further, this detailed article presents you with the oldest universities in Us focusing on just 10, their years of establishment, and rankings.

Interestingly, the universities we’re going to name in this article may not be the oldest universities in the world, but some date back to the 17th century, while others were founded even before the American Revolution that started in 1765.

Again, five of the oldest universities in US mentioned in this article are also members of the prestigious Ivy League and have all been able to put together their rich historic heritage with a sustained commitment to development and innovation.

Below are the oldest universities in US:

1. Harvard University

Harvard University

First on our list is Harvard University.

Harvard University was founded in 1636, and chartered in 1650, located in Massachusetts, at the time of its establishment the university was originally called New College.

Later, the then “New College” was renamed Harvard College in honor of its first benefactor, John Harvard. John Harvard handed down a part of his monetary estate and his 320-volume scholar’s library to the university in his will.

Aside from Harvard University being the oldest university in the US, it is and has maintained its place as one of the most popular and prominent in the world.

Harvard University is presently ranked third in the QS World University Rankings®, and in the Subject rankings of the QS World University, it’s ranked first in the world for the broad subject area of life sciences and medicine, and second for arts and humanities.

2. The College of William and Mary

College of William and Mary

The College of William and Mary was founded in 1693 and named after the British reigning co-monarchs who gave the institution its royal charter being the first for any university in the US.

The College of William and Mary is without a doubt the oldest university in South America and the first-ever institution of higher education in the United States to install an honor code of conduct for students.

The College of William and Mary is placed 601-650 worldwide and is also placed within the global top 450 for arts and humanities, with three United States past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson as products of the college.

3. St. John’s College

St John's College

St John’s College (SJC) was founded in 1696. The college is a private liberal arts college originally established as King William’s School, the Maryland colony’s first ‘free’ school.

The college is free in this context meaning to free students through education and got its present name in 1784 with two campuses currently: a campus in Annapolis, the state capital of Maryland, and another campus in New Mexico’s state capital, Santa Fe. 

The college however isn’t shown in the QS World University Rankings, but it was added to the US list of top 100 liberal arts colleges according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Despite its name which seems religious from mare mentioning it, St John’s College does not have any religious affiliation and is notable for its small class sizes, which enables students to gain more personalized attention.

4. Yale University

Yale University

Without a doubt, Yale University is one of the most popular universities one can name all around the world. The University was founded in 1701 and tops the list of one of the oldest universities in US.

Yale University is presently placed in the 17th position in the world. The university was originally established as ‘Collegiate School’, and was subsequently renamed Yale in 1718 in honor of a gift from Elihu Yale, a governor of the British East India Company. 

In the same year 1718, the university was relocated to its present location in New Haven, Connecticut, from its previous location in Clinton, Saybrook, and Wethersfield.

Yale University was originally set up with the aim of training ministers in theology and sacred languages, however, in 1777 the university’s curriculum was made to include humanities and sciences.

In 1861, Yale University emerged as the first United States university to award a Ph.D. The university is currently ranked fourth in the world for law studies, and also ranked sixth for arts and humanities. 

5. The University of Pennsylvania


The University of Pennsylvania simply referred to as Penn was founded in 1740  and chartered in 1755. The institution was founded by Benjamin Franklin.

The University of Pennsylvania was the very first United States university to offer both undergraduate and postgraduate studies and was also one of the first educational institutions in the US to have multidisciplinary teaching in various faculty areas.

In 1765, The University of Pennsylvania emerged as the first United States university to establish a medical school.

The University of Pennsylvania is presently ranked overall 15th in the world. The institution is specifically notable for its management and law courses, having been placed in fifth position in the world for business and management.

Generally and summerily, the University of Pennsylvania has a strong and long-lasting reputation for its activity in intensive research. 

6. Moravian College

Moravian College

Moravian College was founded in 1742 located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. It is without a doubt that Moravian College is small and not as popular as other colleges in the US but the college’s founding dates back to 1742.

Moravian College was established as Bethlehem Female Seminary, the first boarding school for young women in the United States by a 16-year-old Countess Benigna von Zinzendorf.

Moravian College was such a highly distinguished and reputable institution that George Washington in his capacity petitioned the headmaster regarding the admission of two of his great-nieces.

The college became known as the Moravian Female Seminary and was chartered to offer baccalaureate degrees in 1863, and by 1913 the college emerged as the Moravian Seminary and College for Women.

The college subsequently became coeducational after the colleges for the two genders were merged in 1954.

7. The University of Delaware(UD)

The University of Delaware was founded in 1743 and is located in Newark. The university was originally established as a ‘Free School’ and was subsequently renamed and relocated many times. 

For several years, the University of Delaware had been a part of the Pennsylvania colony until 1776 when it was denied a charter in order to prevent competition or even contention with the University of Pennsylvania.

the University of Delaware is not regarded as a colonial college as it was not a formal chartered higher learning institution until 1833 after the American Revolution.

Above all odds, The University of Delaware has an interesting and impressively durable history of high-standard teaching and is presently ranked joint 491st in the general QS World University Rankings.

8. Princeton University

Princeton University

Princeton University was founded in 1746 originally as the College of New Jersey.  The institution was founded by New Light Presbyterians for the training of ministers.

Princeton University is one of the oldest universities in US, and through the years it has sustained a number of landmarks from its rich and reputable history, like its oldest building Nassau Hall, which was built in 1756.

In 1783, Princeton University’s Nassau Hall was technically the United States’ temporary capital for four months when the Continental Congress was held there.

Presently, Princeton University is ranked 13th in the world overall, 7th in the subject area of arts and humanities, and 4th in mathematics. 

9. Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University was founded in 1749 and is located in Lexington, Virginia, and is a private liberal arts university.

Washington and Lee University’s first primary benefactor was George Washington, who donated twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) to the academy in 1796.  George Washington’s donation was the largest gift ever given to an educational institution in the US at that time.

Washington and Lee University was formerly known as Augusta Academy and Liberty Hall is inspired by the American Revolution.

The institution’s other part of its current name was gotten from General Robert E. Lee, who was president of the university from 1865 until his demise in 1870.

10. Columbia University

The last on our list of oldest universities in US is the Columbia University founded in 1754 and located in New York City.

Columbia University was chartered in 1754. The institution was originally established as King’s College by the royal charter of George II of Britain and was subsequently in 1784, it was renamed Columbia College after the United States got its independence.

Columbia University is currently ranked joint 18th in the world and has its colonial origins established in the fact that its alumni or products include five Founding Fathers of the United States.

Without a doubt, Columbia University is not just one of the oldest universities in US but also one of the country’s most prestigious research institutions. 

Again, Columbia University yearly administers the notable Pulitzer Prize and is ranked awesomely well for arts and humanities. The institution is ranked ninth in the world and is among the current six best institutions for anatomy and physiology.


We strongly believe this article duly satisfies your intent prior to your search for the oldest universities in US and you now know the oldest universities in US, their years of establishment, and their rankings both in the United States and the world at large.

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