The University of Washington isn’t one of the state’s best-kept secrets anymore. The school has ranked well among American universities for a long time, but now a new global ranking places it academically among the best in the world.

Seattle isn’t a college town. Residents and workers who rarely journey north of Portage Bay and the Montlake Cut might forget UW is even here.

But if it isn’t a college town, Seattle is definitely a college city. UW is an economic engine that boosts the entire Puget Sound Region and state.

When people think about higher education rankings, they usually look at whether students should attend. Will they get a good education? Is campus life fulfilling? Do graduates get jobs? In those regards, UW shines. It’s a Top 20 public school, especially well regarded for its computer science and nursing programs.

The newly announced global ranking looks at the school from a different perspective, focusing on academic prowess alone. How many faculty and alumni have won Nobel Prizes and other major awards? How many publish in prestigious journals? How many have their work cited by their peers?

By those measures, UW ranks 17th in the world and third among U.S. public universities.


Let that sink in. The Academic Ranking of World Universities, which has been ranking schools for 20 years, analyzed 1,000 universities around the world and placed UW ahead of the likes of University College London, Northwestern University (in Illinois) and the University of Tokyo. It named UW the top school in the world for atmospheric science and the second best for oceanography.

Elite academics attract elite students, many of whom will remain in Washington after they graduate. Equally important, groundbreaking research seeds groundbreaking businesses. Hundreds of UW spinoff and startup companies employ thousands of people in Washington. They generate billions of dollars in economic activity.

That’s companies like OctoML, which raised $85 million from investors last year to expand its machine-learning business. Like Abacus Bioscience, which is developing treatments for cancer and chronic infectious diseases. And like BattGenie, which is developing technology to improve battery performance.

These and the many other companies that emerge from UW research help make Seattle and all of Washington an exciting place for innovation and investment.

It’s not all high-tech and economic development, though. UW professors and alumni are at the forefront of the arts, culture, philosophy and literature. They attract speakers and performers who contribute to the vibrancy of this culturally diverse community.

It’s easy to take it all for granted, so let this recent accolade serve as a reminder: The world is watching what the Huskies are getting up to. Seattle and all of Washington should pay attention, too.