Top 10 Universities for Studying Physics and Astronomy

This week we celebrate the World Space Week. It’s an “international celebration of science and technology” and in honour of this, we’ve compiled a list of the best universities in the world for studying physics and astronomy.

Studying these subjects is both fascinating and challenging. They allow you to delve into the fundamental laws of the universe and gain a deeper understanding of our position within it. If you aspire to a career in either field, it’s important to attend a highly-regarded university with a strong programme in these areas.

This list is based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2023.

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 

MIT is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The QS World University Rankings by Subject for 2023 place it first in the world for physics and astronomy. MIT is well-known for its engineering and scientific departments, and its alumni include many well-known scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk.

A building at the MIT campus
MIT is the best university in the world for studying physics and astronomy.

2. Harvard University

Harvard is a private Ivy League research university that, like MIT, is also located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard is the oldest school of higher learning in the United States, and in addition to excellent physics and astronomy programmes, it is noted for its excellent liberal arts education and several Nobel laureates.

Harvard University graduation ceremony
Harvard is another world-class university in the Greater Boston area.

3. University of Oxford

Oxford University is the highest European university on this list. It’s the oldest university in the English-speaking world, having been founded around 1096, and it is known for its academic excellence and its beautiful campus in the town of Oxford, located about 100 kilometres northwest of London.

The University of Oxford campus
The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

4. Stanford University

Stanford is a private university in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Located near the world-famous Silicon Valley, it’s known for its entrepreneurial spirit and its strong engineering and computer science programs. The university, affectionately nicknamed Nerd Nation by its students, is located on one of the largest campuses in the United States.

The large Stanford University campus
Stanford University has one of the largest campuses in the United States.

5. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is, together with the University of Oxford, one of the two most famous universities in the United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world. The Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge is one of the largest and most respected physics departments in the world. Cambridge is known for its strong academic reputation, its beautiful campus, and its vibrant student life, located less than 100 kilometres north of London.

King's College of the University of Cambridge and the River Cam
Cambridge is a very beautiful town, not far from London.

6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)

Caltech is a private research university in Pasadena, near Los Angeles in Southern California. It’s known for its strong physics and astronomy programs, and its alumni include many notable scientists, such as Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. Caltech is a fairly small university, with only just over 2,000 students on a beautiful campus, creating an intimate setting for doing your studies.

A street view of Los Angeles
Caltech is in Pasadena, in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

7. University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

UC Berkeley is another top level university in the San Francisco Bay Area. Unlike its neighbour and rival, Stanford, Cal is a public university. UCB’s Department of Physics is one of the largest and most respected physics departments in the world. It offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in physics, astronomy, and astrophysics. The department is home to world-renowned faculty and researchers, and it has a strong track record of producing top-quality research.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Berkeley is one of the two San Francisco Bay Area universities on this list.

8. ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich in Switzerland is the highest-ranked university on this list outside the United States and United Kingdom. ETH Zurich is known for its strong engineering and natural sciences programs, and its alumni include many notable scientists, such as Albert Einstein and Marie Curie. ETH Zurich’s students, faculty and alumni include 22 Nobel Prize winners, two Fields Medalists and a Turing Award winner.

An alpine scenery in Switzerland
Switzerland is the home of the best physics and astronomy university outside the United States and the United Kingdom.

9. Princeton University

Princeton University is another Ivy League school to make this list. It’s located in the small town of Princeton, New Jersey. As well as physics and astronomy, Princeton is also known for its strong liberal arts education and its many award-winning scientists, among them no fewer than 75 Nobel laureates.

A Princeton University dining club building
Princeton is one the two Ivy League schools to make this list.

10. University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo is the only university in Asia to make this list. It’s a public research university in one of the universities in the Japanese government’s Top Global University Project. Japan’s oldest imperial university, the University of Tokyo is known for its strong academic excellence and its many Nobel laureates. The university’s alumni and faculty members also include 17 Japanese prime ministers.

A nighttime view of Tokyo
The best physics and astronomy university in Asia can be found in Tokyo.

These colleges provide a world-class education in physics and astronomy, with world-class staff and cutting-edge facilities. They also offer extensive research programs, allowing you to undertake cutting-edge study in these areas.

Aside from the top 10 universities, numerous other outstanding universities provide excellent programs in physics and astronomy. Even if you cannot attend one of the top 10 universities, you can still receive a high-quality education at a less well-known university. However, it is crucial to conduct thorough research and ensure that the university you select is the right fit for your goals and interests.

Some factors to consider when choosing a university to study physics and astronomy


Make sure the university has a good reputation for its physics and astronomy programs. You can find this information by looking at university rankings, reading online reviews, and talking to current students and alumni.


The faculty is one of the most important factors in a physics and astronomy programme. Make sure the university has world-renowned faculty who are actively conducting research in your areas of interest.

A nebula
Physics and astronomy can be tremendously interesting subjects to study.


The university should have state-of-the-art facilities for conducting physics and astronomy research. This includes telescopes, laboratories, and computing resources.

Research opportunities

Make sure the university offers research opportunities for undergraduate students. This will give you the chance to gain hands-on experience in physics and astronomy research.


The cost of tuition, fees, and living expenses should be a factor in your decision. Make sure you can afford to attend the university of your choice.

Final thoughts

Remember, there is no one “right” university for everyone. The best university for you will depend on your individual interests, goals, and financial situation. Do your research, talk to current students and alumni, and visit the campuses of the universities you are considering. With careful planning, you can find the perfect university to help you achieve your dreams of a career in physics or astronomy.

Once you’ve found the university for you, you can start looking for student accommodation. Here at we list accommodation in hundreds of cities around the world, so wherever you decide to go, you’ll probably find some great properties listed on our site.