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The World’s Best and Biggest Tech Schools: 2023

Which universities have the best combination of quality and quantity in 2023? We ranked the world's top-25 computer science schools by undergraduate enrollment.

By definition, being considered one of the world’s top-25 highest-ranked computer science universities is pretty exclusive. They are the best of the best.

In the QS University Rankings, which scores 1,400 of the world’s universities on academic reputation, employer reputation and more, the top-25 represents the top 1.7%. This elite group includes the biggest names in tech – Stanford, Harvard and MIT among them. It also includes the University of Waterloo.

Why does this matter to business leaders? It might tell you which graduates your recruitment team should covet. But it doesn’t give any indication of the quantity of graduates they’d be competing for. Sure, the top schools produce great talent, but when they’re ready to hit the job market, will they even be available?

It’s a great question because, though it’s #5 on the QS rankings, Oxford has just 346 students enrolled in computer science. Stanford has just 776. If you’re looking to build your team through post-secondary recruitment at those schools, get ready for some intense competition.

But quality is quality and it turns out that some top-25 computer science schools have HUGE enrollment. For business leaders looking to grow it *might* make sense to put a strategic focus on those locations that deliver both quality and quantity. Where are those schools? We’ve crunched the numbers for you.

Here are the top-quality tech schools with the most tech students:

Best and Biggest Tech Schools 2023

No surprise here – the University of Waterloo is right there at the top (again).

It’s the world’s 22nd-ranked university for computer science and it’s massive.

Nearly 5,000 undergraduate students are enrolled in computer science and computer engineering, which are often combined for enrollment numbers. That number goes up to 5,400 undergraduate students if you include software engineering, as many of the universities on this chart have.

The country with the largest computer science enrollment is – to the surprise of few – the United States with about 16,000 undergraduates in a top-25 program. However, that’s including universities in seven different states – there’s a lot of geography between them. Next is Singapore, with just short of 5,000 computer science students.

The biggest shift in comparison with last year’s list is the addition of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which just made the cut at #25 but is very large, accounting for nearly ¼ of all US-based enrollments on the list.

*Universities marked with an asterisk do not provide full enrollment numbers for their programs, but they do provide either new enrollments each year or total number of graduates from a given program. In these cases, we simply multiplied the number by four to give an approximate number for four-year programs. This will not provide a perfect reflection of enrollment, but it does not affect this article’s conclusions.

The Toronto-Waterloo Corridor is a talent machine

Not far behind the University of Waterloo is the University of Toronto**, which is about 100km/65mi away. Combined, these schools have more than 8,000 computer science students, which is equivalent to the enrollment at the 11 smallest universities included on this chart. It really speaks to the power of the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, which routinely ranks among the world’s top tech and startup ecosystems.

**This number for University of Toronto only tracks enrollment at one of the three main University of Toronto campuses.

The United Kingdom can’t compete with Waterloo

The United Kingdom has five schools represented on the QS list of top-25 computer science universities, including Oxford at #5 and Cambridge at #7. They are undoubtedly great tech schools. However, enrollment numbers at UK universities are quite low, on average.

As you can see, the University of Edinburgh – the biggest UK-based tech school in the global top-25 – is home to just the 12th-largest enrollment. The other four British universities are in the bottom eight.

UWaterloo vs. UK schools

The University of Waterloo has more students enrolled in computer science than all five of the United Kingdom’s entries on the list. It’s not close, either – there are about 1,500 more students at the University of Waterloo than the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University College London and University of Oxford combined.

Silicon Valley – and California – is no match for Waterloo

Get ready for a surprise: the University of Waterloo has more undergraduates studying computer science than UC Berkeley, UCLA and Stanford University combined.

UWaterloo vs. California schools

Stanford and UC Berkeley are two of the world’s highest ranked schools at #3 and #4, respectively, and thanks to their proximity are two of the biggest talent pools for Silicon Valley companies. However, they combine for 1,200 *fewer* students than the University of Waterloo.

There’s a reason the University of Waterloo is also one of the most important sources of talent for Silicon Valley – it’s a school that combines quantity with its incredible quality.

Entrepreneurship and work-ready talent define UWaterloo

The QS University Rankings make an attempt to standardize and rank universities that – realistically – are very different from one another. Their programs are different, their admissions are different and their cultures are different.

Two things that set the University of Waterloo apart that aren’t well-captured in the QS report are entrepreneurship and on-the-job experience.

In terms of entrepreneurship, UWaterloo is the undisputed leader in Canada. About 18% of all Canadian tech founders were students at the University of Waterloo. Velocity – part of the University of Waterloo’s suite of entrepreneurship programs – is Canada’s most productive incubator and has helped produce tech unicorns like ApplyBoard and Faire. The school’s unique inventor-owned IP policy attracts the world’s most entrepreneurial faculty, researchers and students.

In terms of work-readiness, the University of Waterloo co-operative education program provides all computer science students with two years of on-the-job experience at companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, SAP and hundreds of startups and scale-ups. The program is so big it accounts for about 1/3 of all university-related work terms in Canada. The day they graduate, University of Waterloo students can make a significant positive impact.

Is talent driving your expansion strategy?

If you’re wondering where you’ll find the biggest pool of work-ready talent, don’t just look at the top tech schools, look at the top tech schools with the largest enrollments. Look at Waterloo.

Want to learn more about the University of Waterloo?

Read our overview blog post or contact our team today.