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5 Charts: University of Waterloo vs. Boston’s Top Tech Schools

Five charts that compare the University of Waterloo's tech credentials to Boston's top tech schools, including MIT, Harvard and Boston University.

The University of Waterloo (UWaterloo) has a global reputation for producing incredible tech talent.

Its graduates have also founded fast-growing companies like Faire, ApplyBoard, Arctic Wolf, eSentire and global brands like BlackBerry and OpenText. It has been ranked #3 in Canada and #21 in the world for Computer Science, according to the 2024 QS World University Rankings. Having produced 18% of all Canadian tech founders, it’s also one of Silicon Valley’s most important sources of talent.

In other words, it’s good. The question is: how good?

We’ve compared it to the best tech schools in New York and, well, it really held its own. What happens when we compare it to the best tech schools Boston has to offer?

In this article, we compared UWaterloo with Boston universities using QS computer science rankings, student employability, computer science program size, research capabilities and entrepreneurship.

Here are the results:

Round One: Overall Computer Science Ranking

Boston Schools VS Waterloo CS ranking

Source: QS University Subject Rankings, University Ranking by Subject: Electrical and Electronic Engineering, 2024

Boston is, obviously, home to a couple of the most impressive universities in the world: Harvard and MIT. Yes, they’re ranked higher than UWaterloo, but not *that* much higher.

The other two schools in Boston area – Northeastern and Boston University – aren’t even in the same discussion. Good start for Waterloo.

Round Two: Computer Science Program Size

Sources: University of Waterloo, MIT, Harvard, Boston University, Northeastern University, 2024

Round Two: Computer Science Program SizeWhen it comes to the global top-25 computer science schools, UWaterloo is the biggest. In fact, it’s bigger than Boston University, Harvard and MIT combined. It may surprise you to learn that Northeastern University’s computer science enrollment is also very large.


Round Three: Overall Graduate Employability Ranking

Boston Schools VS Waterloo CS ranking

Source: QS University Rankings 2022

The same three schools are at the top of the ranking.

No one is surprised that Harvard and MIT graduates are employable, but what’s the secret to UWaterloo’s success?

It starts with the co-operative education program. UWaterloo works with over 7,000+ employers – including Microsoft, Apple, Google and hundreds of startups and scale-ups – to ensure that every computer science student graduates with two years of on-the-job experience.

It’s the world’s largest co-operative education program – and amazingly, it accounts for about one-third of all university work placements in Canada.

Round Four: Research Capabilities

Boston Schools VS Waterloo Citations per paper Graph

Source: QS University Rankings, University Ranking by Subject: Computer Science and Information Systems, 2024

We’ve seen Good Will Hunting. We get it. MIT is impressive.

Research is an integral part of the UWaterloo value proposition, too. For decades, the school’s unique inventor-owned IP policy has attracted the most entrepreneurial faculty and students who produce countless innovations with commercial potential.

It also works with some of the world’s biggest companies – Toyota, BlackBerry, etc. – on major research and development projects.

While research and talent are certainly a draw, incentives like the SR&ED program offers tax incentives for businesses in Canada that perform basic research, applied research or experimental development in the fields of science and/or technology. Each year, the SR&ED program provides $3B in tax incentives to over 20,000 applicants, making it a crucial driver for research and development in Canada.

Round Five: Entrepreneurship (0-100)

Source: Pitchbook, Top Schools for Founders, 2024

We mentioned that UWaterloo is pretty entrepreneurial, right?

Well, there’s the proof. Another top-25 finish. No one was going to catch Harvard and MIT in these rankings, but UWaterloo made it a contest. Waterloo was also ranked #21 in Pitchbook’s Top Schools for Founders report, affirming its status as a prominent hub for entrepreneurial talent and innovation.

Summarizing Success

When it comes to tech talent, it’s hard to beat the combination of quality and sheer scale offered by UWaterloo. It has quality, high enrollment, an entrepreneurial mindset and great research capabilities.

Here are the key takeaways from this matchup:

  • UWaterloo was a top contender in the matchup, even against prestigious schools like Harvard and MIT.
  • UWaterloo has higher computer science enrollment that any of the other Boston tech schools.
  • While Waterloo competes well with Boston tech schools, on Employability, Entrepreneurship and Research, UWaterloo’s access to vast resources and programs makes it a unique talent and business ecosystem.
  • Its world-renowned co-op program is one thing that helps UWaterloo stand out against its competitors.
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