The state of Massachusetts is one of the world’s great seats of learning, boasting world-class institutions including Harvard University andMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – ranked numbers two and three respectively in the 2011/12 QS World University Rankings.
With state capital Boston known as the Cradle of Liberty due to its key role in the American Revolution, Massachusetts also holds a place in the center of US history.
One of the US’s oldest cities, Boston is a bustling and cosmopolitan urban center. With a strong traditional Irish influence (the Boston Celtics are one of the nation’s best-known basketball teams), progressive social laws and a sophisticated cultural scene, Boston’s cluster of historic universities has earned it an additional nickname, the ‘Athens of America’.
Study abroad in Boston or neighboring Cambridge (not the one in the UK!), and you will be following in the footsteps of some of the great minds of the last few centuries.
As a city which has developed with leading higher education institutions at its heart, it’s no surprise that Boston is known as one of the US’s most forward-thinking cities; politically and culturally, there’s lots going on here.
Thanks to its high-ranking universities, high quality of life and strong reputation among employers, Boston is also among the world's best cities for students. In the QS Best Student Cities 2012, it ranks third.
Beyond the state’s urban centre are varied rural delights, from Cape Cod’s beaches to the popular summer island resort Martha’s Vineyard.
Massachusetts: Fast facts
• Located in the north-east of the US; borders with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Atlantic Ocean
• Capital and largest city is Boston
• Famous people from Massachusetts include former president John F. Kennedy, poet Sylvia Plath and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson
• The state’s official dessert is the Boston cream pie – a round cake filled with custard or cream and topped with chocolate
• Harvard University has more than 15 million books; in the US, only the Library of Congress has more
• Boston has eight sister-cities: Barcelona, Spain; Kyoto, Japan; Strasbourg, France; Melbourne, Australia; Padua, Italy; Taipei, Taiwan; Hangzhou, China; and Sekondi-Takoradi, Ghana
• Largest cities after Boston are Worcester, Springfield, Lowell, Cambridge, New Bedford, Brockton, Quincy and Lynn
Top universities in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has so many excellent universities, it’s difficult to know where to start.
However, the obvious starting point is with Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology(MIT), which need little introduction, and rank second and third respectively in the 2011/12 QS World University Rankings.
Also among the state’s highly esteemed institutions are Boston University, Tufts University, Brandeis University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Boston College, Northeastern University and Smith College - the last of which is for women only.
Some of these are private, some public, and their relative strengths vary depending on the subject. For example, MIT is ranked number one worldwide in the QS World University Rankings for chemical engineering, while Harvard tops the list for biological sciences.
One thing’s for sure: whatever you field of interest, Massachusetts has a top university to match.