better than all the rest

Houston school recognized as among the top institutions in the nation

Rice University has again topped a list of the best schools in the country. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Houston's Rice University continues to burnish its reputation in higher education.

A ranking released May 5 by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, a British company that specializes in higher education data, puts Rice at No. 23 among the top colleges and universities in the U.S. It's the highest-rated Texas school on the list.

Harvard University appears at No. 1 in the ranking, followed by Stanford University; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Elsewhere in Texas:

  • The University of Texas at Austin ranks 29th.
  • Texas A&M University in College Station ranks 64th.
  • The University of Houston ranks 66th.
  • The University of Texas at Dallas ranks 83rd.

To come up with its ranking, QS Quacquarelli Symonds looked at five factors for more than 350 colleges and universities around the country: employability, learning experience, diversity and internationalization, and research.

Here's how Rice fares in each of those categories:

  • Employability, No. 42.
  • Learning experience, No. 7.
  • Diversity and internationalization, tied for No. 32.
  • Research, No. 33.

Jack Moran, a spokesman for QS Quacquarelli Symonds, says that although the rankings "continue to command record levels of interest, we know that the American higher education sector is wrestling with questions that do not fall within the scope of our … rankings — questions of equity, access, representation, and social justice."

"The QS USA University Rankings have been carefully crafted to shine some independent light on which institutions are doing most to foster the essential relationship between education and social change," Moran adds.

More students soon will be able to take advantage of the top-rated education offered by Rice. In March, the private university announced it would expand the number of undergraduates by 20 percent by the fall of 2025. This would raise undergraduate enrollment to 4,800 and total enrollment to about 9,000.

"Rice's extraordinary applicant pool has grown dramatically despite the challenges posed by the pandemic," President David Leebron says in a news release.

Rice says the number of student applications has climbed 75 percent over the past four years. In 2020, the university received roughly 28 applications for every available slot. For the fall of 2021, almost 30,000 applicants flooded Rice, up 26 percent from the previous year.

Leebron says Rice's previous expansion of enrollment "greatly increased our national and international student applications, enrollment, and visibility. We also dramatically increased diversity on our campus, and we were able to extend the benefits of a Rice education to many more students."

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Building Houston

 
 

Vanessa Wyche, director of the Johnson Space Center, gave the keynote address at this year's State of Space event. Screenshot via houston.org

Is the Space City poised to continue its reign as an innovative hub for space exploration? All signs point to yes, according to a group of experts.

The Greater Houston Partnership hosted its annual State of Space this week. The virtual event featured a keynote address from Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA Johnson Space Center, and a panel moderated by David Alexander, chair of aerospace and aviation committee at the GHP and the director of the Rice Space Institute.

The conversations focused on the space innovation activity happening in Houston, as well as an update on the industry as a whole has space commercialization continues to develop. All the speakers addressed how Houston has what it takes to remain a hub for the sector.

"The future looks very bright for Houston that we will remain a leader in Houston spaceflight," Wyche says in her address.

Here are a few other memorable moments from the event.

"Houston, I feel, is poised to be a leader. We have led in human space flight, and we will a leader in commercialization."

— Wyche says in her keynote address, which gave a thorough overview of what all NASA is working on at JSC. She calls out specifically how startups are a driving force in commercialization. JSC is working with local accelerator programs at The Ion and MassChallenge.

"These startups help us to connect to tomorrow's space innovation leaders, and gives our team the opportunity to mentor these entrepreneurs as we work to advance both our scientific and technical knowledge," she says.

"The ability to have a place where government, academia, and industry can come together and share ideas and innovation is incredibly powerful."

​— Steve Altemus, president and CEO of Intuitive Machines LLC, specifically talking about the Houston Spaceport, where Intuitive Machines has signed on as a tenant. Altemus adds that a major key to leading space commercialization is a trained workforce, which the spaceport is focused on cultivating.

"We shouldn't discount the character that Houston has from the standpoint as a great place to build a business."

— Tim Kopra, vice president of robotics and space at MDA Ltd., says, adding that Houston is a big city that feels like a small town. "We need to incentivize companies to come and stay," he says.

"Great cities — like great companies — understand that if you're still, you're probably moving backwards. ... I think Houston gets it in that regard."

— Todd May, senior vice president of science and space at KBR, says, adding that Houston realizes it needs to be on the offensive side to bring innovation to the game, positioning the city very well for the future.

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