Ecology, also known as environmental biology, studies the relationships between organisms and the environment. The ecology discipline also deals with human-related issues such as overpopulation, food scarcities, pollution, plant and animal species extinctions, and global warming. Sociological and political problems are also discussed to a certain extent in ecology as factors of ecological situations.

Since ecology is a vast field with a wide range of avenues for specialization, many researchers and scientists from various universities around the world have worked more than others to advance the discipline. Many global universities have been proven to excel above other educational and research institutions. Here are the top seven ecology schools worldwide!

Top Ecology Schools in the World

1. Harvard University

Harvard University’s history started as the first college in the American colonies in 1636. The college renamed itself to Harvard College in 1639 in honor of its benefactor, John Harvard. Years later, the Charter of 1650 incorporated the college into the system still in use today.

Harvard University’s Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology attributes its beginnings in the 1971 decision of the Department of Biology to create a separate committee within the department, the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. The following years showed real promise as the committee eventually became an independent department.

The Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology maintains its ecology program through a collaborative approach with various departments within Harvard. The OEB community specializes in discovering patterns in the earth’s ecology and then utilizing leading-edge techniques to distill the knowledge. Such a method of teaching and research made Harvard one of the best universities to study ecology worldwide.

2. Stanford University

Stanford University started in 1885 as an initiative of Senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane Stanford, to provide accessible education to the citizens of California. Stanford University is one of the best universities for ecology in the world that officially opened its doors in 1891 and has since created quality graduates up to this day.

The Department of Biology under Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences provides a biology undergraduate course, with the option to major in ecology. The program setup provides an ideal foundation for further studies in a coterminal master’s degree or a Ph.D. in the field of ecology.

Due to the commitment of the Department of Biology to create world-class graduates that are fully trained in the ecological sciences, the department successfully partnered with various institutions that cater to the needs of students to study with a hands-on approach. The system was so effective that the graduates and researchers placed Stanford at the top of international rankings for ecology.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology incorporated itself in 1861 in its first site in Boston, then later moved to Cambridge, the USA in 1916. Since its foundation, MIT has focused on merging the theoretical and practical aspects of knowledge to achieve quality lessons.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Biology delivers an exceptional program for ecology in the world that is located under the School of Science and houses the ecology courses. The Department of Biology promotes interdisciplinary partnerships to achieve better results in teaching and research. The department also utilizes connections to other MIT departments and affiliated research institutes to maximize student learning.

MIT created better ecology experts through methods to continually enrich the ecology community at the university. Efforts to regularly update the teaching materials upon discovery of new scientific information created MIT graduates well-respected in the ecology field. MIT remains one of the best universities for ecology studies worldwide.

4. University of Oxford

The University of Oxford is another top institution for ecology in the world and is considered the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The earliest form of teaching occurred in 1096 and rapidly developed in 1167 under Henry II. The following years characterize a series of improvements to the existing teaching methods and the addition of more topics of inquiry.

Ecology in Oxford is taught separately by the Department of Plant Sciences and the Department of Zoology, albeit there are ecology courses jointly administered by the two departments. The master’s degree in ecology is offered, on the other hand, by the School of Geography and the Environment.

The lack of a dedicated ecology department did not hinder Oxford from excelling at teaching the discipline at a high level of expertise. The graduates, whether their ecological study is plant science or zoology centered, remained to be well accepted internationally. Oxford embodies excellence in ecological education and research, consistently placing itself at the top of world rankings.

5. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge started in 1209 and was granted a royal charter by Henry III in 1231. Cambridge is considered the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world formed by the transfer of Oxford scholars to Cambridge, the United Kingdom. Over the years, Cambridge University has been recognized as an excellent school for ecology in the world and maintained its level of excellence and high standards in the pursuit of studying and researching disciplines.

The University of Cambridge’s Natural Science Tripos houses the ecology discipline. Cambridge utilizes an interdisciplinary approach, using information from various fields, in creating a program that maximizes the potential for the study and research of ecology.

Cambridge students trained in the ecological sciences are globally accepted as experts in their field. The University of Cambridge’s emphasis on attaining excellence in all aspects of learning and research ensured the university’s place at the top of international rankings for ecology.

6. Wageningen University & Research

Wageningen University & Research’s history dates to when the state took over the Agricultural College in Wageningen; it was the start of the National Agricultural Education in the Netherlands. Decades of innovations and name changes later, the institution was renamed Wageningen University & Research in 2016.

The WUR does have undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. courses in ecology, but only the master’s and Ph.D. degrees have English courses available; the bachelor’s degree is taught in the local language. Ecology is taught as one of the areas of specialization for biology graduate and postgraduate courses.

The curricula setup of WUR’s ecology programs did not hinder the university from making the most out of the teaching and research facilities available. Ecology as a discipline taught to WUR students and as a focus for WUR researchers remains above others. The Wageningen University & Research maintains its place at the top of university rankings for ecology worldwide.

7. ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich, or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is a leading university for ecology in the world that started in 1855 as the Federal Polytechnic School. Enjoying full financial and political support from the Swiss government, the school became a well-established national center for education. The institution was renamed the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1911, further improving its disciplines in the decades that followed.

The Department of Biology started in 1989 through a collaborative effort of professors from various departments in the university. Decades and several administrative changes later, the biology department remains strong as ever with the addition of new disciplines and teaching methods for ecology, placing ETH Zurich at the top bracket of ecology schools worldwide.


We hope that this article on Best Universities for Ecology in the World was helpful. Feel free to check out the Available Programs for International Students and learn more about studying abroad.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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