When you think of a university, you probably aren’t too concerned with their website.
Recent events, however, have changed the situation and the role of a university’s site is becoming increasingly important. Global pandemics like COVID-19 have accelerated the development of online teaching and video conference software.
It’s very likely that many universities will begin to teach classes entirely online, if they aren’t already. As such, having a great website is important, especially for attracting new students to your university.
In this post, we’ll first look at the different elements that should be included on every university website. These include teacher and staff profiles, student testimonials, and more.
Then, we’ll look at 20 of the best university websites from around the world. For each one, we’ll take one actionable lesson and see how you can apply it to your own situation.
Finally, we’ll talk about using Astra, the most popular theme for WordPress, to easily create a website for your own educational institution.
Ready to learn? Let’s get started!
Features Every University or College Website Should Have
What should you include on your university website? The answer depends on the nature of your particular institution. However, we recommend that every university or college website includes the following things.
First and foremost, you’ll want to highlight your educational programs. If you have a large number of academic departments, we recommend adding a navigation system that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
These can be placed on a page or as a mega menu in the top navigation bar.
For example, MIT has a useful tabbed design that lets you filter academic programs by school, course number, or alphabetically:
In addition to academic degrees, listing the individual courses offered at your university is also a great idea. These are helpful for prospective students who may want to compare your programs to those offered by other institutions.
Teacher and Staff Profiles
Adding profiles of your professors, researchers, and other staff is an easy way to add some personality to your website. It’s also a great way to display the expertise and accolades of your top staff members.
Highlight the Campus in Your College Website
Is the campus of your university noted for its convenient location or natural beauty? If it is, share it via videos, photos, guided tours, and other content.
These days, it’s also important to include financial and employment statistics. How many of your university’s alumni get jobs after graduating? What percentage of students get financial aid?
As tuition rates continue to rise, you need to convince students that attending your university is a sound financial investment.
Social proof is an excellent way to promote your university. Using videos, photos, interviews, and other content, share the experiences of your current and former students.
Finally, you’ll want to include a way for students to register for courses and/or get more information about your university. While the specifics depend on the particular structure of your school, it’s important to include at least some way that potential students can get in touch with you.
You can create beautiful contact forms in the WordPress with any contact form plugin.
Adding links to social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is also helpful.
The 20 Best College and University Websites
Now let’s cover twenty of the best university websites from around the world. For each one, we’ll draw a single actionable lesson that you can apply to your own site.
1. Harvard University
Harvard needs no introduction. As one of the top universities in the world, Harvard doesn’t need to do much explanation on their homepage. After all, everyone knows what Harvard is!
Instead, they have a uniquely designed page that highlights a particular project. In the example above, three Harvard experts explain how infrastructure (highways, electrical grids, etc.) works.
Is your university well-known in your geographic location or among your community? Try not to waste valuable homepage space explaining things that potential students likely already know. Instead, use the homepage as a blog to showcase exciting projects and news.
2. Lafayette College
A small private liberal arts college, Lafayette is known for its beautiful campus and architecture. So, it’s not surprising that their homepage contains a large image of Pardee Hall, a 19th century building that contains many academic departments.
If your campus is known for its beautiful architecture, parks, or other environmental elements, promote them. Everyone likes beautiful photos.
Adding them to a gallery is a great way to do this. You can easily create an inspirational photo gallery in WordPress.
3. Princeton University Press
As a famous Ivy League university, Princeton has a publishing department that is responsible for publishing new books by their faculty and staff. They share their recent publications on a special subdomain, which features the most recent and popular books.
If your university or college publishes works by staff and students, try creating a separate website or subdomain to display them all. This is a better solution than simply talking about them in a blog post or press release.
Creating a subdomain is easy and doesn’t take more than ten minutes.
4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
One of the best-known engineering and science colleges in the world, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A unique aspect of their website is the home page’s search bar.
Does your university have an extremely large number of academic programs, departments, and areas of interest? Think about placing a search bar in a prominent location on your home page and/or in the navigation bar. It will help visitors quickly find exactly what they’re looking for.
You can easily add a search box in Astra by using a shortcode.
5. The University of Melbourne
As Australia’s second-oldest university, the University of Melbourne has a magazine that features the latest developments, interviews, podcasts, and other content relating to the university.
Do you have a blog or magazine for your own university? If not, consider creating one. Magazines are an excellent way to share news, engage with alumni, and attract prospective students.
6. University of North Carolina
On their homepage, UNC has an informational section about their new gaming center, which is designed both for casual students and for serious professionals. This is no doubt appealing to many potential students.
Does your university have student centers, sports fields, or other amenities that are appealing to students? It can be helpful to mention them in a prominent place on your website.
7. Stanford University
Stanford is a world-famous university located in the heart of Silicon Valley. Well-known for its ties to the technology industry, the university is also known for its large campus, which is one of the largest of any university in the United States.
On campus, Stanford hosts a wide variety of events, which they share in an event calendar directly on their website’s homepage.
Are local events an important part of your educational institution? It’s a good idea to feature them on your home page and (COVID-permitting) share them with students, professors, alumni, potential attendees, and anyone else that is interested!
8. Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Located in Germany, this university has a rather long name! But, not to worry: they go by the abbreviation FAU and use fau.eu as a domain name. This ensures that discussing the university and visiting it’s website is easy to do.
Is the name of your educational institution long or difficult to spell? Consider opting for an abbreviation, especially when it comes to domain names.
9. University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame is a well-known university that is associated with the Catholic religion. As faith and service are important to the institution, they have a page explaining their values, which is linked to right in the top menu bar.
If your institution is affiliated with a particular religious or cultural group, think about mentioning it clearly on your home page. Many potential students (and parents) are looking for a university or school that aligns with their personal beliefs.
10. Bucknell University
A liberal arts college located in central Pennsylvania, Bucknell has an interesting feature on their homepage. Called Viewbook, the tool asks you a few questions about your academic background, educational goals, and other interests. Then, it emails you a customized guide that shows students what attending Bucknell would be like.
If you offer a huge number of different academic programs, see if you can build a recommendation system like Bucknell’s. It’s a great way to help potential students imagine themselves attending your institution.
11. Rhode Island School of Design
Colloquially known as RISD (pronounced rizz-dee), this school is well-known worldwide for its art and design programs. It’s not surprising, then, that their website is full of the artwork created by their students.
Do your students have “outputs” that translate well into visual images? Think about sharing them on your website! This applies not only to art schools, but also engineering, architecture, science, technology, and dozens of other fields.
Creating a photo gallery is easy to do with WordPress.
12. University of Michigan
A highly-ranked public university, Michigan is well known for its sports teams, which are easily identifiable by their blue and yellow color scheme. Their website uses these colors prominently, which helps cement the relationship between the website and the actual institution.
Are there a set of colors or other design elements strongly associated with your institution? See if you can incorporate them in your website design, too. The more unified your overall brand, the better!
13. Syracuse University
Located in upstate New York, Syracuse University is known for its wide variety of educational programs. On their homepage, a looping video shows an industrial design student walking through campus and working on a design project. This helps potential students imagine themselves attending the university.
To add a more personal touch to your website, why not add a video of a student going about their day? Be certain to include exterior shots of the campus, interiors of buildings, and other attractive spaces to add to its appeal.
14. IAAD – Istituto d’Arte Applicata e Design – The Italian University for Design
IAAD is a design school located in Turin, Italy. It offers degree programs in a variety of design fields, including communication design, fashion design, transportation design, and product design. The website’s use of bright colors, images, and bold fonts emphasizes the school’s unique focus on educating new designers.
If your university deals with art, design, or another visual field, it helps to have a creative design for your own website. Having a bland or generic website doesn’t make your university look like a creative place.
15. Brock University
Situated in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Brock is a Canadian university well known for both its green campus and its co-op program. The co-op program helps students gain experience in their field by completing multiple internships throughout their education. These internships then help students find jobs after graduation.
Many students are looking for real-world experience as a part of their educational program. If your university offers internships, co-ops, or other work opportunities, don’t forget to highlight them.
16. Kanazawa University
This Japanese university is based in the north-central city of Kanazawa. Although primarily a Japanese language university, over 6% of the student population is international. As such, they have an English version of their website.
Even if your university is located in a non-English speaking country, it is still very helpful to have an English version of the site available. Even having a few pages of content is English is better than none at all!
With Astra, creating a multilingual website is effortless.
17. Wheaton College
Located in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, Wheaton College is a private liberal arts college. The campus is located in a small town and is well known for its beautiful architecture. To highlight the campus, the home page contains a brief background view, which is shot from a drone and shows snow-covered buildings, students playing soccer, and a musical group during a performance.
Adding a video background to your homepage can give potential applicants a quick impression of your university. Especially if you use a drone to view the campus from above!
18. University of Wisconsin: Milwaukee
The University of Wisconsin System is a large university system with multiple campuses in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. One of the two major ones is located in Milwaukee. This site highlights some benefits of studying there, including tree-lined streets, proximity to downtown Milwaukee, and access to Lake Michigan.
If possible, highlight the advantages of your university’s campus, especially if they include things that students enjoy, such as outdoor activities or urban environments.
19. Virginia Commonwealth University
Commonly known as VCU, this university is based in Richmond, the capital of the state of Virginia. With over 31,000 students, VCU has a huge variety of different academic programs available. They help address this complexity by having clearly-labeled items in their menus on and on the homepage.
Does your university have tens of thousands of students and dozens of academic programs? Having easy to use and straightforward labels in your menus can help them navigate through your site.
20. Harvey Mudd College
Located in Claremont, California, Harvey Mudd is a private college specializing in science and engineering. Their website reflects this focus, showcasing the variety of projects students are working on, including aircraft, architecture, metal alloy research, and similar areas.
If your university is well-known for a particular academic field, it helps to highlight it on your home page. This is especially important if you aren’t as well known as Harvey Mudd College.
Using Astra to Create Your Own University, College, or Educational Website
Want to create a website for your university with WordPress? Consider using Astra, best WordPress theme for education websites. Our theme comes with over 150 premade templates, 3 of which are designed specifically for universities.
With one of our Astra premium plans, you’ll get access to 3 templates below, plus over a hundred others. They cover templates for kindergartens to video bloggers, so you won’t need to purchase any other theme ever again.
Astra also comes with dozens of other features, including:
- Create your own headers and footers by dragging-and-dropping
- Design your colors, typography, font size and other artistic elements
- Arrange layouts with masonry, grid, or in other configurations
- Mobile-optimized with only 50KB file size makes your site load extremely quickly
Read a full list of Astra’s features on our website or sign up for Astra Pro.
This template is ideal for smaller colleges and universities that want to highlight individual courses and teachers. The home page has sections for displaying benefits of attending your college, a photo gallery, popular courses, and other information blocks.
On other pages, you can display your full course catalog, display teacher profiles, share photos of your campus or classrooms, and let potential students register for courses.
As the name suggests, Music School is a template designed for music schools. It has designated sections for classes, teachers, instruments that you specialize in, photos of the campus, and a call-to-action button that leads to a registration page.
On the home page, you can share testimonials from current and former students, share photos of teachers, list your institution’s achievements, and embed a registration form.
This music website template is ideal for any educational institution that has a specific focus, including art schools, music schools, theatre schools, and similar organizations.
Sierra University is another theme ideal for universities and colleges that wish to showcase their course selections. On the home page, there is an “about us” section, a list of features and benefits, popular courses, and a photo gallery. Other pages include a courses listing page, teacher profiles, a photo gallery, and a contact page.
Recommended starter templates:
- School website designs and templates
- Website templates for college and university
- Education website templates and designs
Frequently asked questions
The following are some frequently asked questions about college and university websites.
How do I make my college website better?
You can make your college website better in a number of ways. Make it faster to load, easier to read, more engaging to use, more logical to navigate and quicker to find essential information. All those things require a little effort and planning but are made much easier by using an Astra Starter Template!
Best page builder for college or university websites
The best page builder for college or university websites is the one you’re happiest using. Many Starter Templates are compatible with Elementor, Beaver Builder, Brizy and the WordPress block editor (Gutenberg) so you’re covered whatever builder you like to use. Elementor is free and easy to use, Beaver Builder is powerful but premium and Brizy is somewhere in the middle.
What are the best themes for educational websites
We think the best theme for educational websites is Astra. It includes several high performance Starter Templates designed specifically for education, including for kindergarten, school, college and university. They install easily, load incredibly fast and are fully compatible with your favorite page builder. What’s not to love?
Now It’s Time to Build Your Own Website
Ready to build an awesome website for your university? No matter what kind of educational institution you are affiliated with, you’ll now be prepared to create the perfect website for it.
In this post, we learned about the elements that every university website needs to have. Then, we examined the 20 best websites from universities around the world.
Finally, we looked at the three Astra website templates that are designed for educational institutions. With Astra, you can quickly create a beautiful website in a matter of minutes.
What are your favorite education website? Did we miss any? Let us know below!
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