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What is the Difference Between R1 and R2 Universities?

Posted by Shelly Quance on 11/30/22 8:08 AM

  November 30, 2022    


At R1 institutions, research study spans the academic spectrum, engaging grad students with research opportunities from the creative arts and humanities to the social sciences and applied sciences.

R1 universities are at the forefront of research and innovation, and they receive federal and/or private funding specifically for their academic research.

The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Higher Education has classified approximately 146 U.S. institutions as having R1 status. In other words, R1 institutions are recognized as the best research universities in the country — and West Virginia University is one of them (and the only R1 institution in the state of West Virginia).

But what is the difference between R1 and R2 universities? Are they really that much different? Is it really worth choosing an R1 institution over one with R2 status? Let's talk about it.

️ Download WVU's Guide to Research-Based Graduate Programs.

Here's the difference between R1 and R2 universities.

There is a significant difference between the level of research and therefore, academic innovation that comes out of R1 universities as opposed to R2. Here are three specific (and significant) differences you should take note of. 

R1 institutions graduate more doctoral students than R2 institutions.

Research conducted at the graduate level cultivates a more comprehensive and cutting-edge knowledge base. Graduate programs offered at R1 institutions also foster a community that focuses on experimental learning and expands upon research, rather than solely focusing on existing facts in the field. In this way, R1 status universities help graduate students engage in cutting-edge research typically associated with PhD candidates. 

PhD candidates find that conducting research at an R1 institution greatly benefits their academic and professional path because they are actively engaged with the most recent findings coming out of their respective fields. For this reason, R1 institutions actually graduate more doctoral students than any other universities, including R2 status institutions. 


R1 institutions receive significantly more funding than R2 institutions.

R1 institutions are awarded significantly larger amounts of funding in comparison to R2 institutions. R1 institutions are required to have minimum funding of $43.8 million per academic year. R2 institutions have a much lower minimum funding requirement.

And because R1 institutions also employ research-driven faculty who are passionate about research and who are dedicated to staying at the forefront of innovation, most R1 universities actually bring in significantly more than the minimum funding requirement.

For instance, by the end of 2020, WVU's total sponsored expenditures for research funding was $172 million, and by the end of 2021, WVU was granted $203 million in external funding for research and other sponsored programs.


R1 institutions produce more accomplished researchers than R2 institutions.

Graduate students at R1 institutions are investigating new frontiers — looking at what has been discovered and making their own new discoveries.

With a graduate degree from an R1 university, research-driven students can expect to go out and be a leading scholar in their area, and they will be on the forefront of the next generation of people who are discovering great new ideas and changing and shaping the world.

At WVU specifically, you will go through a huge transformation, where you’ll move from being the student to being the professional — and then you’ll be ready to make a mark on the world.


Learn more about WVU's R1 status — connect with us!

At West Virginia University, you have the valuable opportunity of joining one of the best research universities in the United States. At an internationally recognized R1 institution, you will learn with and from a community of driven, research-focused professionals who are making a positive impact across industries.

West Virginia University offers many excellent graduate programs designed to prepare you for a successful career. For a list of current programs, visit our graduate programs page.

As you consider your next academic venture, we invite you to take advantage of a few of our resources: read more stories, subscribe to our podcast, and visit our resource library to learn more.


Learn more about obtaining a graduate degree at
one of the best research universities in the U.S. —
download WVU's Research Collaboration Guide!

Download Research Collaboration Guide

Topics: Industry Research & Advice

Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.


About the Blog

Deciding what graduate school to attend can be daunting at times, and navigating the admissions process can be that much more difficult. We hope to make the journey from considering graduate school to enrolling in a graduate program easier by publishing content that will be helpful to you as you discern if, when, and where, to pursue your next degree.

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