Recently, I spent time doing some research for a project that consisted of re-designing a website for an educational institution. I wanted to see what some of the higher profile universities and colleges were doing with their sites, but my findings were that most of them were completely outdated from a design standpoint, and not overly usable. The most common things I found were homepages that were extremely wordy and navigation systems that were far too complex. With tuition prices always on the rise, and the ever-growing importance having a strong online identity, I really feel that an Institution's website should be a priority. Especially since it is often the first thing that people see (from all over the world) when researching their education. With that being said, I did come across a few diamonds in the rough. Here are the top 5 best. The most surprising thing to me is that Harvard, MIT, Yale and other notable institutions didn't make the list...not even close.
While i'm not overly crazy about the balance of text, specifically in the programs area, this site still caught my eye. It has a great west coast 'cloudy day' color scheme. The header is given nice texture by the campus overlay. This site is elegant and calming.