Subject ranking: US-UK bloc still on top but diversity grows

While still top performers, there is some evidence of a waning dominance on the part of universities in the United States and the United Kingdom in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings by subject – and a greater diversity in terms of both institutions and countries is emerging.

The THE World University Rankings 2024 by subject, released on 26 October 2023, measures performance across 11 key subjects and is compiled from data from THE’sWorld University Rankings 2024, a comprehensive global ranking assessing research-intensive universities from 108 countries and regions.

Universities from the US and UK take the number one positions across all 11 of the subject rankings, and three subjects – arts and humanities, life sciences and social sciences – have only UK and US universities in the top 10 this year. However, compared to World University Rankings 2020 the US-UK bloc is less prominent in the top 50 in social sciences, education, business and economics.

Phil Baty, THE chief global affairs officer, said: “THE World University Rankings by subject provide further evidence of a clear trend, which we also saw in the World Rankings, of the waning dominance of US-UK universities in higher education …

“East Asian nations continue to strengthen in key areas with Chinese universities, in particular, standing out, as well as those in Hong Kong and Singapore.”

The subject ranking uses the same 18 performance indicators (up from 13 last year) as the World University Rankings, which are grouped into five pillars: teaching; research quality; research environment; international outlook; and industry. Four of the five new metrics include three that look at research quality and one that examines patents in the industry pillar.

For subjects, the methodology is carefully recalibrated for each subject, with the weightings changed to suit the individual fields, according to the THE press release.

The UK’s University of Oxford claims the top spot in both clinical and health and computer science. US universities are first in the other nine subjects: arts and humanities, business and economics, education, engineering, law, life sciences, physical sciences, psychology and social sciences. According to the THE press release, the UK’s overall score has improved in all subjects this year

Harvard University and Stanford University in the United States top the most subject areas at three each. Harvard University tops engineering, law and life sciences, while Stanford tops arts and humanities, psychology and is joint top with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in social sciences. MIT comes top in business and economics (and joint top in social sciences).

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