Harvard topped the league table in 11 different disciplines, and MIT in nine. In bronze position across subject discipline excellence was the UK’s University of Oxford, top of the league table for English Language & Literature, Geography and Modern Languages.
However, when comparing individual institutions by aggregated score for various subjects, (across academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations), interesting results are displayed.
For the subject of education, for example, it was the Institute of Education, part of the University of London, in top position.
Professor Chris Husbands, Director of the Institute of Education, said: “This is a fantastic endorsement of the outstanding quality of teaching and research at the Institute. The Institute has been a passionate advocate for Education for more than a century.”
Harvard was top in subject rankings for Accounting & Finance; Biological Sciences; Earth & Marine Sciences; Economics & Econometrics; Law; Mathematics; Medicine; Pharmacy & Pharmacology; Politics & International Studies; Psychology; Sociology.
Asia is a rising contender in STEM disciplines: it accounts for ten of the top 30 institutions in chemical, civil and electrical engineering, and eight in mechanical engineering.
Of the ten subjects with the most UK universities in the top 200, for example, only two are STEM disciplines (psychology and environmental sciences).
“It is a more targeted exercise that is responsive to the particular strengths of smaller institutions”
National University of Singapore makes the global top ten in all five of the engineering and technology disciplines, while Hong Kong accounts for three of the top 20 institutions for computer science: HKUST (11th), HKU (14th), and Chinese University of Hong Kong (18th).
“The UK remains second only to the US, but it now faces far stiffer competition in the STEM disciplines”, said QS head of research Ben Sowter. “The leading Asian institutions can now be considered serious global players, particularly in the fields of science and technology”.
Explaining why QS decided to gauge universities by subject, Danny Byrne, senior education editor, explained the company wanted to “provide a more targeted exercise that is responsive to the particular strengths of smaller institutions and those that specialise in a particular field or range of disciplines”.
He added, “Examples include the Institute of Education, which ranks number one in the world for education, but whose specialist strength in this area would not be picked up in an overall institutional ranking. Other institutions that rank number one globally in a particular discipline in which they excel include New York University (philosophy), University of Wisconson-Madison (communication and media studies), and University of California, Davis (agriculture and forestry).”