The sixth edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject, features a record-breaking 42 disciplines, making it the largest-ever ranking of its kind. UK’s universities provide world-leading courses in eight of the forty-two subject tables, second only to the United States. A UK institution leads the world tables for both Mathematics and English Language and Literature.
The United Kingdom’s universities also secure sixteen second-place ranks and 21 third-place ranks, illustrating the depth and breadth of world-class UK education.
The expert opinion of 76,798 academics and 44,426 employers informed the results, alongside the analysis of 28.5 million research papers and over 113 million citations sourced from the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database.
Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continue to dominate, leading in 24 subjects between them. Each takes twelve leading positions. The UK splits their eight first-place finishes between four universities. The University of Oxford leads four tables, edging out its perennial rival, the University of Cambridge, which leads three.
QS WUR by Subject 2016 - UK World-Leaders
UniversityCourseRank 2016Rank 2015
Royal College of ArtArt & Design1st1st
UCL Institute of Education | University College LondonEducation1st1st
University of CambridgeMathematics1st2nd
University of Cambridge
University of OxfordHistory1st (shared)2nd/3rd respectively
University of CambridgeArchaeology1stNew Ranking
University of OxfordModern Languages1st1st
University of OxfordGeography1st1st
University of OxfordEnglish Language and Literature1st2nd
In total, subjects provided by UK-based universities occupy 120 top-ten places. These 120 places are taken by twenty-four different universities, highlighting the UK’s immense strength in depth. Moreover, the UK can boast at least one top-ten course in 41 of QS’s 42 subject tables.
UK’s Top-10 Universities: Top Six
UniversityNumber of courses ranked overallNumber of top-10 coursesBest SubjectBest Rank
University of Cambridge3736[Three subjects]1st
University of Oxford3633[Four subjects]1st
London School of Economics1713Social Policy & Administration2nd
Imperial College London199Materials Science3rd
University College London358Education1st
King’s College London293Dentistry;Pharmacy & Pharmacology4t
The UK’s universities are enjoying greater repute among academics than before, producing more employable graduates than before, and producing more impactful research than before. In 2015, its universities averaged a weighted score of 64.56 for academic reputation; this year, that figure rises to 66.15. They averaged 68.81 for employer reputation, which increases to 68.96. Their citations average rises from 81.65 to 82.39 year-on-year, and their h-index (a measure of the productivity and citations impact of a faculty’s researchers) rises, on average, from 73.93 to 74.44.
In fact, a UK university provides the benchmark for graduate employability - by achieving a score of 100 for employer reputation - in 26 different subjects. Not only this, its average employer reputation score well outstrips that achieved by the United States. For a full explanation of QS’s methodology, click here.
Ben Sowter, Head of the QS Intelligence Unit, said: “Though the US and UK remain dominant, our most inclusive rankings ever show that excellence can be found in an ever-increasing number of places. Nations like Austria, South Africa, Finland, Brazil, China, and Sweden can be found in the top ten of our tables. Our new top 100 for Performing Arts acknowledges academic excellence in 27 different countries, while our top 100 for Mineral Engineering recognises it in 26.”
QS Quacquarelli Symonds have been providing expert insight and analysis for both the higher education and the business sector since 1990. The QS World University Rankings are the world’s most popular based on Alexa data and other social media metrics. The annual World University Rankings by Subject provide employers, students, parents, and academics with the most comprehensive insight into global university performance at the subject level. They can be found in their entirety here.