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Charting Your Course: Understanding University Rankings by Subject

30/05/202413 minute read
Charting Your Course: Understanding University Rankings by Subject

Choosing a university major is one of the most important decisions in your academic journey. As you’ll end up spending a lot of time and effort focusing on a specific discipline, it’s important not to make a rushed decision. It can be a challenging initial step, but understanding the intersection between your interests and strengths is key to making a well-informed decision.

University rankings can be a useful starting point in your search for potential universities, and some are stronger in certain subjects. To guide you in navigating this process, we’ll delve into how these rankings are determined, examine university rankings by subject, and offer tips for selecting your specialisation.

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How the Rankings are Determined

This article refers to QS’ World University Rankings by Subject 2024, and each programme is ranked according to five indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations per paper, H-index, and international research network. While these factors serve to give a general indication of a programme’s academic strength and employability, it’s important to consider other factors in tandem when making a decision.

Academic reputation

  • Highlights the universities that other academics consider to be excellent for research in the given area

Employee reputation

  • Drawn from survey responses worldwide, employers are asked to identify the institutions that they consider excellent for recruitment

Research citations per paper

  • Evaluates the impact and quality of the research output from each university

H-index

  • Based on the set of the academic’s most cited papers and the number of citations received, it measures the productivity and impact of a university academic or department

International research network

  • Reflects the ability of the institution to diversify the geography of their international research network by establishing partnerships with other institutions

University Rankings by Subject

1. Arts and Humanities

Linguistics

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Lancaster University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. University of Edinburgh
  6. University of Massachusetts Amherst
  7. Harvard University
  8. Stanford University
  9. National University of Singapore
  10. University of California, Berkeley

Music

  1. Royal College of Music
  2. Royal Academy of Music
  3. Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP)
  4. Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  5. The Juilliard School
  6. Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)
  7. The Gnessin Russian Academy of Music
  8. Moscow State Conservatory P.I. Tchaikovsky
  9. Curtis Institute of Music
  10. Shanghai Conservatory of Music

Arts and Design

  1. Royal College of Art
  2. University of the Arts London
  3. The New School
  4. Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. Pratt Institute
  7. Politecnico di Milano
  8. Aalto University
  9. Design Academy Eindhoven 
  10. School of the Art Institute of Chicago

History

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. London School of Economics and Political Science
  5. Yale University
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. Columbia University
  8. Stanford University
  9. Princeton University
  10. University of California, Los Angeles

English Language and Literature

  1. University of Oxford
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Harvard University
  4. University of California, Berkeley
  5. Yale University
  6. Stanford University
  7. University of California, Los Angeles
  8. Columbia University
  9. University of Edinburgh
  10. University of Toronto

2. Engineering and Technology

Computer Science and Information Systems

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Carnegie Mellon University 
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. University of California, Berkeley
  6. National University of Singapore
  7. Harvard University
  8. University of Cambridge
  9. ETH Zurich
  10. Nanyang Technological University

Data Science and AI

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Carnegie Mellon University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. University of Oxford
  5. Harvard University
  6. National University of Singapore
  7. ETH Zurich
  8. Nanyang Technological University
  9. University of Toronto 
  10. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology 

Engineering - Chemical

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. National University of Singapore
  6. ETH Zurich 
  7. University of Oxford
  8. Imperial College London
  9. Nanyang Technological University
  10. EPFL - École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne

Engineering - Electrical and Electronics

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. University of California, Berkeley
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. ETH Zurich
  6. National University of Singapore
  7. EPFL - École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
  8. Harvard University
  9. University of Oxford
  10. Nanyang Technological University

Engineering - Mechanical, Aeronautical, and Manufacturing Engineering

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Stanford University
  3. Delft University of Technology
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. Harvard University
  6. ETH Zurich
  7. National University of Singapore
  8. University of California, Berkeley
  9. Politecnico di Milano 
  10. University of Oxford

Engineering - Civil and Structural

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. University of California, Berkeley
  3. Delft University of Technology
  4. National University of Singapore
  5. ETH Zurich
  6. Tsinghua University
  7. Imperial College London
  8. University of Cambridge
  9. Nanyang Technological University
  10. Stanford University

3. Life Sciences and Medicine

Medicine

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford
  3. Stanford University
  4. Johns Hopkins University
  5. University of Cambridge
  6. University College London
  7. Karolinska Institutet 
  8. Imperial College London
  9. University of California, San Francisco
  10. Yale University

Dentistry

  1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor 
  2. Academic Centre for Dentistry Amsterdam (ACTA), Amsterdam the Netherlands 
  3. The University of Hong Kong
  4. Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU)
  5. King’s College London
  6. University of Bern
  7. Karolinska Institutet
  8. University of Zurich
  9. University of California, San Francisco
  10. Harvard University

Psychology

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. Stanford University
  5. University College London
  6. Yale University
  7. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
  8. University of Amsterdam
  9. University of California, Los Angeles 
  10. Columbia University

Veterinary Science

  1. Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  2. University of California, Davis
  3. Cornell University
  4. Vetsuisse Faculty Bern and Zurich 
  5. Utrecht University
  6. University of Pennsylvania
  7. Texas A&M University
  8. University of Guelph
  9. University of Edinburgh 
  10. Colorado State University

Biological Science

  1. Harvard University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. University of Cambridge
  6. ETH Zurich
  7. University College London 
  8. Imperial College London
  9. Yale University
  10. University of California, San Diego

4. Natural Sciences

Chemistry

  1. Harvard University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. Stanford University
  5. University of Oxford
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. National University of Singapore
  8. ETH Zurich 
  9. EPFL – École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
  10. Nanyang Technological University

Earth and Marine Sciences

  1. ETH Zurich
  2. Harvard University
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. University of Oxford
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. California Institute of Technology
  8. Stanford University
  9. Columbia University
  10. University of Washington 

Physics and Astronomy

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. Harvard University
  3. University of Oxford
  4. Stanford University
  5. University of Cambridge
  6. California Institute of Technology
  7. University of California, Berkeley
  8. ETH Zurich
  9. University of Tokyo
  10. Princeton University

Geography

  1. University of Oxford
  2. London School of Economics and Political Science 
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. Harvard University
  5. University of California, Berkeley
  6. National University of Singapore
  7. University College London
  8. Stanford University
  9. University of British Columbia
  10. University of California, Los Angeles

Geology

  1. ETH Zurich
  2. Harvard University
  3. University of Oxford
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. California Institute of Technology
  8. University of Washington
  9. Stanford University
  10. Columbia University

Mathematics

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. Harvard University
  6. University of California, Berkeley 
  7. Princeton University
  8. ETH Zurich
  9. Imperial College London
  10. National University of Singapore

5. Social Sciences and Management

Accounting and Finance

  1. Harvard University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. University of Chicago 
  6. London School of Economics and Political Science
  7. University of Cambridge
  8. University of Pennsylvania
  9. University of California, Berkeley
  10. New York University

Business and Management Studies

  1. Harvard University
  2. INSEAD
  3. London Business School
  4. Stanford University
  5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  6. University of Oxford
  7. University of Pennsylvania
  8. University of Cambridge
  9. Bocconi University 
  10. National University of Singapore

Economics and Econometrics

  1. Harvard University
  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Chicago 
  5. Princeton University
  6. University of California, Berkeley
  7. London School of Economics and Political Science
  8. Yale University
  9. University of Oxford
  10. University of Cambridge

Politics

  1. Harvard University
  2. Sciences Po 
  3. University of Oxford
  4. Princeton University
  5. London School of Economics and Political Science
  6. Stanford University
  7. University of Cambridge
  8. Australian National University
  9. University of California, Berkeley
  10. Yale University

Sociology

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford 
  3. Stanford University
  4. London School of Economics and Political Science
  5. University of California, Berkeley
  6. University of Cambridge
  7. Princeton University
  8. Yale University
  9. University of Chicago
  10. University of Wisconsin - Madison 

Law and Legal Studies

  1. Harvard University
  2. University of Oxford
  3. University of Cambridge
  4. Yale University
  5. Stanford University
  6. New York University
  7. London School of Economics and Political Science
  8. Columbia University 
  9. University of California, Berkeley
  10. University of Melbourne

How to Select Your Major

Personal interests

A strong desire and passion in a certain discipline ought to be a key consideration when selecting your major. Students who are passionate in their study tend to perform better, persist in their academic pursuits, and continue on working in a profession that they love. You’d also study alongside other students of similar interests who can become valuable connections in your professional network.

Though it can get tricky when identifying your own interests, there are many things that you can do to aid in your discovery. If you’re unfamiliar with your personality, taking a personality quiz can be an interesting initial step for finding a suitable major.

Try to explore any potential areas of study as early as possible! You can learn more by joining student clubs, volunteering, working part-time, taking up internships, attending events or even talking to professors and alumni. Such experiences expose yourself to diverse roles and disciplines, helping you get a clearer picture of careers in specific fields.

Academic strength

Your natural talents and academic strength should also be considered when selecting your specialisation. Don’t just follow the ambitions your parents set for you or go down a certain path purely for financial reasons - your strengths may be better suited elsewhere.

Your grades and standardised test scores are a good indicator of your academic strength! Combined with your natural talents, they can direct you towards a career path. For example, if you’re an analytical thinker with strong grades in Maths, a computer science major may be more fitting. Furthermore, your academic performance can also help you gauge your ability to handle challenging coursework, especially if you’re intending to apply for a rigorous course. Try to read up on your intended major’s expected workload and see if it suits you!

Career goals

Think about your career goals and what you intend to achieve. Do you want a fulfilling career? Are you driven to change the world? Do you prefer managing people or working collaboratively in teams? It’s important to figure out what matters most to you in terms of your career.

If you’re seeking to make an impact in people’s lives while earning an enviable salary, consider a career in dentistry or medicine. Ultimately, you should spend some time to reflect on your core values and what you value in a future career. Once you have a rough idea of your future goals, you can work backwards to identify a major.

Market demand

Employability is also a key concern for a lot of students and parents worldwide. Before you even commence higher education, it is beneficial to understand how the degree will help you in your career. As such, do some research and assess the career options available upon graduation. Look at whether fresh graduates are getting easily hired and whether you require further study or additional certifications for advanced roles. Employment surveys, job boards, and industry reports can reveal interesting insights about market demand and industry trends!

You can also find out the average salary of a university graduate in various fields. While it shouldn’t be the primary motivation for pursuing a specific pathway, a career with a high earning potential can be an indicator of a strong and competitive industry.

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