The world's 21 best universities by subject -- from biology to business management

Each year QS produces a comprehensive ranking of the world’s best universities, broken down by region and subject.

QS’s latest ranking was released on Wednesday, tracking the best schools on the planet in 48 different subject areas, including standard subjects like business and history, all the way to more obscure degrees such as mining.

In total, 22 different universities are considered to be the best in the world in at least one of the 48 subjects, although 19 schools top only one, with three taking the top spot in a combined 34 different subjects.

The three highest scoring universities are all hugely prestige, but many of the other schools featured are less well known and specialize in one or two areas.

Check out the list below. The number in brackets represents the number of academic disciplines in which each university topped a QS ranking.

University of Sussex — Sussex may not be hugely well-known around the world, but it has an impact globally thanks to its world leading programme in development studies.

Sapienza University of Rome — Rome was once the centre of the ancient world, so it’s hardly surprising that one of its universities leads the world for the study of classics and ancient history.

Wikimedia Commons

University of Sheffield — Located in Britain’s steel producing capital, Sheffield University is the best in the world for the study of library and information management. It shares that crown with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

University of Cambridge — While Cambridge is one of the best universities in the world overall, it only tops the charts for one subject, anthropology.

Shani Wijetilaka

Wageningen University — Located in the Dutch town of Wageningen, around 50 miles from the capital, Amsterdam, this university is paradise for students wanting to study degrees related to agriculture and forestry.

Wikipedia / CC 3.0

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill — As well as famously strong athletic programmes that have produced numerous NBA and NFL players, this American university is the joint best place on earth to study library and information management.

Royal College of Art — For the third consecutive year, London’s RCA is the best place on earth to study art and design focused subjects.

University of California, Davis — Just outside the city of Sacramento, Davis is one of the 10 constituent campuses of the University of California. It’s the place to go if you want to become a vet, ranking first of any university on earth for another year after topping the same category in 2016 and 2017.

The Juilliard School — New York’s Juilliard School is the most famous and best place on earth to study performing arts like drama, musical theatre, and dance.


University of Amsterdam — USC ranks first in the QS ranking for doing a degree in communications and media studies.

Anh nguyen, Youtube

University of Pittsburgh — Another school to excel in a single subject for several consecutive years, Pittsburgh is the go-to destination for philosophy students globally.

University of Hong Kong — If you want to spend your life ensuring people have a mouth full of perfect, white teeth, then the University of Hong Kong is the place to go. QS ranks it as the best school in the world when it comes to a dentistry degree. The university was the best in the world for dentistry for the last two years as well.

ETH, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology — ETH is home to the best degree programme for students wanting to study earth and marine sciences. The university boasts more than 20 Nobel Prizes, and once educated perhaps the world’s most famous scientist, Albert Einstein.

Lukas Koster, Flickr

University College London — QS ranks UCL’s Institute of Education as the best place on earth to study for a degree in education. It currently has over 4,000 students studying for a variety of education-based degrees.

Loughborough University — In the UK, Loughborough has a reputation for being incredibly good at student sport, as well as the teaching of sports science. That reputation is also global, with QS ranking it as the best university of earth for sport-related subjects.

Harshal Galgale/GNU Free Documentation Licence

University of California, Berkeley — Often regarded as the academic pinnacle of the University of California, Berkeley is located just across the bay from tech hub San Francisco. However, it’s not technology based subjects where Berkeley excels. QS ranks it as the best university in the world for studying environmental sciences for another year, having topped the same category in 2016 and 2017.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas — Las Vegas is synonymous with entertainment and its university is the best in the world for the teaching of subjects related to hospitality.

University of Pennsylvania — Located in Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, Penn is top of QS’ rankings when it comes to getting an education in nursing.

Oxford University — Last year the UK rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge was pretty close, but in 2017, Cambridge failed to top a single category, meaning that Oxford runs out comfortable winner. Among the five subjects where it is best in the world is English Language and Literature.

Sidharth Bhatia/Upsplash

Massachusetts Institute of Technology — Topping the chart in everything from architecture to mechanical engineering, MIT truly is one of the world’s global elite universities, and probably the best place on earth to study science. It’s the top for 13 subjects in total.

Harvard University — Harvard is the best university in the world for a third of the 48 subjects listed by QS, including heavy hitters like law, business and management, and politics and international studies.

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