Best universities for arts and humanities degrees 2020

Find the best universities for arts and humanities using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

十月 2 2019
Person reading book, Best universities for arts and humanities subjects 2016

Deciding where to study an arts or humanities degree is not easy, with hundreds of options all over the world.

But 536 of the top universities for arts and humanities have been ranked in the Times Higher Education arts and humanities ranking 2020. So where should you go to study your arts or humanities major?

About a quarter of all the best arts and humanities schools are in the US, but a number of European countries are well represented too; the top 100 includes a significant number of British, German and Dutch institutions.


Best universities worldwide

Best universities in the UK
Best universities in the United States
Best universities in Canada
Best universities in Australia
Best universities in South America
Best universities in France
Best universities in Germany
Best universities in the Netherlands
Best universities in Asia


If you’re hoping to study a humanities degree in Canada or Australia, each country offers a choice of 24 and 25 universities respectively, and there are 44 institutions in the top 500 across Asia.

Times Higher Education subject tables are based on the same 13 performance indicators used in the overall World University Rankings 2020. However, the methodology is carefully recalibrated for each subject, with the weightings changed to suit the individual fields. The full methodology can be found here.

Arts and humanities degrees covered in the ranking include history, literature, philosophy, languages and architecture (scroll down for a full list of subjects and what you can do with them).


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Does studying the liberal arts present you with too much choice?


Top 5 universities for arts and humanities degrees

1. Stanford University

When the university was established, the Stanford family said that their aim was to educate “cultured and useful citizens” and the university still counts its humanities courses as the “soul” of a Stanford education.

The School of Humanities and Sciences awards 63 per cent of all Stanford undergraduate degrees and almost 40 per cent of doctorates. Undergraduates are taught by faculty who are pioneers in their field.

Recent achievements in the school include a complex study of race and ethnicity, an online course on classical music appreciation and an award-winning radio show hosted by Stanford philosophy professors.

Stanford is based next to Palo Alto, known as Silicon Valley because of its density of high-tech and start-up companies. The spirit of entrepreneurship in the area was encouraged by the university itself in the early 20th century, and many Stanford students and graduates are involved at the highest levels with the world’s most influential technology companies.

Many of the students live in campus residences, near the university’s faculty buildings, museums and recreation spaces.

2. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is regularly ranked as a top university across a wide range of subjects. As one of the oldest universities in the world, its colleges and traditions are famous in the UK and beyond.

The university is based near London and attracts top scholars and distinguished visitors. More than 18,000 students are enrolled at the university across 31 colleges.

College life is central to the university experience. Undergraduates live in college for at least part of their time at university and are primarily taught by tutors in small groups.

Postgraduates, however, are more loosely affiliated to their college, although many participate in the recreational and academic life of college.

The School of Arts and Humanities teaches a variety of subjects, from Asian studies to history of art. Many research projects are collaborative and inform student learning at all levels.

Recent projects have explored flamenco dance and its cultural significance, and an undergraduate scheme to use architectural techniques to develop local allotments.

Notable Cambridge alumni in the arts and humanities include the philosopher Bertrand Russell, artist Quentin Blake and dramatist Christopher Marlowe.


What can you do with arts and humanities degrees?

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3. University of Oxford

As another of the world’s most prestigious institutions, the University of Oxford is hugely respected across all disciplines. The humanities division includes the faculties of music, history, classics and English language and literature, among others. 

There are about 20,000 students at the university, more than a third of whom are international. Students belong to a college, where undergraduates take the majority of their classes with just a few of their peers and a college tutor.

In line with the British higher education system, students entering Oxford are admitted for a specific course, in contrast to US institutions, where students can take a variety of courses before declaring their major.

It is possible for undergraduates to study for joint degrees, such as philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) – a course particularly well known at Oxford – and combinations of arts and sciences.

Many writers, actors, composers and other prominent personalities in arts and culture are Oxford graduates, including the novelist Graham Greene, actor Felicity Jones and screenwriter Richard Curtis. 

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Although well known as a leading university in science and technology teaching, the university also provides courses across the arts and humanities.

These include anthropology, history, linguistics, literature, media arts and sciences, and music and theatre arts.  

The School of Architecture and Planning was the first of its kind in the US and is known for commissioning progressive buildings on campus. 

The MIT library system is divided into five libraries, three of which are dedicated to the arts and humanities – Hayden (humanities and science), Lewis (music) and Rotch (arts and architecture). There are many notable collections within these libraries, such as the Lewis Music Library on 20th and 21st century music and electronic music.

MIT is affiliated with many thought leaders in the arts and humanities, including linguist Noam Chomsky, who used to work at the university. The institution has also produced four Pulitzer winners, and four current or former faculty are members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

5. Harvard University

Harvard is the oldest university in the US and one of the most prestigious in the world.

The arts and humanities division offers classes on topics ranging from Celtic myths and Jazz Age novels to Plato and video art.

It has the world’s largest university library system, consisting of 79 individual libraries containing more than 18 million volumes.

The main campus, about three miles from downtown Boston, is also home to freshman dormitories and undergraduate residential houses.

The university offers 46 undergraduate majors and 134 graduate degrees. According to the Harvard Office of Career Services, the extremely high rate of acceptance for Harvard alumni to graduate medical school is similar across both the humanities and sciences.

Notable alumni include many US presidents, cultural figures and chief executive officers of top companies.


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Best universities for arts and humanities 2020

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2020 profile

Arts and Humanities Rank 2020   Arts and Humanities Rank 2019  University Country/Region
 1   1  Stanford University United States
 2   4  University of Cambridge United Kingdom
 3   3  University of Oxford United Kingdom
 4   2  Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
 5   5  Harvard University United States
 6   6  UCL United Kingdom
 7   10  Princeton University United States
 8   8  University of Chicago United States
 9   7  Yale University United States
 10   9  University of California, Berkeley United States
 11   12  University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
 12   11  Columbia University United States
 13   13  University of Pennsylvania United States
 14   14  University of California, Los Angeles United States
 15   15  University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States
 16   16  LMU Munich Germany
 17   =18  New York University United States
 18   =18  University of Toronto Canada
 =19   20  Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
 =19   17  Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
 21   =23  Leiden University Netherlands
 22   28  KU Leuven Belgium
 23   =23  Peking University China
 24   26  King’s College London United Kingdom
 25   25  Free University of Berlin Germany
 26   22  Cornell University United States
 27   =30  Durham University United Kingdom
 28   27  London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom
 29   21  Duke University United States
 30   =30  University of Vienna Austria
 31   29  University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 32   35  Heidelberg University Germany
 33   33  Australian National University Australia
 34   43  University of Tübingen Germany
 35   32  National University of Singapore Singapore
 36   38  Johns Hopkins University United States
 37   36  University of Amsterdam Netherlands
 38   =48  The University of Tokyo Japan
 39   =54  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
 40   34  University of York United Kingdom
 41   47  University of Sydney Australia
 42   41  University of Melbourne Australia
 43   52  University of Manchester United Kingdom
 44   =48  University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
 45   51  McGill University Canada
 46   50  Tsinghua University China
 47   =54  University of St Andrews United Kingdom
 48   46  Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1 France
 49   37  ETH Zurich Switzerland
 50   =44  Lancaster University United Kingdom
 51   =44  University of Warwick United Kingdom
 =52   63  University of British Columbia Canada
 =52   42  Sorbonne University France
 54   53  University of Notre Dame United States
 55   40  Brown University United States
 56   =54  University of Freiburg Germany
 57   61  SOAS University of London United Kingdom
 58   71  Northwestern University United States
 59   =64  University of Texas at Austin United States
 60   =59  Carnegie Mellon University United States
 61   57  University of California, San Diego United States
 62   62  University of Sheffield United Kingdom
 63   58  University of Helsinki Finland
 64   =64  Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 65   70  University of Birmingham United Kingdom
 66   84  Sapienza University of Rome Italy
 =67   81  Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel
 =67   =87  University of Leeds United Kingdom
 69   =59  Ohio State University (Main campus) United States
 70   75  Utrecht University Netherlands
 71   68  University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus United States
 72   66  Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
 73   67  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
 =74   83  University of Groningen Netherlands
 =74   101–125  Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
 =76   =77  University of Copenhagen Denmark
 =76   =73  University of Geneva Switzerland
 78   NR  Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Italy
 79   76  University of Washington United States
 80   101–125  University of Arizona United States
 81   72  University of Southern California United States
 82   =73  University of California, Santa Barbara United States
 83   98  University of Exeter United Kingdom
 84   79  Ghent University Belgium
 85   =77  University of Zurich Switzerland
 86   69  University of Glasgow United Kingdom
 =87   93  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
 =87   82  University of Maryland, College Park United States
 89   101–125  University of Queensland Australia
 90   =87  Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
 91   86  University of Bristol United Kingdom
 =92   =90  Aarhus University Denmark
 =92   =87  Birkbeck, University of London United Kingdom
 =92   126–150  Fudan University China
 95   85  University of Oslo Norway
 96   92  Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
 97   100  University of Hamburg Germany
 =98   99  Georgetown University United States
 =98   80  Indiana University United States
 100   126–150  Macquarie University Australia
 101–125   126–150  University of Auckland New Zealand
 101–125   101–125  Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
 101–125   101–125  University of Barcelona Spain
 101–125   101–125  University of Bologna Italy
 101–125   101–125  Boston University United States
 101–125   101–125  University of California, Irvine United States
 101–125   101–125  University of Cologne Germany
 101–125   126–150  Complutense University of Madrid Spain
 101–125   NR  Goldsmiths, University of London United Kingdom
 101–125   126–150  Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong
 101–125   101–125  Kyoto University Japan
 101–125   94  Lund University Sweden
 101–125   101–125  University of Massachusetts United States
 101–125   101–125  Michigan State University United States
 101–125   101–125  Monash University Australia
 101–125   101–125  Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
 101–125   126–150  National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico
 101–125   =90  University of Nottingham United Kingdom
 101–125   101–125  Penn State (Main campus) United States
 101–125   126–150  University of Southampton United Kingdom
 101–125   95  Stockholm University Sweden
 101–125   126–150  Tilburg University Netherlands
 101–125   96  Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 101–125   97  Uppsala University Sweden
 101–125   101–125  University of Virginia (Main campus) United States
 126–150   101–125  Aalto University Finland
 126–150   126–150  Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
 126–150   151–175  Bar-Ilan University Israel
 126–150   101–125  University of Bern Switzerland
 126–150   101–125  University of California, Santa Cruz United States
 126–150   151–175  City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 126–150   126–150  Emory University United States
 126–150   126–150  Georgia Institute of Technology United States
 126–150   101–125  University of Göttingen Germany
 126–150   126–150  University of Leicester United Kingdom
 126–150   201–250  Loughborough University United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  University of Montreal Canada
 126–150   126–150  University of Münster Germany
 126–150   101–125  Nanjing University China
 126–150   101–125  National Taiwan University Taiwan
 126–150   176–200  University of Padua Italy
 126–150   NR  University of Paris France
 126–150   126–150  Pompeu Fabra University Spain
 126–150   126–150  University of Potsdam Germany
 126–150   176–200  Royal Holloway, University of London United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  Sun Yat-sen University China
 126–150   126–150  Technical University of Berlin Germany
 126–150   101–125  Tel Aviv University Israel
 126–150   126–150  UNSW Sydney Australia
 126–150   151–175  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
 126–150   101–125  Zhejiang University China
 151–175   101–125  University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
 151–175   176–200  University of Antwerp Belgium
 151–175   126–150  University of Basel Switzerland
 151–175   NR  Beijing Normal University China
 151–175   151–175  Boston College United States
 151–175   176–200  Cardiff University United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  Charles University in Prague Czech Republic
 151–175   151–175  Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands
 151–175   151–175  University of Fribourg Switzerland
 151–175   176–200  Goethe University Frankfurt Germany
 151–175   151–175  University of Hawai’i at Mānoa United States
 151–175   151–175  University of Lausanne Switzerland
 151–175   NR  University of Macau Macao
 151–175   151–175  University of Minnesota United States
 151–175   126–150  Newcastle University United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  University of Otago New Zealand
 151–175   126–150  Polytechnic University of Milan Italy
 151–175   151–175  Queen’s University Belfast United Kingdom
 151–175   126–150  University of Reading United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  Rice University United States
 151–175   151–175  University of São Paulo Brazil
 151–175   176–200  Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
 151–175   151–175  University of Sussex United Kingdom
 151–175   176–200  University College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 151–175   126–150  Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand
 151–175   201–250  Western Sydney University Australia
 151–175   151–175  University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
 176–200   201–250  University of Adelaide Australia
 176–200   126–150  University of Bergen Norway
 176–200   151–175  University of Bordeaux France
 176–200   201–250  University of Bremen Germany
 176–200   151–175  University of California, Davis United States
 176–200   151–175  University of Cape Town South Africa
 176–200   201–250  University of Colorado Boulder United States
 176–200   176–200  University of Connecticut United States
 176–200   176–200  Dartmouth College United States
 176–200   251–300  École Normale Supérieure de Lyon France
 176–200   201–250  University of Gothenburg Sweden
 176–200   201–250  Higher School of Economics Russian Federation
 176–200   151–175  University of Konstanz Germany
 176–200   176–200  La Trobe University Australia
 176–200   151–175  University of Liverpool United Kingdom
 176–200   201–250  Renmin University of China China
 176–200   NR  RWTH Aachen University Germany
 176–200   176–200  Seoul National University South Korea
 176–200   176–200  Simon Fraser University Canada
 176–200   176–200  University of Wollongong Australia
 176–200   201–250  University of Würzburg Germany
 176–200   151–175  York University Canada

Click here to view the entire arts and humanities ranking 

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