Best universities for social science degrees 2020

Find the best colleges for social sciences using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

十一月 6 2019
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Studying social sciences at university includes a range of subjects, from international relations to politics to geography.

Graduates of social science degrees go on to a wide range of careers in the public and private sectors.

Times Higher Education has published the 2020 ranking of the 720 best schools for social sciences across the world.

Almost a fifth of the list is made up of US universities – 149 institutions in total. European universities take 316 of the remaining spots while Australia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan are also represented.


Rankings by subject

Best universities for arts and humanities
Best universities for business and economics
Best universities for clinical, pre-clinical and health

Best universities for computer science
Best universities for engineering and technology
Best universities for life sciences

Best universities for physical sciences
Best universities for law degrees
Best universities for education degrees
Best universities for psychology degrees


Three UK institutions are in the top 10 (University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and London School of Economics and Political Science), while the remainder of the top 10 is dominated by US universities. 

The social sciences ranking uses the same methodology as the World University Rankings, but with less weight given to citations and more to research and teaching metrics. The full methodology can be found here

Scroll down for a full list of degrees covered by the ranking and what you can do with them. 


Best universities worldwide

Best universities in the world
Best universities in the United States
Best universities in the UK
Best universities in Canada
Best universities in Australia
Best universities in Europe


Top five universities for social sciences

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers many subjects, including politics and women’s and gender studies. The school’s roots lie in the university’s founding, when courses in psychology and political science were taught. 

The school produces a magazine called Said and Done, which highlights some of the research undertaken within the faculty.

All students at MIT are expected to take social science classes to help them solve “some of the world’s most challenging problems”.

As of 2019, four Nobel laureates, seven MacArthur Fellows and five Pulitzer prizewinners are faculty members.

2. University of Oxford

Perhaps the most famous social sciences degree at the University of Oxford is PPE: politics, philosophy and economics.

A number of influential politicians and public figures have earned an Oxford PPE degree, including a significant number of British prime ministers. Nobel Peace prizewinner and advocate for women’s education, Malala Yousafzai, is currently studying PPE at the institution. 

The social sciences division also tackles issues such as environmental change, poverty, cybercrime, political turmoil, social inequality and immigration.

Much of the social science research at Oxford is aimed at influencing policy in the UK and around the world.

Particular research strengths include big data, future cities, resource management and global economic performance.

Aside from PPE, undergraduate courses within the division include geography, archaeology and anthropology, and law and human sciences.

3. Harvard University

Social sciences at Harvard University is interdisciplinary.

Fields of study include economics, government, sociology, gender studies and psychology.

For all of these subjects, both undergraduates and graduates are expected to conduct empirical research and analyse data. Senior thesis projects can involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or both.

The Regan Fund at the university is used to invite famous speakers to Harvard to give lectures on economics, government and social problems around the world. These lectures are primarily aimed at undergraduates.

The social sciences division has relationships with a number of museums and research centres, including the Harvard-MIT Data Center and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.


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4. Stanford University

The social sciences department at Stanford University offers anthropology, communication, economics, political science, psychology and sociology courses.

Many programmes are interdisciplinary, including ethics in society, democracy, development and the rule of law and urban studies.

In political science classes, undergraduates study US politics and international political systems and relate them to conflict, social activism, ideology and race issues.

The department splits studies into five disciplines: US politics, comparative politics, international relations, political methodology and political theory.

The department of anthropology is known for an innovative approach that insists the subject must be studied in relation to contemporary affairs.

Students learn research methods and theory to carry them through the course of their choice.

5. University of Cambridge

The School of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge includes a wide range of disciplines.

The geographical range of study is broad with Centres of African, Latin American and South Asian Studies at the university, all of which have developed their own research profiles and have their own specialised members of staff. They also work across other departments in research initiatives and courses. 

The school also participates in university-wide research initiatives such as public health, global food security and energy and conservation. 

There are a range of undergraduate options for students to study as well as postgraduate and research posts. 


Student experience of the social sciences

From a waiter working in Singapore to becoming a Harvard graduate
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International perspective: a Filipino student in Hungary
Learning new things at Kobe University
Considering doing a master’s? Why not do it abroad
Brits in America: social studies?
A day in the life of a student in Canada


Best universities for social science degrees 2020

Click each institution to view its World University Ranking 2020 profile

Social Science Rank 2020  Social Science Rank 2019  University Country/Region
 1   3  Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
 2   1  University of Oxford United Kingdom
 3   4  Harvard University United States
 4   2  Stanford University United States
 5   6  University of Cambridge United Kingdom
 6   5  Princeton University United States
 7   7  London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom
 8   8  Yale University United States
 9   10  University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States
 10   9  University of Chicago United States
 11   14  UCL United Kingdom
 12   12  University of California, Los Angeles United States
 13   13  University of California, Berkeley United States
 14   15  University of Pennsylvania United States
 15   11  Columbia University United States
 16   19  Duke University United States
 17   17  New York University United States
 18   23  Peking University China
 19   18  Cornell University United States
 20   16  University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
 21   20  ETH Zurich Switzerland
 22   26  University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 =23   21  University of Amsterdam Netherlands
 =23   22  National University of Singapore Singapore
 25   24  University of Washington United States
 26   25  University of Toronto Canada
 27   27  Australian National University Australia
 =28   =29  University of British Columbia Canada
 =28   28  Johns Hopkins University United States
 =30   =31  University of Manchester United Kingdom
 =30   36  Tsinghua University China
 32   =29  Northwestern University United States
 33   =31  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
 34   42  University of Texas at Austin United States
 35   =33  University of Mannheim Germany
 36   36  University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
 37   50  University of Southern California United States
 =38   =33  King’s College London United Kingdom
 =38   41  Utrecht University Netherlands
 40   =54  University of Sussex United Kingdom
 41   35  University of California, San Diego United States
 42   57  Leiden University Netherlands
 =43   43  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
 =43   51  Ohio State University (Main campus) United States
 45   44  The University of Tokyo Japan
 =46   46  KU Leuven Belgium
 =46   40  McGill University Canada
 48   47  University of Essex United Kingdom
 49   39  Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
 50   70  Penn State (Main campus) United States
 51   61  The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
 52   38  Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
 53   53  Indiana University United States
 54   58  Georgetown University United States
 55   =73  Carnegie Mellon University United States
 56   49  Free University of Berlin Germany
 57   =62  University of Copenhagen Denmark
 58   47  Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 59   =54  University of Sheffield United Kingdom
 60   =59  University of Minnesota United States
 61   82  Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
 62   =66  Michigan State University United States
 63   45  Durham University United Kingdom
 64   52  University of Melbourne Australia
 65   =73  University of Maryland, College Park United States
 66   =59  Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
 67   61  LMU Munich Germany
 68   101–125  University of Arizona United States
 =69   84  University of Queensland Australia
 =69   =68  Sciences Po France
 71   93  Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands
 72   =66  University of Oslo Norway
 =73   81  Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
 =73   =62  University of Zurich Switzerland
 75   =62  University of California, Santa Barbara United States
 76   =54  Brown University United States
 77   72  Georgia Institute of Technology United States
 =78   94  University of California, Davis United States
 =78   71  Delft University of Technology Netherlands
 80   =77  Uppsala University Sweden
 =81   =68  University of California, Irvine United States
 =81   76  Lund University Sweden
 =81   =77  University of Warwick United Kingdom
 84   85  Aarhus University Denmark
 85   83  Kyoto University Japan
 =86   =97  Syracuse University United States
 =86   101–125  University of Vienna Austria
 =88   79  University of Konstanz Germany
 =88   80  Stockholm University Sweden
 90   86  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
 91   101–125  Washington University in St Louis United States
 92   89  University of Cape Town South Africa
 =93   88  Lancaster University United Kingdom
 =93   75  University of Twente Netherlands
 95   =91  University of York United Kingdom
 96   95  Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong
 97   =99  University of Sydney Australia
 98   101–125  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
 =99   101–125  Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel
 =99   101–125  UNSW Sydney Australia
 101–125   126–150  Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
 101–125   101–125  University of Bern Switzerland
 101–125   126–150  University of Birmingham United Kingdom
 101–125   126–150  Boston University United States
 101–125   =99  University of Bristol United Kingdom
 101–125   101–125  Cardiff University United Kingdom
 101–125   126–150  City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 101–125   126–150  University of Colorado Boulder United States
 101–125   126–150  Dartmouth College United States
 101–125   101–125  University of East Anglia United Kingdom
 101–125   90  University of Exeter United Kingdom
 101–125   126–150  Fudan University China
 101–125   101–125  George Washington University United States
 101–125   151–175  University of Georgia United States
 101–125   101–125  Ghent University Belgium
 101–125   NR  Goldsmiths, University of London United Kingdom
 101–125   87  University of Groningen Netherlands
 101–125   101–125  University of Leeds United Kingdom
 101–125   101–125  Loughborough University United Kingdom
 101–125   101–125  Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
 101–125   101–125  University of Montreal Canada
 101–125   176–200  University of Notre Dame United States
 101–125   =91  Seoul National University South Korea
 101–125   101–125  University of Tübingen Germany
 101–125   176–200  Vanderbilt University United States
 126–150   126–150  University of Antwerp Belgium
 126–150   126–150  University of California, Santa Cruz United States
 126–150   =97  Copenhagen Business School Denmark
 126–150   126–150  Emory University United States
 126–150   151–175  University of Geneva Switzerland
 126–150   101–125  University of Glasgow United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  University of Gothenburg Sweden
 126–150   151–175  University of Helsinki Finland
 126–150   126–150  University of Illinois at Chicago United States
 126–150   126–150  University of Luxembourg Luxembourg
 126–150   151–175  Monash University Australia
 126–150   126–150  National Taiwan University Taiwan
 126–150   126–150  University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus United States
 126–150   126–150  Pompeu Fabra University Spain
 126–150   126–150  Simon Fraser University Canada
 126–150   101–125  SOAS University of London United Kingdom
 126–150   151–175  Sorbonne University France
 126–150   151–175  University of Southampton United Kingdom
 126–150   101–125  University of St Andrews United Kingdom
 126–150   101–125  Technical University of Berlin Germany
 126–150   101–125  Tilburg University Netherlands
 126–150   101–125  Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 126–150   151–175  University of Virginia (Main campus) United States
 126–150   126–150  Vrije Universiteit Brussel Belgium
 126–150   126–150  University of Western Australia Australia
 151–175   176–200  Aalborg University Denmark
 151–175   126–150  University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  University of Auckland New Zealand
 151–175   NR  Beijing Normal University China
 151–175   176–200  University of Bologna Italy
 151–175   NR  University of Bonn Germany
 151–175   151–175  City, University of London United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  Clark University United States
 151–175   151–175  University of Florida United States
 151–175   96  University of Freiburg Germany
 151–175   126–150  University of Göttingen Germany
 151–175   151–175  University of Hamburg Germany
 151–175   176–200  University of Hawai’i at Mānoa United States
 151–175   126–150  Higher School of Economics Russian Federation
 151–175   151–175  University of Lausanne Switzerland
 151–175   101–125  Maastricht University Netherlands
 151–175   201–250  Murdoch University Australia
 151–175   176–200  Nanjing University China
 151–175   201–250  University of Nottingham United Kingdom
 151–175   201–250  University of Otago New Zealand
 151–175   151–175  Rice University United States
 151–175   NR  Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Italy
 151–175   NR  Télécom Paris France
 151–175   151–175  University of Waterloo Canada
 151–175   126–150  University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
 151–175   101–125  Zhejiang University China
 176–200   151–175  Aberystwyth University United Kingdom
 176–200   176–200  University of Bath United Kingdom
 176–200   201–250  University of Bergen Norway
 176–200   176–200  University of Bremen Germany
 176–200   251–300  University of Canberra Australia
 176–200   176–200  Drexel University United States
 176–200   126–150  École des Ponts ParisTech France
 176–200   176–200  Florida State University United States
 176–200   201–250  Griffith University Australia
 176–200   176–200  James Cook University Australia
 176–200   151–175  University of Kent United Kingdom
 176–200   NR  University of Klagenfurt Austria
 176–200   151–175  University of Leicester United Kingdom
 176–200   176–200  Université Libre de Bruxelles Belgium
 176–200   201–250  University of Liverpool United Kingdom
 176–200   176–200  University of Massachusetts United States
 176–200   126–150  Newcastle University United Kingdom
 176–200   201–250  Northeastern University United States
 176–200   201–250  Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
 176–200   251–300  Sapienza University of Rome Italy
 176–200   151–175  Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
 176–200   151–175  Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Sweden
 176–200   176–200  Tel Aviv University Israel
 176–200   151–175  Texas A&M University United States
 176–200   176–200  TU Dortmund University Germany
 176–200   176–200  University College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 176–200   151–175  University of Westminster United Kingdom
 176–200   176–200  Wuhan University China

Click here to view the full ranking for for social science degrees

Read more: The most detailed subject guide you will ever see to help you pick your degree 

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