Arts and humanities subject rankings 2022: results announced

Universities known for their focus on technology are improving in the arts and humanities

November 3, 2021
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Browse the full results of the World University Rankings 2022 subject table for arts and humanities

Technology-focused universities are rising up the arts and humanities subject rankings, possibly reflecting increasing collaboration between the two disciplines. 

A group of universities that Times Higher Education identified in 2018 as rapidly improving because of their technology-driven strategies are now climbing the THE arts and humanities tables.  

Of the 35 institutions that were categorised by THE as “technology challengers” and that are also ranked in the arts and humanities subject rankings, 22 have improved their scores. The universities were labelled technology challengers because of their strong track records in computer science and engineering and strong industry links, and many have innovation at the core of their strategies.

For example, Iowa State University has increased its score for arts and humanities by 10 points over the past two years and has moved from ranking in the 400+ band to the 251-300 band.

Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands, which is 21st in the world for engineering and 59th for computer science, has crept into the top 50 for the arts and humanities this year and is now in joint 42nd position.

Other universities with a technology focus but not grouped in the “technology challengers” list have also risen up the arts and humanities tables.

ETH Zurich, joint fourth in the world for computer science and ninth for engineering, is now in the top 50 for arts and humanities, in 49th position, up from 53rd last year.

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore is now in the 101-125 band, up from the 126-150 band last year, while Georgia Institute of Technology, 21st in the world for computer science, is now in the top 150 for arts and humanities.

Meanwhile, the arts and humanities table is topped by Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both famed for their technological focus.

The trend comes amid growing recognition that interdisciplinary working must be employed to solve the world’s biggest problems.

Robert Townsend, director of the humanities, arts and culture programmes at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, said he had noticed the trend of technology-focused universities expanding their offer in the arts and humanities, “most notably in the growing number of announcements about new medical humanities and digital humanities majors and minors”.

“Judging by the announcements, there is a growing recognition that science and technology programmes offer many career benefits but the skills and perspectives of the arts and humanities are urgently needed by every student,” he said.

In an article for THE, MIT deans Agustín Rayo and Hashim Sarkis write that the humanities “have an essential research role in problem-solving major civilisational issues” and they also “reliably contribute to well-being and a well-lived life”.

“The insights of science and engineering are, of course, crucial to addressing many of the world’s most urgent problems. But these fields operate within human societies, and can serve the world best when informed by the cultural, political, spatial, and economic complexities of human existence, beliefs, and ways of inhabiting the earth,” they write.

Ena Voûte, dean of the faculty of industrial design engineering at TU Delft, said she does not believe her university has changed its approach to the arts and humanities but that its work is now being recognised. She said technical universities employ lots of people with humanities and social science backgrounds and at TU Delft they integrate interdisciplinary working across the university.

“If technology works but people don’t like it, it’s not going to land,” Professor Voûte said.

Michael Hagner, professor of science studies at ETH Zurich, said it is “absolutely crucial” that students have access to STEM subjects and the humanities.

“If students learn about philosophical and historical perspectives with respect to their respective disciplines, this does not help them solve differential equations, but they begin to understand that the work of scientists is inevitably embedded in social, cultural and political contexts, and these contexts often inform their work,” he said. 

The publication of the arts and humanities subject rankings 2022 follows the release of 10 other subject-specific tables since September.

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