Harvard heads the class in social sciences and arts

February 4, 2005

The Ivy League's crimson titan is trailed by the LSE in a US and UK-dominated playing field. Martin Ince assesses the top performers on a worldwide stage

Taking pole position in social sciences, arts and the humanities world tables will come as no surprise to Harvard University. The ranking afforded America's academic powerhouse merely confirms the status it achieved in our overall World University Rankings ( Times Higher , November 5 2004).

Although these disciplines are arguably the driving force behind its global performance, they are not its only strengths. Harvard came third - behind Oxford and Cambridge universities - in our rating of top science universities, although it slumped to 13 in our rankings for engineering and information technology (December 10 2004). Given the prominence of Harvard Medical School, it would be a shock if the institution did not do well in our final tables, on medicine.

Our tables show, via the normalised score column, which universities our peer-review college of 1,300 academics regard as the leaders in these fields. In addition, we reveal the organisations that produce the most highly cited papers in the social sciences.

These tables are part of a series that began with the overall World University Rankings and continued with discipline-specific tables for science, engineering and IT. The set will be completed in the next few weeks with biomedicine. Autumn will see the 2005-06 World University Rankings.

Although Harvard is the clear winner in the social sciences, which include key disciplines such as economics and politics, the London School of Economics has overtaken the rest of the competition to take second place.

There is then a clear gap between the LSE and the University of California, Berkeley, in third place.

The Top 100 Social Sciences Universities table (which, owing to a tied score, includes 101 institutions) also suggests that in terms of peer esteem, there is a substantial gap between the nine top institutions (all of which are American and British) and the rest. Despite its name, ninth-ranked Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a substantial business school, the Sloan School of Management, and a School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

The top 101 institutions chosen by our peer reviewers are spread across countries; a striking number given that the 200 institutions that comprise the World University Rankings are in 29 nations. Brazil and Pakistan appear here, despite not figuring in our top 200.

We also show citations per paper in the social sciences, derived from Thomson Scientific's Essential Science Indicators. It shows that social sciences are especially prone to reporting bias. Research carried out for the UK's Economic and Social Research Council suggests that the ESI covers journals that published 13 per cent of the education articles entered for the 2001 research assessment exercise, with other social sciences similarly underrepresented.

It is unlikely, given their peer-review esteem, that the LSE's staff produce papers that are cited only half as often as those by their Harvard contemporaries. At the same time, the ESI database finds no relevant publications from Tokyo, Beijing and Paris. But our peer reviewers agree with the citations data on the quality of social science in some surprising institutions. An example is the Indian Institutes of Technology, in 46th place, which has more citations per paper for its social science than some top 20 universities.

Our peer reviewers also agree with Thomson that the US is the world capital of social science research. They put 30 US institutions in the top 101, including three units of the University of California and a wide spread of other major multifaculty institutions.

Next in the list by number is the UK, with 12 entrants. They include two specialist London institutions, the LSE and the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the newly merged Manchester University.

* In the World University Rankings 2004, data for the two universities of Louvain and Leuven in Belgium were conflated erroneously. They will be listed separately in the 2005 tables.

Full tables here:

World's top arts and humanities universities  
World's top social science universities  
World's top non-universities in social science  

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