World University Rankings 2015-2016 by subject: arts and humanities results

UK maintains its strength in the arts while US loses ground

October 21, 2015
Baseball player Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays, falls on ground
Source: Alamy

View the full list of the world's top 100 universities for arts and humanities

The UK has stood its ground in this year’s Times Higher Education ranking for arts and humanities subjects, amid mounting pressure from continental Europe.

UK institutions make up a fifth of the top 100 list, the same proportion as last year, while five UK universities sit in the top 20, up from four last year. These are the University of Oxford (fourth), University College London (fifth), the University of Cambridge (sixth), King’s College London (15th) and the University of Edinburgh (16th).

Chris Wickham, head of Oxford’s humanities division, cited the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), which launched in May 2013, as one reason for its success in this area.

“TORCH is already a focus for cutting-edge research in interdisciplinary areas, and runs enthusiastically attended events, bringing together researchers from graduates to senior staff, in every one of our subject areas,” he said. “We will build on this in the future, for example in the area of digital humanities.”

However, Germany is the standout performer in the list with a total of 11 places, five more than last year, making it the third best represented nation. Its highest-ranked institution, the Free University of Berlin, makes the top 20 (18th) for the first time this year.

Switzerland has also upped its game with three institutions in the table, up from just one last year, while the top non-Anglo-American institution is the Netherlands’ Leiden University at 17th.

Overall, the US continues to dominate the table, but its grip is loosening. Although Stanford and Harvard universities hold on to the top two spots for the third year in a row, the US’ overall representation has dropped; it has 32 institutions in total, down from 35.

Melissa Nobles, dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which came third in the ranking, said she was concerned that federal funding for research across the US “wants to privilege science and technology at the expense of the humanities”, which could explain why the country has lost ground.

In reference to MIT’s success, she said that although the institution was renowned for its excellence in science and engineering, all undergraduates must take a minimum of eight classes out of a total of 17 (not including those required for major subjects) in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 

“The world’s problems are so complex they’re not only science and technological problems. They are as much human and moral problems,” she said.

The THE subject rankings use the same 13 performance indicators as the flagship World University Rankings but are recalibrated with different weightings to suit each field.

View the full methodology, along with the top 100 results for arts and humanities

World's top 10 universities for arts and humanities, 2015-2016

2015-16 Rank Institution Country
1 Stanford University United States
2 Harvard University United States
3 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States
4 University of Oxford United Kingdom
5 University College London (UCL) United Kingdom
6 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
7 University of California, Berkeley United States
8 University of Chicago United States
=9 Princeton University United States
=9 Columbia University United States

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Print headline: Germany advances, Britain holds firm and the US loses ground

Reader's comments (1)

If you're going to use an image of an "American" sport to illustrate the US losing ground, you should at least use an American team... that's the Toronto Blue Jays.

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