Best universities for arts and humanities degrees 2018

Find the best universities for arts and humanities using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2018 data

September 13 2017
Person reading book, Best universities for arts and humanities subjects 2016

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

But 400 of the top universities for arts and humanities have been ranked in the Times Higher Education arts and humanities ranking 2018. 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 United States, 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, there’s a choice of about 20 or 25 universities in each country respectively, and there are some 30 institutions in the top 400 across Asia.

Times Higher Education subject tables are based on the same 13 performance indicators used in the overall World University Rankings 2018. 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 (see the bottom of the page for a full list of subjects and what you can do with them).

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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 for 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 many faculty buildings, museums and recreation spaces.

In addition to its top position for arts and humanities, Stanford is ranked joint third in the world overall.

2. 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.

This includes anthropology, history, linguistics, literature, media arts and sciences and music and theatre arts.  

The School of Architecture and Planning was the first in the United States and is known for commissioning progressive buildings across the campus. 

The MIT library system is divided up into five libraries with three of them 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 with one of them being 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 university has also produced four Pulitzer Prize winning writers and four current or former faculty are members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

3. Harvard University

Harvard is the oldest university in the United States 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, constituted by 79 individual libraries containing more than 18 million volumes.

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

In total, 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.

4. 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. 

=5. 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. There are more than 18,000 students 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 college tutors in small groups.

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

The School of Arts and Humanities covers a variety of subjects, from Asian studies to the 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.

=5. University College London

UCL – as it is commonly known – is particularly renowned for arts and humanities, scoring higher in the humanities ranking than the overall rankings.

The university was founded in 1826 with the aim of educating people typically excluded from higher education. Since then it has been the birthplace of numerous discoveries and intellectual movements. Mahatma Gandhi attended the university before being called to the Bar in London.

All first-year undergraduates are guaranteed accommodation, as are first-year international postgraduates.

UCL is the largest university in the top five based on the sheer number of students – almost 30,000. About half of the students are international.

There are more than 150 clubs and societies, ranging from student newspapers to film societies.

Like the University of Oxford, UCL offers single honours and joint honours degrees.

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Best universities for arts and humanities 2018

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2018 profile

Arts and humanities rank 2018 University Country
1 Stanford University United States
2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
3 Harvard University United States
4 University of Oxford United Kingdom
=5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
=5 University College London United Kingdom
7 University of Chicago United States
8 Princeton University United States
9 Yale University United States
10 Columbia University United States
11 University of California, Berkeley United States
12 University of Pennsylvania United States
13 University of California, Los Angeles United States
14 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
=15 University of Michigan United States
=15 University of Toronto Canada
17 Peking University China
18 Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
19 New York University United States
20 King’s College London United Kingdom
21 LMU Munich Germany
22 KU Leuven Belgium
23 Duke University United States
24 Free University of Berlin Germany
=25 Cornell University United States
=25 Leiden University Netherlands
27 Heidelberg University Germany
28 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
29 Durham University United Kingdom
30 National University of Singapore Singapore
31 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
32 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
33 Australian National University Australia
34 Brown University United States
35 University of Melbourne Australia
36 Johns Hopkins University United States
37 University of Warwick United Kingdom
38 University of Tübingen Germany
=39 McGill University Canada
=39 Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1 France
41 University of Vienna Austria
42 University of York United Kingdom
43 University of Notre Dame United States
44 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
45 University of Tokyo Japan
46 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
47 University of Freiburg Germany
48 Tsinghua University China
49 University of British Columbia Canada
50 University of Manchester United Kingdom
51 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
52 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
53 University of Pittsburgh United States
54 Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4 France
=55 Lancaster University United Kingdom
=55 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
57 University of Helsinki Finland
58 University of Sydney Australia
59 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
60 Utrecht University Netherlands
61 Indiana University United States
62 Ohio State University United States
=63 University of California, San Diego United States
=63 University of Copenhagen Denmark
65 Aarhus University Denmark
66 University of Texas at Austin United States
67 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
68 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
69 Carnegie Mellon University United States
70 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
71 University of Southern California United States
72 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
73 Ghent University Belgium
74 Sapienza University of Rome Italy
=75 Northwestern University United States
=75 University of Washington United States
=77 University of Maryland, College Park United States
=77 Soas, University of London United Kingdom
79 University of Groningen Netherlands
80 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
81 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
=82 University of Massachusetts United States
=82 Stockholm University Sweden
84 Lund University Sweden
=85 University of Leeds United Kingdom
=85 Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
87 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
88 University of Zurich Switzerland
89 Georgetown University United States
90 University of Geneva Switzerland
=91 University of Bristol United Kingdom
=91 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
=91 University of Cologne Germany
=91 University of Göttingen Germany
95 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
96 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
97 Birkbeck, University of London United Kingdom
98 Uppsala University Sweden
99 University of Exeter United Kingdom
100 Kyoto University Japan

Click here to view all 400 top universities for arts and humanities degrees

What can you do with arts and humanities degrees?

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Read more: unsure of which subject to study at university? This comprehensive guide can help you out

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