Best universities for arts and humanities degrees 2021

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

October 28 2020
Person reading book, Best universities for arts and humanities subjects 2016

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

But 565 of the top universities for arts and humanities have been ranked in the Times Higher Education arts and humanities ranking 2021. So where should you go to study your arts or humanities major?

About a quarter of the best arts and humanities schools are in the US, but a number of European countries are well represented in the ranking, 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, these countries offer a choice of 25 and 26 universities respectively, and there are more than 40 institutions in the top 500 across Asia.

Times Higher Education subject tables are based on the same 13 performance indicators used in the overall World University Rankings 2021. 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 (scroll down 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 fields.

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 because of 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 faculty buildings, museums and recreation spaces.

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.

These include anthropology, history, linguistics, literature, media arts and sciences, and music and theatre arts.  

When the School of Architecture and Planning opened in 1868, it had the first department of architecture in the US and is still known for commissioning progressive buildings on campus. 

The MIT library system is divided into five libraries, three of which are dedicated to the arts and humanities – Hayden Library (humanities and sciences), Lewis Music Library and Rotch Library (art, architecture and planning). There are many notable collections within these libraries, such as the Lewis’ resources on 20th- and 21st-century music, hip-hop and electronic music.

MIT is affiliated with many thought leaders in the arts and humanities, including linguist Noam Chomsky, who is Institute Professor and  professor of linguistics (emeritus) at the university. The institution has produced six Pulitzer winners, and four current or former faculty are members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

3. 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 located about 100km north of London and attracts top scholars and distinguished visitors. More than 23,000 students are 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 tutors in small groups.

Postgraduates, however, are more loosely affiliated with their college, although many participate in recreational and academic life.

The School of Arts and Humanities teaches a variety of subjects, from Asian and Middle Eastern 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 used 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.


What can you do with arts and humanities degrees?

What can you do with an archaeology degree?
What can you do with an architecture degree?
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What can you do with a history degree?
What can you do with a linguistics degree?
What can you do with a languages degree?
What can you do with a philosophy degree?
What can you do with an English literature degree?
What can you do with an English language degree?
What can you do with a theology degree?


4. University of Oxford

As one 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, theology and religion, and English language and literature. 

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 dating back to the 14th century are Oxford graduates, including novelists J. R. R. Tolkien and Graham Greene and satirist Jonathan Swift. 

5. UCL

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities at UCL offers students a wide variety of courses, in departments including English language and literature, philosophy, information studies, Greek and Latin, fine art, and Hebrew and Jewish studies. 

The faculty also has a strong research output including an innovative digital project around transcribing the work of Jeremy Bentham, whose ideas contributed to the founding of UCL, and an exploration into the histories of the Italian mafias. 

Each year, the faculty hosts a Festival of Culture, which is a five-day event of talks, panels, live performances, walking tours, film screenings and exhibitions showcasing the research being undertaken at the university. 


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Best universities for arts and humanities 2021

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2021 profile

Arts and humanities Rank 2021  Arts and humanities rank 2020  University Country/region
 1   1  Stanford University United States
 2   4  Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
 3   2  University of Cambridge United Kingdom
 4   3  University of Oxford United Kingdom
 5   6  UCL United Kingdom
 6   5  Harvard University United States
 7   8  The University of Chicago United States
 8   10  University of California, Berkeley United States
 9   7  Princeton University United States
 10   11  University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
 11   9  Yale University United States
 12   14  University of California, Los Angeles United States
 13   12  Columbia University United States
 14   13  University of Pennsylvania United States
 15   18  University of Toronto Canada
 16   17  New York University United States
 17   15  University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States
 18   16  LMU Munich Germany
 19   27  Durham University United Kingdom
 20   =19  Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
 21   28  London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom
 =22   21  Leiden University Netherlands
 =22   =19  Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
 24   34  University of Tübingen Germany
 25   22  KU Leuven Belgium
 26   24  King’s College London United Kingdom
 27   25  Free University of Berlin Germany
 28   23  Peking University China
 29   26  Cornell University United States
 30   37  University of Amsterdam Netherlands
 31   42  University of Melbourne Australia
 32   29  Duke University United States
 33   32  Heidelberg University Germany
 34   30  University of Vienna Austria
 35   33  Australian National University Australia
 36   45  McGill University Canada
 37   35  National University of Singapore Singapore
 38   43  University of Manchester United Kingdom
 39   47  University of St Andrews United Kingdom
 40   39  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
 41   36  Johns Hopkins University United States
 42   31  University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 43   59  University of Texas at Austin United States
 44   41  University of Sydney Australia
 45   40  University of York United Kingdom
 46   =52  University of British Columbia Canada
 =47   =76  University of Copenhagen Denmark
 =47   38  The University of Tokyo Japan
 49   54  University of Notre Dame United States
 =50   48  Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1 France
 =50   51  University of Warwick United Kingdom
 52   56  University of Freiburg Germany
 53   49  ETH Zurich Switzerland
 54   70  Utrecht University Netherlands
 55   50  Lancaster University United Kingdom
 56   46  Tsinghua University China
 57   55  Brown University United States
 =58   61  University of California, San Diego United States
 =58   =52  Sorbonne University France
 60   44  University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
 61   66  Sapienza University of Rome Italy
 62   63  University of Helsinki Finland
 63   58  Northwestern University United States
 64   =67  Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel
 65   NR  Delft University of Technology Netherlands
 66   57  SOAS University of London United Kingdom
 67   62  University of Sheffield United Kingdom
 68   71  University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus United States
 69   84  Ghent University Belgium
 70   65  University of Birmingham United Kingdom
 71   85  University of Zurich Switzerland
 72   72  Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
 73   =67  University of Leeds United Kingdom
 74   101–125  Monash University Australia
 =75   =92  Aarhus University Denmark
 =75   =74  University of Groningen Netherlands
 =77   60  Carnegie Mellon University United States
 =77   73  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
 79   86  University of Glasgow United Kingdom
 80   80  University of Arizona United States
 81   =74  Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
 82   95  University of Oslo Norway
 83   79  University of Washington United States
 84   83  University of Exeter United Kingdom
 85   101–125  University of Bologna Italy
 86   97  University of Hamburg Germany
 87   89  The University of Queensland Australia
 88   91  University of Bristol United Kingdom
 89   81  University of Southern California United States
 =90   100  Macquarie University Australia
 =90   =87  University of Maryland, College Park United States
 92   101–125  University of Auckland New Zealand
 =93   101–125  Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
 =93   69  Ohio State University (Main campus) United States
 95   =92  Birkbeck, University of London United Kingdom
 96   =98  Indiana University United States
 97   101–125  Stockholm University Sweden
 =98   82  University of California, Santa Barbara United States
 =98   64  Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 100   96  Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
 101–125   101–125  University of Barcelona Spain
 101–125   101–125  Boston University United States
 101–125   101–125  University of California, Irvine United States
 101–125   101–125  University of Cologne Germany
 101–125   =92  Fudan University China
 101–125   =76  University of Geneva Switzerland
 101–125   =98  Georgetown University United States
 101–125   =87  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
 101–125   101–125  Kyoto University Japan
 101–125   90  Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
 101–125   101–125  Lund University Sweden
 101–125   101–125  University of Massachusetts United States
 101–125   101–125  Michigan State University United States
 101–125   126–150  University of Münster Germany
 101–125   101–125  National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico
 101–125   101–125  University of Nottingham United Kingdom
 101–125   101–125  Penn State (Main campus) United States
 101–125   78  Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa Italy
 101–125   101–125  University of Southampton United Kingdom
 101–125   126–150  Tel Aviv University Israel
 101–125   101–125  Tilburg University Netherlands
 101–125   101–125  Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 101–125   101–125  Uppsala University Sweden
 101–125   101–125  University of Virginia (Main campus) United States
 101–125   126–150  Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
 126–150   151–175  University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
 126–150   176–200  University of Adelaide Australia
 126–150   151–175  University of Antwerp Belgium
 126–150   151–175  University of Basel Switzerland
 126–150   126–150  University of Bern Switzerland
 126–150   126–150  University of California, Santa Cruz United States
 126–150   101–125  Complutense University of Madrid Spain
 126–150   201–250  Eindhoven University of Technology Netherlands
 126–150   126–150  Emory University United States
 126–150   151–175  Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands
 126–150   151–175  Goethe University Frankfurt Germany
 126–150   126–150  University of Göttingen Germany
 126–150   151–175  University of Hawai’i at Mānoa United States
 126–150   101–125  Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong
 126–150   126–150  University of Montreal Canada
 126–150   101–125  Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
 126–150   151–175  Newcastle University United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  University of Padua Italy
 126–150   126–150  Pompeu Fabra University Spain
 126–150   126–150  University of Potsdam Germany
 126–150   151–175  University of Reading United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  Royal Holloway, University of London United Kingdom
 126–150   126–150  Technical University of Berlin Germany
 126–150   126–150  UNSW Sydney Australia
 126–150   151–175  University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
 126–150   176–200  University of Wollongong Australia
 126–150   126–150  Zhejiang University China
 151–175   126–150  Aalto University Finland
 151–175   126–150  Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
 151–175   126–150  Bar-Ilan University Israel
 151–175   176–200  University of California, Davis United States
 151–175   151–175  Cardiff University United Kingdom
 151–175   176–200  University of Colorado Boulder United States
 151–175   126–150  Georgia Institute of Technology United States
 151–175   201–250  University of Graz Austria
 151–175   176–200  University of Konstanz Germany
 151–175   126–150  University of Leicester United Kingdom
 151–175   176–200  University of Liverpool United Kingdom
 151–175   126–150  Loughborough University United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  University of Minnesota United States
 151–175   126–150  National Taiwan University (NTU) Taiwan
 151–175   151–175  Polytechnic University of Milan Italy
 151–175   151–175  Queen’s University Belfast United Kingdom
 151–175   151–175  University of São Paulo Brazil
 151–175   176–200  Seoul National University South Korea
 151–175   151–175  Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
 151–175   176–200  Simon Fraser University Canada
 151–175   201–250  Tomsk State University Russian Federation
 151–175   151–175  University College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 151–175   151–175  Western Sydney University Australia
 151–175   176–200  York University Canada
 176–200   201–250  University of Alberta Canada
 176–200   176–200  University of Bordeaux France
 176–200   151–175  Boston College United States
 176–200   201–250  University of Campinas Brazil
 176–200   176–200  University of Connecticut United States
 176–200   201–250  Curtin University Australia
 176–200   251–300  Dublin City University Republic of Ireland
 176–200   151–175  University of Fribourg Switzerland
 176–200   101–125  Goldsmiths, University of London United Kingdom
 176–200   176–200  University of Gothenburg Sweden
 176–200   251–300  Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz Germany
 176–200   176–200  La Trobe University Australia
 176–200   151–175  University of Lausanne Switzerland
 176–200   126–150  Nanjing University China
 176–200   201–250  National Taiwan Normal University Taiwan
 176–200   126–150  University of Paris France
 176–200   201–250  Queensland University of Technology Australia
 176–200   151–175  Rice University United States
 176–200   201–250  RMIT University Australia
 176–200   201–250  Ruhr University Bochum Germany
 176–200   151–175  University of Sussex United Kingdom
 176–200   201–250  University of Technology Sydney Australia
 176–200   201–250  Washington University in St Louis United States
 176–200   201–250  Western University Canada

Click here to view the full ranking for arts and humanities degrees 

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