Best universities for arts and humanities degrees 2017

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

September 28 2016

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

But 101 of the best universities for arts and humanities have been ranked in a Times Higher Education ranking for 2016-2017. So where should you go to study your arts or humanities major?

More than a third 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 in English-speaking countries

Best universities in the UK
Best universities in the United States
Best universities in Canada
- Best universities in Australia

If you’re hoping to study a humanities degree in Canada or Australia, there’s a choice of three or four universities in each country, respectively, and there are six institutions in the top 100 across Asia.

The list of universities uses the same methodology as the THE’s World University Rankings, but with more weight given to teaching and research and less to citations, to reflect the discipline’s priorities.

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).

Best universities by region

- Best universities in South America
Best universities in France
Best universities in Germany
Best universities in the Netherlands
- Best universities in Asia

Top five universities for arts and humanities degrees

Scroll down for the full results

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 15,000 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 third in the world overall.

1. 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.

3. University of Oxford

As another of the world’s most prestigious institutions, Oxford is hugely respected across all disciplines. The humanities division includes the faculties of music, history, Classics, English language and literature and a number of other schools.

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 a 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 and the actor Hugh Grant.

4. University College London

UCL – as it is commonly known – is particularly renowned for arts and humanities, scoring significantly 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 the students are international.

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

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

5. University of Cambridge

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.

Resources: universities by degree subject

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- Best universities for social sciences


Best universities for arts and humanities 2016-2017

Click each institution to view its profile

Rank 2016-2017 University Country
=1 Stanford University United States
=1 Harvard University United States
3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
4 University College London United Kingdom
5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
=6 Princeton University United States
=6 Columbia University United States
8 Yale University United States
9 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
10 University of Chicago 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 Toronto Canada
16 King’s College London United Kingdom
17 New York University United States
18 University of Michigan United States
19 Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
20 KU Leuven Belgium
21 LMU Munich Germany
22 Free University of Berlin Germany
=23 Duke University United States
=23 Heidelberg University Germany
25 Australian National University Australia
26 Cornell University United States
27 Peking University China
28 Leiden University Netherlands
29 Durham University United Kingdom
30 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
31 University of York United Kingdom
32 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
33 Paris-Sorbonne University – Paris 4 France
34 Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1 France
35 University of Warwick United Kingdom
=36 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey United States
=36 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
38 University of Tübingen Germany
39 Brown University United States
40 McGill University Canada
41 University of Melbourne Australia
42 University of British Columbia Canada
43 University of Pittsburgh United States
44 Johns Hopkins University United States
45 École Normale Supérieure France
46 University of Notre Dame United States
47 University of Tokyo Japan
48 National University of Singapore Singapore
49 University of Sydney Australia
50 University of Vienna Austria
51 University of Texas at Austin United States
52 University of Manchester United Kingdom
53 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
54 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
=55 Aarhus University Denmark
=55 University of Helsinki Finland
57 Northwestern University United States
=58 Lancaster University United Kingdom
=58 ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich Switzerland
60 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
61 Utrecht University Netherlands
=62 Sapienza University of Rome Italy
=62 University of Southern California United States
64 University of Freiburg Germany
65 Carnegie Mellon University United States
=66 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
=66 Tsinghua University China
=66 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
69 Ohio State University United States
70 Birkbeck, University of London United Kingdom
=71 Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
=71 University of Copenhagen Denmark
73 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
74 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
75 Indiana University United States
76 University of Arizona United States
77 University of Zurich Switzerland
78 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
79 University of Groningen Netherlands
80 Georgetown University United States
81 University of Maryland, College Park United States
82 University of Exeter United Kingdom
=83 University of Cologne Germany
=83 University of Washington United States
85 University of Leeds United Kingdom
86 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
87 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
=88 University of Göttingen Germany
=88 Stockholm University Sweden
90 Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel
91 Pennsylvania State University United States
92 University of Massachusetts United States
93 Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
94 Boston University United States
95 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
96 University of Bristol United Kingdom
97 Macquarie University Australia
=98 University of California, San Diego United States
=98 University of Virginia United States
=100 Ghent University Belgium
=100 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain

Arts and humanities degrees:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Asian studies
  • Classics
  • Cultural studies
  • Dance
  • Film, radio and television
  • History
  • History and philosophy of science
  • Languages, philology and linguistic studies
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Theatre
  • Theology and religion
  • Arts and humanities – other topics


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