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
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
Top five universities for arts and humanities degrees
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 arts and humanities 2016-2017
Click each institution to view its profile
Arts and humanities degrees:
- Asian studies
- Cultural studies
- Film, radio and television
- History and philosophy of science
- Languages, philology and linguistic studies
- Theology and religion
- Arts and humanities – other topics