Best universities for arts and humanities subjects 2016

Find the best universities for arts and humanities using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data
July 15 2016

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

But 100 of the best schools for arts and humanities have been evaluated in a Times Higher Education ranking for 2015-16. So where should you go to study your arts or humanities major?

Nearly a third of all the best arts and humanities colleges 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 universities in each country, and there are four 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 top 50

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 within 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.

2. 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 to Jazz Age novels, from Plato to video art.

It has the world’s largest university library system, constituted by 79 individual libraries containing more than 18 million volumes.

The 209-acre main campus, about three miles away from downtown Boston, is home to freshman dorms, 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 CEOs of top companies.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Even though MIT is renowned for science, engineering and technology courses, all undergraduates must take a minimum of eight classes in humanities, arts and social sciences. This makes up about a quarter of all undergraduate class time.

One of the missions of MIT’s school of humanities is “making a better world” through great ideas. In particular, the school focuses on pioneering research and teaching about environmental issues, human health, social innovation and arts.

MIT has more than 11,000 students across all disciplines and a third of these students are international. The campus is based in Cambridge, just a short drive away from Boston.

Many buildings on campus were commissioned by the School of Architecture – the very first in the country.

Undergraduates are guaranteed housing in dormitories for four years and each residence has a unique environment.

In addition to famous scientists and business leaders, MIT also boasts many public servants, politicians and cultural leaders, including renowned journalists and architects.

4. 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 enrolled 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 of more than one subject area, 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.

5. 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. Almost 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, so that students can combine some degree subjects.

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Best universities for arts and humanities 2016

Click each institution to view its profile

Rank 2015-16




Stanford University

United States


Harvard University

United States


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

United States


University of Oxford

United Kingdom


University College London

United Kingdom


University of Cambridge

United Kingdom


University of California, Berkeley

United States


University of Chicago

United States


Princeton University

United States


Columbia University

United States


Yale University

United States


University of California, Los Angeles

United States


University of Pennsylvania

United States


University of Toronto



King’s College London

United Kingdom


University of Edinburgh

United Kingdom


Leiden University



Free University of Berlin



University of Michigan

United States


New York University

United States


Humboldt University of Berlin



Duke University

United States


LMU Munich



Heidelberg University



Cornell University

United States


University of York

United Kingdom


KU Leuven



Durham University

United Kingdom


University of Sydney



University of Warwick

United Kingdom


University of Amsterdam



Brown University

United States


Panthéon-Sorbonne University – Paris 1



McGill University



Johns Hopkins University

United States


University of Wisconsin-Madison

United States


Utrecht University



University of Melbourne



University of British Columbia



University of Manchester

United Kingdom


University of Texas at Austin

United States


Sapienza University of Rome



Australian National University



University of Tokyo



University of Hong Kong

Hong Kong


École Normale Supérieure



University of Vienna



Northwestern University

United States


University of Tübingen



University of California, Santa Barbara

United States


University of St Andrews

United Kingdom

The arts and humanities ranking covers the following 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

Best universities by subject

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