Best universities for life sciences degrees 2022

Find the best universities for life sciences using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2022 data

Rankings for Students
September 16 2021
Looking through a microscope


If you’re choosing where to study pharmacy, biochemistry, zoology or other related subjects, Times Higher Education’s ranking for life sciences can help you find the best universities in the world for your degree.

The top colleges for life sciences are concentrated in the US and the UK: 197 of the 972 universities in the THE ranking for life sciences are in these two countries.

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Older prestigious institutions take the top spots, including Harvard University in first place, with the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology following closely behind.

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Life sciences takes in a range of subjects, from forestry to biotechnology. A full list of degrees and what you can do with them appears below.

Graduates of life sciences degrees go on to work in a variety of fields. Many jobs directly use life science research and knowledge, such as roles in pharmaceutical companies, environmental work and even forensic science.

The life sciences ranking assesses universities using 13 indicators of excellence that evaluate teaching, research, research influence, innovation and international outlook. The full methodology can be found here.

Best universities for life sciences degrees in Canada
Best universities for life science degrees in the US
Best universities for life sciences degrees in the UK
Best universities for life sciences degrees in Australia

Top five universities for life sciences degrees

1. Harvard University

As is the case at many US colleges, undergraduates at Harvard University have the opportunity to take a variety of different courses before declaring a major subject.

Within life sciences, there are many interdisciplinary foundational courses grouped in nine concentrations to help students “explore the diversity of living systems”. The majors include biomedical engineering, neurobiology and human evolutionary biology.

Students are encouraged to do their own original research, and many courses are hands-on.

According to the university, life science graduates often go on to postgraduate work, including medical or scientific research. Other graduates have recently pursued careers in business, consulting and environmental advocacy.

Harvard is perhaps the world’s best-known university; it regularly takes the top spot in global reputation surveys. It has built its reputation, wealth and influence over more than 400 years, having been founded in 1636.

Although tuition is expensive, students from low-income families are fully supported by university grants.

2. University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge, in the UK, is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious higher education institutions, and it follows a collegiate system.

Its School of Biological Sciences contains nine departments and various research centres, including the departments of biochemistry, pharmacology and zoology.

There is also a Graduate School of Life Sciences, which is responsible for master’s degrees and doctorates.

Four major undergraduate programmes in life sciences are offered: biological sciences as a natural science specialism, a pre-clinical veterinary science programme, a psychological and behavioural sciences programme, and medical science.

Students have close interaction with teachers through the tutorial system and are automatically members of their college community, where they eat meals, live in college-owned buildings and attend recreational activities.

Charles Darwin, perhaps the most famous life scientist of them all, was an alumnus of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and many other prominent biologists have studied or taught at the university.

=3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Many academic departments at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer courses in life sciences subjects, to contribute towards a major or minor degree subject.

Courses range from biological engineering – a pioneering new discipline that combines principles of engineering and biological systems – to “Science, technology and society”, which offers a more comprehensive overview of life sciences and its applications.

The university offers undergraduate and postgraduate life sciences degrees. Although an undergraduate major in a life science subject is excellent preparation for many jobs, further study in health sciences or engineering is a common post-graduation option.

Many life sciences graduates will continue on to medical school. Other career paths suggested by the School of Life Sciences are finance, intellectual property law and forensics.

Across all science and technology disciplines, MIT has an excellent reputation, and admission is accordingly very selective; only 8 per cent of applicants win a place, although life sciences programmes are not quite as competitive as computer science and engineering courses.

More than 80 affiliates of the university have won Nobel prizes, and many more have achieved recognition through other awards.

What can you do with a life sciences degree?

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What can you do with a veterinary science degree?

=3. University of Oxford

Life sciences degrees at the University of Oxford are spread across a number of specialised departments within both the science and the clinical divisions of the university.

Oxford is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities. It lies an hour west of London and is renowned for its architecturally impressive colleges dotted around the centre of the small town.

Many world-leading academics work at the university. Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist, is affiliated to the university and can often be seen around town or at public events.

Oxford students belong to a college, where they live, eat and attend small-group tutorials with teachers. Postgraduate students are more likely to live off campus and will not necessarily be taught within their college.

In general, Oxford graduates progress to high-profile careers, and many prominent politicians, cultural figures and award-winning scientists are associated with the university.

5. Princeton University

Princeton is one of the oldest universities in the US and is considered one of the most prestigious.

Princeton is also one of the world’s foremost research universities with connections to more than 40 Nobel laureates, 17 winners of the National Medal of Science and five recipients of the National Humanities Medal.

The university follows a liberal arts curriculum, with students opting to study either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science. Students can choose to study across a range of these subjects and declare their major in their first or second year.

Undergraduate programmes within the life sciences discipline available at Princeton include molecular biology, ecology and evolutionary biology and environmental studies.

Student experience of life sciences

Trading America for Australia: my mother sent me to study 9,000 miles away!
Women in STEM: undertaking PhD research in cancer
Pursuing a PhD in neuroscience
Why I chose to study at Osaka City University
Why I chose to study at the National University of Singapore
Attending a small agricultural university

Best universities for life sciences 2022

Click each institution to view its World University Rankings 2022 profile

Life Sciences Rank 2022 Life Sciences Rank 2021 University  Country
1 1 Harvard University United States
2 2 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
=3 4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
=3 3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
5 10 Princeton University United States
6 7 California Institute of Technology United States
7 5 Stanford University United States
8 6 Yale University United States
9 8 University of California, Berkeley United States
10 9 Johns Hopkins University United States
11 20 Columbia University United States
12 11 The University of Chicago United States
13 14 Tsinghua University China
14 13 ETH Zurich Switzerland
15 17 Imperial College London United Kingdom
16 =15 Cornell University United States
17 =15 University of California, San Diego United States
18 NR University of Washington United States
=19 19 University of California, Los Angeles United States
=19 21 Peking University China
=19 18 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
22 12 UCL United Kingdom
23 22 University of Pennsylvania United States
24 =25 National University of Singapore Singapore
25 =25 University of Toronto Canada
26 23 Duke University United States
27 27 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor United States
=28 24 Karolinska Institute Sweden
=28 32 LMU Munich Germany
30 =28 University of California, Davis United States
31 =28 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
32 =30 Washington University in St Louis United States
33 =30 University of British Columbia Canada
34 35 Heidelberg University Germany
35 37 University of Melbourne Australia
36 34 New York University United States
37 =40 The University of Tokyo Japan
38 33 École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Switzerland
39 36 King’s College London United Kingdom
40 =40 The University of Queensland Australia
41 42 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
42 48 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
=43 46 Technical University of Munich Germany
=43 43 University of Wisconsin -Madison United States
45 44 Sorbonne University France
46 38 Kyoto University Japan
47 47 Utrecht University Netherlands
48 =54 Ghent University Belgium
=49 =56 Fudan University China
=49 39 McGill University Canada
51 45 Northwestern University United States
52 62 University of Göttingen Germany
53 NR Université Paris-Saclay France
54 76 Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
55 73 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
=56 49 Uppsala University Sweden
=56 53 University of Zurich Switzerland
58 51 KU Leuven Belgium
59 =63 Zhejiang University China
=60 =63 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
=60 52 University of Sydney Australia
62 61 University of Tübingen Germany
63 =54 Monash University Australia
64 =58 Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
65 =56 Australian National University Australia
=66 60 University of Manchester United Kingdom
=66 72 University of Science and Technology of China China
68 =58 Boston University United States
=69 101–125 Free University of Berlin Germany
=69 50 University of Freiburg Germany
71 68 University of Minnesota United States
72 80 University of Florida United States
73 101–125 Emory University United States
74 81 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
=75 =70 Lund University Sweden
=75 67 Michigan State University United States
77 77 University of Groningen Netherlands
78 65 University of Texas at Austin United States
79 =83 The University of Western Australia Australia
80 =83 Seoul National University South Korea
81 82 Vanderbilt University United States
82 70 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
83 74 University of Helsinki Finland
84 NR Institut Polytechnique de Paris France
85 87 Stockholm University Sweden
=86 101–125 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
=86 101–125 University of Dundee United Kingdom
88 NR UNSW Sydney Australia
=89 86 University of Bonn Germany
=89 =91 University of Vienna Austria
91 =89 University of Würzburg Germany
=92 =94 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
=92 97 University of Massachusetts United States
94 =89 Osaka University Japan
95 78 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
=96 151–175 Dartmouth College United States
=96 101–125 University of Leeds United Kingdom
=98 =94 University of Basel Switzerland
=98 =83 University of Southern California United States
=100 126–150 Aarhus University Denmark
=100 126–150 University of Bristol United Kingdom
=100 =98 Georgia Institute of Technology United States
101–125 101–125 University of Alberta Canada
101–125 101–125 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
101–125 126–150 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
101–125 101–125 University of California, Riverside United States
101–125 =98 University of Cologne Germany
101–125 101–125 University of Colorado Boulder United States
101–125 101–125 University of Exeter United Kingdom
101–125 66 University of Geneva Switzerland
101–125 91 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
101–125 101–125 James Cook University Australia
101–125 101–125 University of Luxembourg Luxembourg
101–125 126–150 Macquarie University Australia
101–125 79 McMaster University Canada
101–125 75 Montpellier University France
101–125 101–125 National Taiwan University (NTU) Taiwan
101–125 126–150 Newcastle University United Kingdom
101–125 126–150 Ohio State University (Main campus) United States
101–125 =87 Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) South Korea
101–125 126–150 Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
101–125 101–125 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Sweden
101–125 151–175 University of Tasmania Australia
101–125 69 Technical University of Denmark Denmark
101–125 201–250 Wuhan University China
126–150 126–150 University of Adelaide Australia
126–150 176–200 University of Antwerp Belgium
126–150 201–250 University of Bremen Germany
126–150 101–125 Brown University United States
126–150 101–125 University of California, Irvine United States
126–150 NR City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
126–150 176–200 Colorado State University, Fort Collins United States
126–150 126–150 University of Hamburg Germany
126–150 =91 The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
126–150 176–200 Iowa State University United States
126–150 101–125 University of Lausanne Switzerland
126–150 151–175 Lomonosov Moscow State University Russian Federation
126–150 201–250 University of Macau Macao
126–150 126–150 University of Nottingham United Kingdom
126–150 101–125 Université de Paris France
126–150 =98 Penn State (Main campus) United States
126–150 101–125 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus United States
126–150 101–125 Radboud University Nijmegen Netherlands
126–150 151–175 University of Reading United Kingdom
126–150 176–200 University of São Paulo Brazil
126–150 126–150 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
126–150 126–150 University of Southampton United Kingdom
126–150 176–200 Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) China
126–150 126–150 TU Dresden Germany
126–150 151–175 Texas A&M University United States
151–175 151–175 Arizona State University (Tempe) United States
151–175 151–175 University of Auckland New Zealand
151–175 176–200 University of Bern Switzerland
151–175 101–125 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
151–175 151–175 University of Delaware United States
151–175 176–200 Delft University of Technology Netherlands
151–175 126–150 École Normale Supérieure de Lyon France
151–175 151–175 University of Iceland Iceland
151–175 176–200 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
151–175 126–150 Lancaster University United Kingdom
151–175 151–175 Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
151–175 251–300 University of Marburg Germany
151–175 126–150 University of Maryland, College Park United States
151–175 126–150 University of Montreal Canada
151–175 251–300 Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) Russian Federation
151–175 101–125 Nanjing University China
151–175 NR National Tsing Hua University Taiwan
151–175 126–150 University of Oslo Norway
151–175 101–125 Rice University United States
151–175 126–150 Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies – Pisa Italy
151–175 126–150 Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
151–175 101–125 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
151-175 176–200 University of Stirling United Kingdom
151–175 401–500 University of Stuttgart Germany
151–175 151–175 University of Tartu Estonia
151–175 151–175 Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) South Korea
151–175 176–200 Vrije Universiteit Brussel Belgium
151–175 151–175 University of York United Kingdom
176–200 176–200 University of Barcelona Spain
176–200 251–300 University of Bordeaux France
176–200 176–200 University of Cape Town South Africa
176–200 201–250 China Agricultural University China
176–200 201–250 Friedrich Schiller University Jena Germany
176–200 176–200 Goethe University Frankfurt Germany
176–200 126–150 Hokkaido University Japan
176–200 251–300 Indian Institute of Science India
176–200 151–175 University of Konstanz Germany
176–200 176–200 La Trobe University Australia
176–200 176–200 Université Libre de Bruxelles Belgium
176–200 126–150 North Carolina State University United States
176–200 201–250 University of Padua Italy
176–200 151–175 Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) South Korea
176–200 151–175 University of Sussex United Kingdom
176–200 NR Tallinn University of Technology Estonia
176–200 201–250 University of Technology Sydney Australia
176–200 176–200 Tohoku University Japan
176–200 176–200 University College Cork Republic of Ireland
176–200 151–175 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
176–200 151–175 University of Virginia (Main campus) United States
176–200 201–250 University of Wollongong Australia

Click here to view the full life sciences ranking

Read more: The most detailed subject guide you will ever see to help you pick your degree

Editor's note: This table was updated on 1 October 2021 to reflect University of Stirling’s corrected position in the Life Sciences ranking, which is 151-175 after correction. As per THE's rankings correction policy, the amendment made only affects the university in question. We do not rerun the complete ranking. All other universities maintain their original rank.

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