Best universities for social science degrees 2019

Find the best colleges for social sciences using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

October 17 2018
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Studying social sciences at university includes a range of subjects, from international relations to politics to geography.

Graduates of social science degrees go on to a wide range of careers in the public and private sectors.

Times Higher Education has published the 2019 ranking of the 666 best schools for social sciences across the world.

More than a fifth of the list is made up of US universities – 150 institutions in total. European universities take 283 of the remaining spots while Australia, China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan are also represented.

Rankings by subject

Best universities for arts and humanities
Best universities for business and economics
Best universities for clinical, pre-clinical and health

Best universities for computer science
Best universities for engineering and technology
Best universities for life sciences

Best universities for physical sciences
Best universities for law degrees
Best universities for education degrees

Three UK institutions are in the top 10 (University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and London School of Economics and Political Science) while the remainder of the top 10 is dominated by US universities. 

The social sciences ranking uses the same methodology as the World University Rankings, but with less weight given to citations and more to research and teaching metrics. The full methodology can be found here

Scroll down for a full list of degrees covered by the ranking and what you can do with them. 

Best universities worldwide

Best universities in the world
Best universities in the United States
Best universities in the UK
Best universities in Canada
Best universities in Australia
Best universities in Europe

Top five universities for social sciences

1. University of Oxford

Perhaps the most famous social sciences degree at the University of Oxford is PPE: politics, philosophy and economics.

A number of influential politicians and public figures have earned an Oxford PPE degree, including a significant number of British prime ministers. Nobel Peace Prize winner and advocate for women’s education, Malala Yousafzai, is currently studying PPE at the institution. 

The social sciences division also tackles issues such as environmental change, poverty, cybercrime, political turmoil, social inequality and immigration.

Much of the social science research at Oxford is aimed at influencing policy in the UK and around the world.

Particular research strengths include big data, future cities, resource management and global economic performance.

Aside from PPE, undergraduate courses within the division include geography, archaeology and anthropology, law and human sciences.

2. Stanford University

The social sciences department at Stanford University offers anthropology, communication, economics, political science, psychology and sociology courses.

Many programmes are interdisciplinary, including ethics in society, democracy, development and the rule of law and urban studies.

In political science classes, undergraduates study US politics and international political systems, and relate them to conflict, social activism, ideology and race issues.

The department splits studies into five disciplines: US politics, comparative politics, international relations, political methodology and political theory.

The department of anthropology is known for an innovative approach that insists the subject must be studied in relation to contemporary affairs.

Students learn research methods and theory to carry them through the course of their choice.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers many subjects, including politics and women’s and gender studies. The school’s roots lie in the university’s founding, when courses in psychology and political science were taught. 

The school produces a magazine called Said and Done, which highlights some of the research undertaken within the faculty.

All students at MIT are expected to take social science classes to help them solve “some of the world’s most challenging problems”.

As of 2018, four Nobel laureates, seven MacArthur Fellows and four Pulitzer prizewinners are faculty members.

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4. Harvard University

Social sciences at Harvard University is interdisciplinary.

Fields of study include economics, government, sociology, gender studies and psychology.

For all these subjects, both undergraduates and graduates are expected to conduct empirical research and analyse data. Senior thesis projects can involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or both.

The Regan Fund at the university is used to invite famous speakers to Harvard to give lectures on economics, government and social problems around the world. These lectures are primarily aimed at undergraduates.

The social sciences division has relationships with a number of museums and research centres, including the Harvard-MIT Data Center and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

5. Princeton University

Princeton University offers courses in history, politics, public policy, sociology and gender and sexuality studies within the social sciences faculty. Humanities courses for undergraduates are typically taught in seminars or lectures held two or three times a week, with an additional discussion seminar called a precept.

Princeton’s undergraduate programme is highly selective, usually admitting less than 10 per cent of applicants. 

The university hosts two Model United Nations conferences, one for high school students in the autumn and one for college students in the spring. It also hosts a speech and debate tournament towards the end of the year. 

Notable alumni include US presidents James Madison and Woodrow Wilson and former first lady Michelle Obama. 

Student experience of the social sciences

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Best universities for social science degrees 2019

Click each institution to view its World University Ranking 2019 profile

 Social Science Rank 2019  Social Science Rank 2018 University  Country/Region
 1  1 University of Oxford United Kingdom
 2  4 Stanford University United States
 3  =2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology United States
 4  =2 Harvard University United States
 5  5 Princeton University United States
 6  6 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
 7  10 London School of Economics and Political Science United Kingdom
 8  8 Yale University United States
 9  7 University of Chicago United States
 10  9 University of Michigan United States
 11  12 Columbia University United States
 12  15 University of California, Los Angeles United States
 13  11 University of California, Berkeley United States
 14  17 UCL United Kingdom
 15  13 University of Pennsylvania United States
 16  18 University of Wisconsin-Madison United States
 17  19 New York University United States
 18  16 Cornell University United States
 19  14 Duke University United States
 20  =23 ETH Zurich Switzerland
 21  20 University of Amsterdam Netherlands
 22  21 National University of Singapore Singapore
 23  22 Peking University China
 24  26 University of Washington United States
 25  27 University of Toronto Canada
 26  30 University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 27  =23 Australian National University Australia
 28  NR Johns Hopkins University United States
 =29  28 University of British Columbia Canada
 =29  25 Northwestern University United States
 =31  34 University of Manchester United Kingdom
 =31  =32 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill United States
 =33  29 King’s College London United Kingdom
 =33  31 University of Mannheim Germany
 35  =32 University of California, San Diego United States
 36  43 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
 37  =54 Tsinghua University China
 38  72 Paris Sciences et Lettres – PSL Research University Paris France
 39  41 Humboldt University of Berlin Germany
 40  =44 McGill University Canada
 41  42 Utrecht University Netherlands
 42  37 University of Texas at Austin United States
 43  36 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign United States
 44  40 The University of Tokyo Japan
 45  =51 Durham University United Kingdom
 46  =47 KU Leuven Belgium
 47  46 University of Essex United Kingdom
 48  =51 Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 49  35 Free University of Berlin Germany
 50  =44 University of Southern California United States
 51  38 Ohio State University United States
 52  NR University of Melbourne Australia
 53  57 Indiana University United States
 =54  64 Brown University United States
 =54  63 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
 =54  39 University of Sussex United Kingdom
 57  67 Leiden University Netherlands
 58  62 Georgetown University United States
 =59  49 University of Minnesota Twin Cities United States
 =59  53 Wageningen University & Research Netherlands
 61  70 LMU Munich Germany
 =62  58 University of California, Santa Barbara United States
 =62  =74 University of Copenhagen Denmark
 =62  =88 University of Zurich Switzerland
 65  61 Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
 =66  =54 Michigan State University United States
 =66  65 University of Oslo Norway
 =68  59 University of California, Irvine United States
 =68  50 Sciences Po France
 70  =47 Pennsylvania State University United States
 71  NR Delft University of Technology Netherlands
 72  85 Georgia Institute of Technology United States
 =73  81 Carnegie Mellon University United States
 =73  56 University of Maryland, College Park United States
 75  86 University of Twente Netherlands
 76  71 Lund University Sweden
 =77  =74 Uppsala University Sweden
 =77  60 University of Warwick United Kingdom
 79  84 University of Konstanz Germany
 80  =76 Stockholm University Sweden
 81  66 Arizona State University United States
 82  87 Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Singapore
 83  101–125 Kyoto University Japan
 84  78 University of Queensland Australia
 85  NR Aarhus University Denmark
 86  =76 Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey United States
 87  80 University of Groningen Netherlands
 88  73 Lancaster University United Kingdom
 89  101–125 University of Cape Town South Africa
 90  83 University of Exeter United Kingdom
 =91  96 Seoul National University South Korea
 =91  82 University of York United Kingdom
 93  69 Erasmus University Rotterdam Netherlands
 94  97 University of California, Davis United States
 95  101–125 Hong Kong Polytechnic University Hong Kong
 96  NR University of Freiburg Germany
 =97  94 Copenhagen Business School Denmark
 =97  93 Syracuse University United States
 =99  79 University of Bristol United Kingdom
 =99  68 University of Sydney Australia
 101–125  101–125 University of Arizona United States
 101–125  101–125 University of Bern Switzerland
 101–125  =91 Cardiff University United Kingdom
 101–125  126–150 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
 101–125  101–125 George Washington University United States
 101–125  126–150 Ghent University Belgium
 101–125  101–125 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
 101–125  126–150 Hebrew University of Jerusalem Israel
 101–125  =88 University of Leeds United Kingdom
 101–125  98 Loughborough University United Kingdom
 101–125  99 Université Catholique de Louvain Belgium
 101–125  101–125 Maastricht University Netherlands
 101–125  101–125 University of Montreal Canada
 101–125  95 University of New South Wales Australia
 101–125  101–125 Soas, University of London United Kingdom
 101–125  101–125 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
 101–125  100 University of Surrey United Kingdom
 101–125  101–125 Technical University of Berlin Germany
 101–125  101–125 Tilburg University Netherlands
 101–125  126–150 Trinity College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 101–125  126–150 University of Tübingen Germany
 101–125  101–125 University of Vienna Austria
 101–125  101–125 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Netherlands
 101–125  =91 Washington University in St Louis United States
 101–125  NR Zhejiang University China
 126–150  151–175 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
 126–150  126–150 University of Antwerp Belgium
 126–150  126–150 Autonomous University of Barcelona Spain
 126–150  176–200 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
 126–150  101–125 Boston University United States
 126–150  151–175 University of California, Santa Cruz United States
 126–150  126–150 City University of Hong Kong Hong Kong
 126–150  101–125 University of Colorado Boulder United States
 126–150  101–125 Dartmouth College United States
 126–150  NR École des Ponts ParisTech France
 126–150  NR Emory University United States
 126–150  126–150 Fudan University China
 126–150  126–150 University of Gothenburg Sweden
 126–150  151–175 University of Göttingen Germany
 126–150  176–200 Higher School of Economics Russian Federation
 126–150  101–125 University of Illinois at Chicago United States
 126–150  101–125 University of Luxembourg Luxembourg
 126–150  201–250 National Taiwan University Taiwan
 126–150  176–200 Newcastle University United Kingdom
 126–150  126–150 University of Pittsburgh United States
 126–150  151–175 Pompeu Fabra University Spain
 126–150  101–125 Simon Fraser University Canada
 126–150  251–300 Vrije Universiteit Brussel Belgium
 126–150  151–175 University of Western Australia Australia
 126–150  201–250 University of the Witwatersrand South Africa
 151–175  126–150 Aberystwyth University United Kingdom
 151–175  151–175 University of Auckland New Zealand
 151–175  126–150 Bielefeld University Germany
 151–175  126–150 City, University of London United Kingdom
 151–175  101–125 Clark University United States
 151–175  126–150 University of Florida United States
 151–175  126–150 University of Geneva Switzerland
 151–175  126–150 University of Georgia United States
 151–175  NR University of Hamburg Germany
 151–175  126–150 University of Helsinki Finland
 151–175  151–175 University of Hohenheim Germany
 151–175  151–175 University of Kent United Kingdom
 151–175  126–150 University of Lausanne Switzerland
 151–175  101–125 University of Leicester United Kingdom
 151–175  101–125 Monash University Australia
 151–175  151–175 Rice University United States
 151–175  NR Shanghai Jiao Tong University China
 151–175  NR Sorbonne University France
 151–175  126–150 University of Southampton United Kingdom
 151–175  176–200 Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Sweden
 151–175  126–150 Texas A&M University United States
 151–175  151–175 University of Virginia United States
 151–175  101–125 University of Waterloo Canada
 151–175  176–200 University of Westminster United Kingdom
 151–175  151–175 York University Canada
 176–200  201–250 Aalborg University Denmark
 176–200  151–175 University of Bath United Kingdom
 176–200  201–250 Birkbeck, University of London United Kingdom
 176–200  176–200 University of Bologna Italy
 176–200  151–175 University of Bremen Germany
 176–200  NR Drexel University United States
 176–200  176–200 University College Dublin Republic of Ireland
 176–200  151–175 Florida State University United States
 176–200  176–200 University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa United States
 176–200  176–200 James Cook University Australia
 176–200  151–175 Koç University Turkey
 176–200  201–250 Korea University South Korea
 176–200  NR Kyushu University Japan
 176–200  151–175 Université Libre de Bruxelles Belgium
 176–200  126–150 University of Massachusetts United States
 176–200  NR Nanjing University China
 176–200  176–200 University of Notre Dame United States
 176–200  176–200 The Open University United Kingdom
 176–200  251–300 Polytechnic University of Milan Italy
 176–200  151–175 University of Potsdam Germany
 176–200  NR Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna Italy
 176–200  201–250 Technical University of Dortmund Germany
 176–200  176–200 Tel Aviv University Israel
 176–200  NR Tohoku University Japan
 176–200  176–200 Vanderbilt University United States
 176–200  201–250 Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines France
 176–200  201–250 Wuhan University China

Click here to view the full ranking for for social science degrees

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

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