QS University Rankings by Subject 2012: top universities to study arts and humanities

The arts and humanities rankings cover English language and literature, geography, history, linguistics and philosophy. One of the most interesting things that the QS University Rankings by Subject 2012: Arts and Humanities  reveal is a concentration of strength in certain regions of the world in certain disciplines.

Best universities to study arts and humanities: familiar faces

At the top end of the scale, these rankings are not wildly dissimilar to last year’s edition.

Oxford, Cambridge, the Los Angeles and Berkeley campuses of the University of California system, and various Ivy League institutions all feature prominently, as do the Australian National University, the Universities of Sydney and Melbourne, and the University of Toronto.

Perhaps a little more noteworthy is the regular appearances of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and Universidade de São Paulo in the top 50 – testament to the Latin American inclination towards these subjects.

Interesting, Harvard doesn’t top the table in a single discipline, being leapfrogged in the English, history, and philosophy rankings by Oxford and Cambridge, which hold three (history, philosophy and geography) and one (English) first places respectively.

Linguistics is topped by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which climbs from eight place last year.

North American and British universities, as ever, dominate the upper echelons of these rankings. In the English rankings, for instance, you have to go as far as 14th (Trinity College Dublin) before you find a university from elsewhere, and then to 22nd, (National University of Singapore) for another.

The geography ranking is a bit more varied, with the National University of Singapore, the University of Tokyo, and the Australian National University breaking the stronghold. The last of these breaks the top ten for history, linguistics and philosophy. Tokyo also makes the top ten for linguistics.

The strongest case of US dominance occurs in the philosophy rankings, in which 72 of the nation’s universities feature, to which we can add 17 Canadian universities. UK universities tend to make up around a sixth of the total, with the strongest showing in geography, where it has 34. However, as a proportion, it is strongest in history, where it can lay claim to 33 of the top 150, 12 of which are in the top 50.

Best universities to study arts and humanities: interesting developments

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the big Anglophone nations dominate the English rankings – what is a bit of a surprise is the find out that a massive 47 Asian institutions feature.

Would you have guessed that three of the five Philippine universities featured make the top 50? Or that eight Chinese and five Indian institutions feature? That Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are represented? Well they do, and with courses being offered in English in these countries, they offer an interesting alternative to the more well known destinations.

Asia’s showing in other rankings is a bit less spectacular, the high finishes for the University of Tokyo aside. Amazingly, in history, only the Peking University makes the rankings, though at 22nd in the world, at least it is a strong showing.

The philosophy ranking is also not the best for the continent, with only ten universities making the top 200 – though, again, with Fudan University at 15th, and seven of the other nine in the top 100, the standard is high.

Latin America similarly has a ranking to forget in linguistics, where Universidade de São Paulo is the region’s sole representative. However, as mentioned above, Universidade de São Paulo and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México are consistently strong.

Geography is the subject in which Latin America enjoys the strongest showing, with eight universities making the top 200. Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Colombia are the nations represented.

As with last year, mainland Europe performs strongly in linguistics, with an amazing 56 universities making the top 200. No fewer than 21 of these are German, so if you want to study linguistics, you could do a lot worse than to turn to central Europe.

Turkey and Portugal are noteworthy additions to the roster of represented European countries in the linguistics rankings, as are Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic in philosophy.

Mainland Europe is also good for geography, in which it has 47 representatives, led by Sweden’s Lund University in 20th place, and philosophy in which the figure is 49.

Université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV) and Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne lead the way in the latter, at 29th and 31st respectively.

Finally, we turn our gaze to Australia and New Zealand, two countries which are traditionally strong in these subject areas. Geography is their strongest suits, with 22 Antipodean universities making the cut. Leading the way is the Australian National University at ninth.

Even in rankings where fewer of the pair’s universities make the cut, like history, which features only ten, the quality is high: half of this ten are in the top 50.

Perhaps the overarching lesson from the humanities ranking is at the same time a strong case for their existence: different regions are strong in different things.


More QS Insights

Sign up for industry insights

Receive the latest insights, expertise and commentary on the topics which matter most in higher education, straight to your inbox.

Sign up