Education and Skills

The 16 best universities in the world by excellence in subjects

The rooftops of the university city of Oxford are seen from the south west, January 22, 2003. Britain's Education Secretary Charles Clarke is expected on Wednesday to outline controversial plans to scrap the 1,100 pound ($1780) limit on annual tuition fees at English universities, raising it to as much as 3,000 pounds ($4852).

Image: REUTERS/Peter Macdiarmid

Will Martin
Markets Reporter, Business Insider UK
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Every year QS releases a ranking of all the best universities in the world by subject and region. The study takes into account the opinions of thousands of academics and employers, as well as the number of times work done by people at the university is cited in academic research. It's a hugely comprehensive survey, and is respected across the world.

In its 2016 list, released on Tuesday, QS, a British company specialising in education andstudy abroad, ranked 42 different academic disciplines across the board, more than any other ranking it has ever done. To honour this Business Insider decided to rank the world's universities based on how many different categories they rank first in.

In total, 16 different universities came top of at least one of the 42 subjects, which range from economics to history, all the way to mineral and mining engineering. The universities right at the top are well-known, and there aren't too many surprises. However, further down the list, there are some pretty unknown institutions.

Check out the list below. The number in brackets represents the number of academic disciplines each university topped QS' ranking in.

University of California, Davis (1) — Just outside the city of Sacramento, Davis is one of the 10 constituent campuses of the University of California. It’s the place to go if you want to become a vet, ranking first of any university on earth.

University of Pittsburgh (1) — Aspiring philosophers should head to the American city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the philosophy programme is ranked as the best in the world by QS. Notable alumni of Pitt include three Nobel Prize winners, and NFL MVP quarterback Dan Marino.

The Juilliard School (1) — Located in New York City, Juilliard is probably the most famous performing arts school in the world. It’s also the best, at least according to QS. The company ranks Juilliard as the best place on earth to do a performing arts degree.

University of Pennsylvania (1) — Located in Philadelphia, home of the Liberty Bell, Penn, as it is known, is top of QS’ rankings when it comes to getting an education in nursing. At the latest count, the university’s School of Nursing had 646 students.

University of California, Berkeley (1) — Often regarded as the academic pinnacle of the University of California, Berkeley is located just across the bay from tech hub San Francisco. However, it’s not technology based subjects where Berkeley excels. QS ranks it as the best university in the world for studying environmental sciences.

Colorado School of Mines (1) — Given it’s name it’s probably not surprising that the university excels when it comes to mining and mineral engineering, where it is ranked as the best university in the world. Located in the town of Golden, Colorado, the college’s alumni network includes several CEOs at major mining firms, and, strangely, a Major League Soccer player.

University College London Institute of Education (1) — Another university where the name is something of a giveaway. QS ranks UCL’s Institute of Education as the best place on earth to study for a degree in education. It currently has over 4,000 students studying for a variety of education-based degrees.

ETH Zurich (1) — ETH, short for Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is home to the best degree programme for students wanting to study earth and marine sciences. The university boasts more than twenty Nobel Prizes, and once educated perhaps the world’s most famous scientist, Albert Einstein.

University of Hong Kong (1) — If you want to spend your life ensuring people have a mouth full of perfect, white teeth, then the University of Hong Kong is the place to go. QS ranks it as the best school in the world when it comes to a dentistry degree. In total, nearly 28,000 students are enrolled at the university, although only around 350 students are currently enrolled in the school of dentistry, as it is incredibly selective.

University of Southern California (1) — USC isn’t affiliated with the University of California, but there’s clearly something in the water in California that makes universities the best in the world. USC ranks first in QS’ ranking for doing a degree in communications and media studies.

The Royal College of Art (1) — The RCA, based in South Kensington in London, tops the table in one crucial degree subject. It’s not really surprising to learn that that degree is art & design. RCA alumni include world famous British painter David Hockney, and the late actor Alan Rickman.

Wageningen University (1) — You may never have heard of Wageningen University, but for students aspiring to do a degree in Agriculture and Forestry, Wageningen is the pinnacle. The university is located in the Dutch town of Wageningen, around 50 miles from the capital, Amsterdam.

University of Cambridge (3) — Cambridge is ranked first by QS in three separate subjects, so if you want to study archaeology and become the next Indiana Jones, do a degree in mathematics, or study history (joint winner with Oxford) Cambridge is the place to go.

University of Oxford (4) — Oxford just about wins the heated battle between itself and Cambridge, topping the charts in four degree subjects; modern languages, geography, english language, and literature, and history (although it is joint-winner with Cambridge in that one.) Oxford’s alumni network reads like a who’s who of Britain’s finest minds, including 26 prime ministers.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (12) — MIT when ranked by the number of subjects it tops the pile in, is the joint best university in the world but can’t quite reach the top spot on its own. However, it tops the table in 12 different degree subjects, including, but not limited to, economics and econometrics, linguistics, physics, astrophysics, and chemistry.

Harvard University (12) — Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, comes out in a tie with its cross state rival MIT, when it comes to the number of degrees that are the best in the world. Harvard comes out on top in 12 of QS’ 42 categories, including heavy hitters like law, business & management, and political & international studies.

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