QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015: Overview | Top Universities

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QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015: Overview

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated March 26, 2020 Updated March 26, 2020

Discover the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020.

The fifth annual edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject, published today, covers more academic disciplines than ever before. This year six additional tables are featured, bringing the total to 36, with new rankings of the world’s top universities for business & management, art & design, architecture, dentistry, development studies and veterinary science.

Many of the existing tables have also been extended to feature more universities than in previous years; the published range has been increased for biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, English language & literature, environmental sciences, mathematics, mechanical engineering, medicine, modern languages and physics.

As a result, even more universities are now highlighted for world-leading excellence in one or more academic disciplines, with 894 universities from 60 different countries ranked for at least one subject. This expansion aims to meet growing demand from ever-more mobile and ambitious students, keen to identify the planet’s top-performing institutions in their chosen field of study.

The rankings are available in interactive tables online, and also via the QS World University Rankings app, available for iPhone and Android.

Subject-level strengths highlighted worldwide

Overall, US universities continue to dominate the top of the tables, accounting for almost 37% of top-50 places. Harvard and MIT are by far the most successful institutions, leading in 21 out of 36 subjects between them. This year also sees a strengthened overall performance for the UK, with six British universities placed first for at least one subject.

The most top-10 spots are claimed by the UK’s University of Cambridge, which ranks within the top 10 in 31 disciplines. Next are the University of Oxford (29) and Stanford University (29), followed by Harvard (28), the University of California, Berkeley (26) and MIT (19). Other high performers from within the UK and US include London School of Economics and Politics (LSE; 11 appearances in the top 10), Princeton and UCLA (10 each), Yale (9), Imperial College London (8), UCL (6), Caltech and Columbia University (5).

However, the ranking also serves to highlight subject-level excellence at a much broader selection of institutions worldwide. Asian universities account for 17% of top-50 placings, and European institutions (excluding the UK) for 15.5%. Australian institutions comprise a further 8.5% of top-50 spots, and Canadians 5.3%.

Outside of the US and UK, notably high-performing institutions include Singapore’s NUS and Switzerland’s ETH Zurich, which are ranked within the global top 10 for 11 subjects and 10 subjects respectively.


Placements in top 10


National University of Singapore



ETH Zurich



University of Tokyo



Australian National University



University of Hong Kong


Hong Kong

Nanyang Technological University



Karolinska Institute



University of Melbourne



Tsinghua University



Delft University of Technology



Wageningen University



Six new subjects added this year

Business & management

The inaugural edition of the business and management ranking is topped by the UK’s London Business School, followed by Harvard University (US) and INSEAD (France). The top 10 also features entries from Italy (Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi) and Denmark (Copenhagen Business School), while the National University of Singapore (NUS) is in 11th place.

Art & design

In art and design, the top spot again goes to an institution based in the UK capital – the Royal College of Art. The remainder of the top 10 is dominated by the US, with Parsons The New School for Design in second place and Rhode Island School of Design in third. The highest entrants outside of the UK and US are Italy’s Politecnico di Milano (11th) and Finland’s Aalto University (14th).


The top of the new architecture ranking sees a wider range of countries featured. While the top two places go to the US’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the UK’s Bartlett School of Architecture (affiliated to UCL), the top 10 also includes entrants from the Netherlands (Delft University of Technology), Singapore (NUS), Switzerland (ETH Zurich), China (Tsinghua University) and Japan (University of Tokyo).


The new dentistry ranking features two strong performances for Swedish universities, with the Karolinska Institute coming first and the University of Gothenburg third. The University of Hong Kong fills second position, and the top 10 also includes entries from Belgium (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven), Japan (Tokyo Medical and Dental University) and New Zealand (University of Otago).

Veterinary science

Veterinary science sees more of a return to US-UK dominance, with the top three places going to University of California, Davis (US), followed by Cornell University (US) and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London (UK). However, Canada’s University of Guelph and the Netherlands’ Utrecht University appear at fourth and fifth respectively, while Australia’s University of Sydney is just outside the top 10.

Development studies

Finally, the sixth of the new subjects added this year, development studies, is led by the UK’s University of Sussex, followed by Harvard University (US) and the University of Manchester (UK). South Africa’s University of Cape Town is ranked 7th, while Australian National University comes 10th.

About the QS World University Rankings by Subject

Published annually since 2011, the QS World University Rankings by Subject highlights the world’s leading institutions in individual subject areas, covering 36 academic disciplines as of 2015. The rankings are compiled based on QS’s major global surveys of academics and graduate employers, as well as research citations data from Scopus. In 2015, the opinions of 85,062 academics and 41,910 employers informed the results, alongside analysis of 17.3 million research papers and over 100 million citations (via the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database). Further details of the methodology can be found here.

Further insights, commentary and analysis are available in the free supplement, country reports and university reports.

This article was originally published in April 2015 . It was last updated in March 2020

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Written by

The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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