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Top Universities for Economics: US v UK

Top Universities for Economics: US v UK main image

Featuring 48 subjects across five different broad subject areas, the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018 provide an absolute wealth of information to help you choose where to study.

One of these 48 subjects is economics, with 400 universities from a total of 47 different countries included in this year’s ranking.

However, if you’re interested in studying economics, then it’s worth pointing out that two of those 47 countries are clearly dominant over the others when it comes to producing top universities for economics. As well as producing 18 of the top 20 universities, the US and the UK are responsible for one-third of all universities in this year’s ranking.

Here’s a closer look at the top universities for economics in both of these countries.

United States

Harvard University

Ivy League institution Harvard University is up one place in this year’s economics ranking, making it the best place in the world for studying economics. The university is helped to its world-beating position by scoring a perfect 100 in three of the four metrics used to compile the rankings (more information about the methodology can be found here).

Harvard may enjoy a stellar academic reputation around the world, but that doesn’t mean studying here can’t be fun either. Or, at least, we assume that’s the message economics lecturers are trying to get across with this video…


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Having been over-taken by Harvard this year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has to settle for being second-best in both the US and the world. Given the fact the university’s economics department can claim an association with multiple Nobel Prize laureates, we doubt their slight fall down the table this year will cause much concern.

Distinguished alumni of the economics department at MIT include former chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and former US Secretary of State George P. Schultz.

Stanford University

Stanford University remains the third-best university for economics this year. The department prioritizes weekly seminars in its economics teaching, in addition to student research workshops, which enable a greater level of interaction between students and faculty. The undergraduate program is designed to provide background for anyone interested in graduate work in business, law and similar professions.

The department also offers a PhD program, onto which approximately 25 students are enrolled each year. The primary objective of this program is to train students to become research economists, and the university proudly leads the way in producing interdisciplinary research that shapes the US economy.

University of California, Berkeley (UCB)

Remaining in fourth place for another year, University of California, Berkeley (UCB) is home to over 1,000 economics undergraduate students. Economics majors can cover such areas as economic history and advanced microeconomics, while they also benefit from a weekly departmental email which keeps them informed about career events and internship opportunities.

UCB also offers a PhD program, perfect for anyone interested in pursuing individual research in this field. As well as completing a dissertation, PhD students will be assessed in two different specializations of their choosing.

Princeton University

The second Ivy League institution to be featured in the top 10 universities for economics, Princeton University has moved up one place to fifth in the world this year. The economics department’s undergraduate teaching covers such areas as macroeconomics, public finance, asset management and research ethics in economics. If you’re interested in majoring in economics, you’ll need to have completed certain prerequisite courses by the end of sophomore year.

The department also has a postgraduate program. If you’re interested in studying a PhD in economics at Princeton, you must pass the General Examination, submit an acceptable dissertation and defend it orally in an exam, and meet the basic mathematics requirement by taking an exam.

University of Chicago

As with Princeton, the University of Chicago has climbed one place in this year’s economics ranking, making it the sixth best university in the world for this particular subject. Anyone interested in studying in the “Windy City” will be pleased to know employability and career advancement are key focuses of the economics department at Chicago, with internship listings regularly circulated among students.

The department also operates a Honors BA workshop, which allows students to pursue an independent research project and produce a thesis on it. This is usually completed in the third year, but may be based on work done initially by a student in their junior year.

Yale University

Yale University is the ninth best university in the world for economics again this year and is the penultimate US institution we’re going to look at in detail. If you’re interested in majoring in economics, it’s likely you’ll take courses in introductory microeconomics and introductory macroeconomics in your first year. This is recommended even if you studied economics at high school.

Yale also operates an International and Development Economics (IDE) program at master’s level, which lasts one year. This program tackles the increasingly complex challenges faced by the global economic environment and is perfect preparation for either a career in this field or a PhD.

Columbia University

Our final US institution, Columbia University remains in 10th place for economics this year. Although seven American universities are ranked above it, there’s still plenty to recommend about the economics department at Columbia. Undergraduate courses are recommended depending on your preferred career path, with options including careers in the financial industry, international governmental or non-governmental agencies, international business, and public policy.

Columbia also offers economics teaching at both master’s and PhD level. Admission to the university’s MA program is not limited to those who specifically studied economics at undergraduate level, but a background in economics (e.g. intermediate microeconomics) is required. Training in college-level calculus and statistics is also recommended.

Also in the top 20: University of Pennsylvania (12th), Northwestern University (13th), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) (14th), New York University (NYU) (15th), University of California San Diego (UCSD) (18th), Duke University (19th)

United Kingdom

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

As its name would suggest, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is a pretty good place for studying economics. Although it’s fallen two places in this year’s ranking to seventh, it’s still the highest-ranked institution in the UK.

LSE has one of the largest economics departments in the world and offers undergraduate degrees as well as taught master’s and research programs at postgraduate level. The three single honors undergraduate degrees offered by the university are in economics, economics with economic history, and econometrics & mathematical economics. LSE also offers a four-year PPE course at undergraduate level, which combines philosophy, politics and economics.

University of Oxford

Our final university to be featured in the top 10 this year is the University of Oxford, a non-mover at eighth place. Interestingly, only Harvard of the institutions above Oxford has a better score for employer reputation in this year’s ranking, but Oxford is out-performed in the other metrics used to compile the rankings.

As with LSE, Oxford offers a PPE degree at undergraduate level, alongside degrees in economics & history, and economics & management. At postgraduate level, Oxford offers an MPhil in economics, alongside MSc programs in economics & social history, financial economics, and economics for development.

Also in the top 20: University of Cambridge (11th), UCL (University College London) (17th)

Also worth mentioning

While the surfeit of potential study destinations in both the UK and the US might have you thinking twice about studying anywhere else, there are several notable universities from the 45 other countries represented in this year’s economics ranking which deserve a mention.

Two universities from outside the UK and the US feature in the top 20 this year, both of which have maintained their position since last year. Bocconi University is one of 19 Italian institutions to be ranked this year and is a non-mover at 16th. This makes it the only Italian university in the top 50 in the world.

The other country to be represented in the top 20 is Singapore, thanks to the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 20th place.

Apart from the UK and the US, Germany and Australia are the next most-represented countries with 21 universities apiece. While all of Germany’s institutions are ranked 51st or lower, there are five Australian universities in the top 50, the best-performing of these being the University of Melbourne which is up two places this year to 23rd.

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Written by Craig OCallaghan
As Head of Content, Craig is responsible for all articles and guides published across TopUniversities and TopMBA. He has nearly 10 years of experience writing for a student audience and extensive knowledge of universities and study programs around the world.

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