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Top Universities in the UK by Subject 2020

[Top Universities in the UK by Subject 2020] main image (University of Oxford)

102 universities in the United Kingdom are included in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020. Covering 48 different subjects, this year’s subject rankings are the easiest way to see which top UK universities are considered to be the best for your chosen area of study.

Need inspiration to help you choose where to study in the UK? Here’s a breakdown of which university is the best in the UK for each of the 48 subjects in this year’s rankings.

Accounting & Finance 

There are 38 UK institutions in the rankings for accounting and finance, including eight in the world top 50. The highest ranked of these is London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), which rises one place this year to fourth globally.

Agriculture & Forestry

Out of 19 agriculture and forestry programs in the UK featured in the rankings, only one makes it into the world top 50 – the University of Reading, in ninth place globally.

Anatomy & Physiology

Of the 100 universities ranked worldwide for anatomy and physiology, 12 are based in the UK. An impressive six UK universities make it into the top 50 for the subject, including global number one, the University of Oxford, switching places with their rivals the University of Cambridge (ranked second) this year.

Anthropology

The UK retains its dominance at the top of the table for anthropology, with the University of Oxford remaining in first place globally, closely followed by the University of Cambridge in second place. A further 10 UK anthropology programs feature in the global rankings, including seven in the top 50.

Archaeology

Out of 200 archaeology programs in the global rankings, the UK is the second-best represented country in the world, with 29 universities featured. The top four globally is entirely made up of UK programs: The University of Oxford in first; the University of Cambridge in second; UCL (University College London) in third and Durham University in fourth.

Architecture

University College London (UCL)

19 UK universities are in the 2020 rankings for architecture, including five in the global top 50. The Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL (University College London) is still the UK’s highest ranked university for architecture, despite falling two places this year from first to third globally.

Art & Design

The UK continues its dominance in the art and design rankings, with the Royal College of Art in first place globally again this year, followed closely by the University of the Arts London in second. A further 25 British schools feature in the art and design rankings, including five in the global top 50. 

Biological Sciences

43 UK universities feature in the biological sciences rankings, one of the largest rankings with over 600 schools included globally. The University of Cambridge comes out on top, in third place worldwide.

Business & Management

London Business School

The UK, particularly London, is a world business hub, so it’s unsurprising that 59 UK schools make it into the rankings for business and management, including seven in the global top 30. Top of the pile is London Business School, ranked third globally.

Chemistry

There are 36 UK universities featured in the chemistry rankings this year, including five in the global top 50. The University of Cambridge is the UK’s highest ranked chemistry school, in third place globally.

Chemical Engineering

21 UK institutions feature in the chemical engineering subject rankings this year, including five in the global top 25. The highest ranked chemical engineering program in the UK can be found at the University of Cambridge, in third place globally.

Civil & Structural Engineering

There are 23 UK universities in the rankings for civil and structural engineering this year, including seven in the global top 50. The top ranked program in the UK can be found at the University of Cambridge, in third place worldwide.

Classics & Ancient History

The classics and ancient history ranking is one of the smallest, with only 50 schools included worldwide. Seven of these are based in the UK, including world number one, the University of Oxford.

Communication & Media Studies

The communication and media studies ranking features 23 UK schools, including seven in the global top 50. The highest ranked of these is LSE, which ranks third globally.

Computer Science & Information Systems

One of the largest rankings, featuring 600 schools worldwide, a total of 57 UK universities feature in the computer science and information systems ranking. The University of Oxford is the highest ranked UK school, placing fifth globally.

Dentistry

King's College London

Seven UK institutions feature in the dentistry rankings this year, including global number one, King's College London (KCL). Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) also makes an impressive debut into the dentistry rankings in 2020, placing 11th.

Development Studies

There are 19 UK universities featured in the rankings for development studies, with a staggering 14 of these in the global top 50. The University of Sussex takes first place worldwide, achieving a perfect score for academic reputation.  

Earth & Marine Sciences

The earth and marine sciences ranking features 24 UK schools, including eight in the global top 50. The top spot in the UK is shared by the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford, in joint third place worldwide.

Economics & Econometrics

London School of Economics (LSE)

An impressive 50 UK institutions are featured in the rankings for economics and econometrics this year, including six in the global top 50. Unsurprisingly, LSE is the highest ranked UK institution for economics and econometrics, in joint fifth place worldwide.

Education

36 education institutions in the UK feature in the global rankings this year, with 10 of these in the world top 50. The highest ranked program in the UK, and in the world, can be found at the UCL Institute of Education at University College London, which achieves a perfect score for academic reputation. 

Electrical & Electronic Engineering

One of the largest rankings, 37 UK universities feature in the electrical and electronic engineering table this year. The highest ranked of these is the University of Cambridge, which rises one place this year to fourth globally.

English Language & Literature

As one might expect, the UK performs very well for English language and literature, with 40 schools in the rankings, including 16 in the global top 50. The University of Oxford is in first place globally (with a perfect score for academic reputation), closely followed by rivals the University of Cambridge in second.

Environmental Sciences

There are 37 UK institutions featured in the environmental sciences ranking this year, including eight in the global top 50. The highest ranked university in the UK is the University of Oxford, which rises two places this year to fourth globally.

Geography 

The UK performs very well for geography this year, with 34 schools featured, including 14 in the global top 50. The top three places in the world are taken up by UK institutions, with the University of Oxford in first, LSE in second and the university of Cambridge in third.

History

History is another strong ranking for UK institutions, with 31 universities featured, with 13 of these in the global top 50. The highest ranked history program in the UK can be found at the University of Oxford, in second place globally and achieving a perfect score for academic reputation.

Hospitality & Leisure Management

University of Surrey 

Four UK schools feature in the rankings for hospitality and leisure management, including three in the global top 10. The highest ranked of these is the University of Surrey, in eighth place worldwide.

Law

UK law schools perform well this year, with 35 programs in the rankings (including eight in the global top 50). The highest ranked law school in the UK can be found at the University of Oxford, in second place globally.

Library & Information Management

The UK is fairly well-represented in the small library and information management ranking, with five schools featured. The University of Sheffield is the highest-ranked program in the country, in second place globally.

Linguistics

University of Edinburgh

There are 28 linguistics programs in the UK featured in the 2020 rankings, including six in the global top 50. The highest ranked program in the UK can be found at the University of Edinburgh, which climbs one place this year to finish third globally. 

Materials Science

28 materials science programs in the UK feature in the rankings this year, including four in the global top 50. The University of Cambridge takes the top spot in the UK, placing fourth globally. 

Mathematics

One of the largest subject rankings, with 500 schools featured globally, an impressive 39 UK schools are in the mathematics rankings, including six in the global top 50. The highest-ranked UK mathematics program can be found at the University of Cambridge, in fourth place globally.

Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering

38 UK institutions feature in the rankings for mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering this year, including five in the global top 50. The highest ranked school in the UK is the University of Cambridge, ranked third worldwide.

Medicine

An impressive 45 UK schools feature in the rankings for medicine this year, including eight in the global top 50. The highest ranked program can be found at the University of Oxford, in second place globally. Imperial College London cracks the global top 10 this year, rising from 12th place to joint 10th.  

Mineral & Mining Engineering

Three UK universities feature in the rankings for mineral and mining engineering this year. The highest ranked of these is the Camborne School of Mines at the University of Exeter, which places 14th globally.

Modern Languages

There are 30 UK institutions featured in the rankings for modern languages this year, including seven in the global top 50. The UK is also home to the world’s number modern languages program, at the University of Oxford.

Nursing

The UK performs really well for nursing this year, with seven out of the 11 schools featured in the ranking making it into the global top 50. The highest ranked nursing program in the UK can be found at King's College London (KCL), in second place globally.

Performing Arts

Royal College of Music

A very impressive 26 UK schools feature in the performing arts rankings this year, including a staggering 12 in the global top 50. The highest-ranked program can be found at the Royal College of Music, which rises one place this year to take second place globally. 

Pharmacy & Pharmacology

There are 26 UK institutions featured in the pharmacy and pharmacology rankings this year, including eight in the global top 50. The UK is home to the highest-ranked pharmacy and pharmacology program in the world, with the University of Oxford taking first place. 

Philosophy

24 UK universities feature in the rankings for philosophy this year, with nine of these in the global top 50. The highest-ranked philosophy program in the UK can be found at the University of Oxford, in fourth place globally. 

Physics & Astronomy

University of Cambridge

There are 37 UK universities featured in the physics and astronomy rankings this year, including six in the global top 50. The University of Cambridge is home to the country’s top-ranking program, in fourth place globally.

Politics & International Studies 

The UK performs well in the politics and international studies ranking, with 29 programs featured, including nine in the global top 50. The highest-ranked program in the UK can be found at the University of Oxford, which drops two places this year to rank fourth globally.

Psychology

A whopping 41 UK schools feature in the rankings for psychology this year, including seven in the global top 50. The highest-ranked program in the country can be found at the University of Cambridge, which rises one place this year to rank third globally.

Social Policy & Administration

There are 18 social policy and administration programs in the UK featured in the rankings, with over half of these in the global top 50. The highest-ranked program can be found at the University of Oxford, in second place globally. LSE loses its number one spot this year, dropping to third in the world.

Sociology

University of Oxford

35 UK institutions feature in the rankings for sociology this year, including eight in the global top 50. Once again, the University of Oxford is the highest-ranked university in the UK, in second place globally.

Sports-related Subjects 

In the UK, there’s one university that consistently dominates for sports-related subjects – the University of Loughborough, once again in first place globally. A further 15 UK schools feature in the sports rankings, including seven in the global top 50.

Statistics & Operational Research 

There are 22 UK universities in the statistics and operational research rankings, with 10 of these placing in the global top 50. The highest ranked program in the UK can be found at the University of Oxford, in fifth place globally.

Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies

16 UK schools feature in the theology, divinity and religious studies rankings, including an impressive nine in the global top 50. The highest ranked program can be found at the University of Oxford, which rises one place this year to second globally.

Veterinary Science

Eight UK institutions feature in the rankings for veterinary science this year, including six in the global top 20. The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, is still the UK’s highest ranked program for the subject despite falling one place this year to second globally.

  

At a glance: top UK universities

University

Amount of number one ranks for the UK in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020

University of Oxford

21*

University of Cambridge

11*

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

3*

King’s College London

2

University College London (UCL)

2

London Business School

1

Loughborough University

1

Royal College of Art

1

Royal College of Music

1

Royal Veterinary College

1

The University of Sheffield

1

The University of Edinburgh

1

The University of Exeter

1

The University of Reading

1

The University of Surrey

1

The University of Sussex

1

*indicates one number-one ranking has been shared with another university

Boyana D, Sabavath N & 2 others saved this
Written by Julia Gilmore
Julia is the Assistant Editor for TopUniversities, publishing articles for students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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