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University Subject Rankings: Top Ten Most Viewed Subjects

University Subject Rankings: Top Ten Most Viewed Subjects main image

On the eve of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020 being released, we thought we'd take a look back at which subjects were most popular for our readers in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019.

Featuring 48 different subjects, the QS World University Rankings by Subject are one of the easiest ways to discover which universities in your country and elsewhere in the world are the best for your chosen subject.


10. Accounting & Finance

One of the 15 subjects within the subject area of social sciences & management in our ranking, accounting & finance is the 10th most popular subject with our readers, something which is unsurprising given the degree’s strong vocational focus.

Harvard University was the number one university for this subject last year, although whether that will remain the case when this year’s rankings are released remains to be seen. Last year, all of the top 10 universities were from either the US or the UK.

9. Architecture

Architecture has grown in popularity as a subject over recent years and is now the most popular arts and humanities subject to be featured in the QS World University Rankings by Subject. Last year's ranking was topped by UCL (University College London). 

8. Arts & Humanities

Another one of the five subject areas, arts & humanities has been increasingly popular with readers over recent years. This year, the following subjects will be ranked within arts & humanities:

  • Archaeology
  • Architecture / Built Environment
  • Art & Design
  • Classics & Ancient History
  • English Language & Literature
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Modern Languages
  • Performing Arts
  • Philosophy
  • Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies

Last year, the arts & humanities ranking was led by the University of Oxford in first place.

7. Mechanical, Aeronautical & Manufacturing Engineering

Five different branches of engineering are included in the subject rankings but there’s one clear favorite with readers as mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing engineering comes out on top.

Studying it is ideal preparation for engineering roles in aerospace, the automotive industry and many other sectors. Learn more about potential career paths here.

The best university in the world for studying mechanical, aeronautical & manufacturing engineering last year was Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with four other American institutions also featuring in the top 10.

6. Law

It’s no surprises to see another subject on this list with a strong career focus, and law in particular is consistently a subject of great interest to our readers. Whether you’re considering studying law at undergraduate level, or doing a law conversion at postgraduate level, the subject ranking table is likely to be a useful source of information.

Given the fact common law originated in the United Kingdom and has spread around the English-speaking world, it’s no surprise to see that last year none of the top 20 universities for law were based somewhere where English wasn’t an official language. Harvard University was ranked number one.

5. Economics & Econometrics

If there’s one thing the financial crisis of 2007-2008, Greece’s continued financial woes and the recent volatility in the stock market prove, it’s that it can be extremely useful to understand how the global financial systems actually work.

Some of the finest teaching in this subject area is currently happening in the US, as shown by last year’s subject rankings. Seven of the top 10 universities are from the US, including the number one: Harvard University.

4. Medicine

While some career paths are becoming harder to follow due to a lack of available roles, we’ll always need well-trained doctors and medical staff. Given this, it’s perhaps no surprise so many of you are interested in pursuing a degree in medicine (it probably helps that the pay’s quite good too).

As with several other subjects featured in this article, Harvard University was ranked the best place in the world to study medicine last year, ahead of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

3. Business & Management Studies

Into the top three, and business & management studies generated a lot of interest among readers as a potential subject to study. If you're planning to study at master's level, you should also consult the QS Business Masters Rankings 2020.

While the subject ranking gives you an idea of which universities are the best in the world for the subject in general (for instance, Harvard University was ranked number one last year), the QS Business Masters Rankings compare specific postgraduate degree programs at the world’s top universities. Also, the master’s rankings focus specifically on four specializations: finance, management, marketing and business analytics.

So, if you’re looking for information on undergraduate study or a general overview of how well a university performs for business & management studies then the subject rankings should definitely be your first port of call. If, however, you want more information about specific postgraduate specializations in business then click here for more information.

2. Computer Science & Information Systems

Our second most-popular subject over the last year has been computer science & information systems, which is perhaps to be expected given its status as one of the fastest-growing subjects around the world. If you want to work on technology that has the potential to change the world, from artificial intelligence to big data, then this is the subject for you.

It wasn’t too surprising to see Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the top of last year’s subject ranking, one of five American universities in the top 10. Institutions from Europe and Asia also featured in the top 20 though, so you should be able to find a top university near you.

1. Engineering & Technology

The engineering & technology subject area covers five different branches of engineering as well as computer science which is second on this list, so it’s hard to be shocked by the fact it’s overwhelmingly the most popular subject rankings table with our readers. The full list of engineering & technology subjects is as follows:

  • Computer Science & Information Systems
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil & Structural Engineering
  • Electrical & Electronic Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Mineral & Mining Engineering

Given its dominance across nearly all of the individual subjects within this area, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was obviously the best university for the broad subject area overall. Stanford University and ETH Zurich had to settle for second and third place respectively.

Will those positions be the same this year? And will these subjects continue to be the most popular with our readers? This year’s rankings are released on February 28, check back then to find out!

This article was originally written in April 2013 and was updated in March 2020.

Talkh H, Norma E G & 3 others saved this
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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