University Subject Rankings: Top 10 most viewed subjects | Top Universities

University Subject Rankings: Top 10 most viewed subjects

By Craig OCallaghan

Updated January 20, 2024 Updated January 20, 2024
  • Science and engineering subjects among the most popular subjects in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020
  • Art & design the only subject to move into this top ten since last year
  • Last year's subject rankings have received over 11m pageviews

Ahead of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 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 2020.

Featuring 51 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. Art & Design

Nine of the ten most popular subjects in the last year have remained the same for two years running, with art & design the only exception. Growing in popularity over the last year, our art & design ranking was topped in 2020 by the UK's Royal College of Art.

While other subjects included in the rankings are assessed across four indicators, art & design is measured looking at only two: employer reputation and academic reputation. This is because research output is not a core aspect of traditional art & design programs.

8. Architecture

Architecture continues to be the most popular arts and humanities subject to be featured in the subject rankings. Last year's ranking was topped by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of three US universities in the top 10.

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 10 universities for law were based somewhere where English wasn’t an official language. Harvard University was ranked number one.

5. Economics & Econometrics

As we face the prospect of another global recession due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's clearly vital to have an understanding of how our global financial systems actually work.

Some of the finest teaching in economics 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

Similarly, there's been no shortage of evidence this past year of the vital work being done by medicine graduates, from developing and testing vaccines to treating COVID-19 patients on the frontline.

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.

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 2021.

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 five specializations: finance, management, marketing, supply chain management 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. Engineering & Technology

The engineering & technology subject area covers six different branches of engineering as well as computer science (see below). 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
  • Petroleum 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.

1. Computer Science & Information Systems

Our 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 six North 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.

Will those positions be the same this year? And will these subjects continue to be the most popular with our readers? Check the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021 to find out!

This article was originally published in April 2013 . It was last updated in January 2024

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