Cambridge beats Oxford in the latest global subject rankings

  • @Tom_Mendelsohn

The University of Cambridge has once again asserted its dominance over its rival Oxford in the latest national subject rankings, after a study showed that it was the best place in the country to study a total of 14 disciplines.

Oxford, meanwhile, topped the rankings in a further 10 areas of study, leaving the London School of Economics top in three, and Edinburgh, Reading and the Institute of Education top in one subject each.

However, Oxford can take comfort from the fact that it is rated number one in the world for three subjects - better than any university other than the American giants Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“The UK remains second only to the US, but it now faces far stiffer competition in the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] disciplines”, says Ben Sowter, head of research at QS World University Rankings, which conducted the research.

QS judged the 800 universities around the world, evaluating them on the strengths of 30 individual disciplines. Oxford's global dominance is in English language and literature, modern languages and politics, while Cambridge is best in the world for history. Harvard, meanwhile, is head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, coming first in an astonishing 11 subjects. MIT is top in another nine.

LSE is best in Britain for sociology, economics and media studies, while Edinburgh is top for linguistics and Reading for agriculture. The Institute of Education, soon to merge with University College, London, is best for education.

While the US and the UK still dominate the global tables, “the leading Asian institutions can now be considered serious global players, particularly in the fields of science and technology,” says Sowter.

“The STEM disciplines have been the primary focus of global competition over the past decade, as institutions in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Korea have emerged as genuine competitors to the traditional research powerhouses in the US and UK,” says Sowter.

Indeed, of the 10 subjects with the most UK universities in the top 200, only two are STEM disciplines (psychology and environmental sciences). In contrast, the 10 subjects with the fewest UK institutions in the top 200 are all STEM subjects: agriculture, chemical engineering, mathematics, electrical engineering, computer science, physics, materials science, pharmacy, chemistry and earth & marine science.