QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020

MIT world leader, US universities regress

QS Quacquarelli Symonds – global higher education think-tank – today released the tenth edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject: an extensive guide to the performance of 13,138 individual university programs, taken by students at 1368 universities which can be found in 83 locations across the world, across 48 academic disciplines and five broad Faculty Areas.  

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is world-leader in 12 subject tables – more than any other institution. Harvard University leads in 11 subjects, while the University of Oxford leads 8 tables. 

Key trends include: 

  • The US higher education system remains in regression. The number of top-50 programs – those ranking in the top 50 for their subject – offered by American universities has decreased from 806 in 2018 to 769 in 2020; 
  • There are also decreases in the number of top-10, top-100, and top-200 programs offered by American institutions; 
  • The United Kingdom’s university programs have recorded overall year-on-year improvement, with more rises (306) than drops (238); 
  • Mainland China records 100 top-50 programs for the first time, though its universities’ rate of improvement is slowing; 
  • The National University of Singapore is Asia’s best-performing institution: 8 of its programs rank among the global top-10; 
  • India’s universities begin recording moderate improvements, with 53 programs improving and only 29 declining: there is also an increase in the number of top-50 and top-100 programs provided by Indian higher education; 
  • Russia’s higher education system has continued to improve, with an increase in top-50 and top-100 programs; 
  • Latin America’s best-performing overall system is Colombia, while the continent’s leading individual institutions are Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (12 top-50 programs) and Brazil’s Universidade de São Paulo (11 top-50 programs). 
  • The chart below shows which universities feature most frequently among the Top-10 globally across the 48 subjects ranked in 2020.
Best-Performing Institutions 

Top-10 rank
University of Cambridge UK 38
Harvard University US 35
University of Oxford UK 34
University of California, Berkeley US 32
Stanford University US 30
ETH Zurich Switzerland 13
University of California, Los Angeles US 11
Yale University US 11

Ben Sowter, QS Director of Research, said: “After five years of relentless improvement, our dataset has illuminated a slowdown in Chinese progress. However, their trajectory is still superior to that of American universities. We also find that Brexit does not yet appear to have jeopardized the research performance of British universities.” 


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