UK universities better in arts than sciences

The latest research by QS indicates that UK institutions are most competitive in arts and humanities subjects [Image: Cambridge University]

The new 2018 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings has revealed that UK universities are performing better in the arts than they are in the sciences. The rankings, published this past week on 28 February, show that UK universities are topping the global battle royale in the arts and humanities more consistently than in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The study analysed data relating to forty-eight subject areas ranging from History, to Chemistry, to performing arts.

The success of departments and academics at each university was determined firstly by academic reputation and employer reputation, both measured using surveys of academics and employers. The researchers also measured the citations per pa-per produced by the department as well as the so-called ‘h-index’ which is defined as the “productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.”

Not only have UK universities performed better overall this year, UK universities made the top three of the rankings in ten arts and humanities subjects, while only twice for engineering and technology. Oxford topped the list for English and Archaeology while University College London (UCL) did best in Education and the Royal College of Art triumphed in Art and Design. Cambridge also performed strongly but failed to reach the number one spot in any subject.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) continues to dominate the STEM fields, coming first in Physics and Medicine for ex-ample, with Harvard University also topping the rankings in fields such as Law and Accounting. York how-ever dropped from one-hundred and twenty-seventh last year to one-hundred and thirty-fifth this year.

Two departments at York were, however, ranked within the top twenty-five in the world with the Archaeology department ranking twelfth and Social Policy coming in at joint twentieth. The History, Psychology, and Development Studies departments were all ranked within the top one hundred in the world. Overall York arts and humanities subjects rank fifty-fifth in the world which reflects the general trend of success in arts and humanities across the university sector in the UK.

The general upward trend for UK universities is an encouraging sign for some in the academic world, especially in the context of Britain’s departure from the European Union, as a new place in the world is forged. The uncertainty has caused concern that international talent might be dissuaded from Britain. At least one UK university, however, ranked in the top three universities in thirty-two out of the forty-eight subjects analysed.

The research director of QS noted in response to the results of the investigation: “Though there are still legitimate concerns about the type of relationship that the UK’s universities will have with, say, EU research programmes and student mobility frameworks post-Brexit, these results offer grounds for optimism.” The UK is the second most popular destination for international students in the world, after the United States.

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