The fifth edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject is now imminent. We will report fully on the results in a forthcoming edition of Higher Education World. But we are already sure that these rankings will be the most influential examination ever compiled of university achievement at subject level.
Throughout their existence, the Subject Rankings have always covered the vast majority of academic life, with analyses of the subjects that account for most students and for the bulk of research spending. But this year, the addition of six new subjects increases their comprehensiveness yet further. It brings the total number of subjects analysed to 36, including some combined subjects such as economics and econometrics, or physics and astronomy.
Perhaps the most significant addition is Business, which is one of the most popular university subjects and a principal driver of international student mobility. According to the OECD publication Education at a Glance, 31 per cent of students in the OECD nations were studying business, law and the social sciences in 2012, and business is probably the biggest single subject area under this heading. The same report finds that these subjects are exceptionally attractive to international students and are being studied, for example, by 54 per cent of international students in Australia.
Two more new subjects this year are dentistry and veterinary science. These are important additions to our coverage of the life sciences and medicine. Added to our existing tables for medicine, pharmacy, psychology, agriculture and biological sciences, they mean that these rankings provide an unprecedentedly detailed look at perhaps the most active area of emerging contemporary research.
Two other subjects covered here are art and design, and architecture, both magnets for talented international students. As with veterinary science, ranking achievement in these subjects has involved assessing the work of a large number of specialist institutions alongside departments of mainstream universities. So you will see institutions here that will not appear in our overall World University Rankings.
The sixth new arrival this year in development studies. The importance of this subject for human wellbeing in the Global South is obvious. Appropriately, the results we publish will show that excellence in development studies is found there as well as in the rich world.
As with the 30 subjects continued from previous years, the new rankings are based on measures of quality in both teaching and research. These include academic opinion, employer opinion, citations of research papers, and H-index, a measure of the depth and breadth of a university’s research in specific subjects.
The new results will be published at www.topuniversities.com. If you feel the need for a taster session, the 2014 tables are still available there.