Traditional big-hitters such as the Ivy League and Oxbridge may no longer be dominating global academia to the extent that has previously been supposed, according to a new university ranking covering 30 academic disciplines.
Ten different institutions top at least one of the 30 subjects covered in QS World University Rankings by Subject.
New York University is number one in the world for philosophy and Stanford for statistics while other institutions that take at least one of the global top spots include University of California, Davis (agriculture), University of Wisconsin-Madison (communications and media studies), Institute of Education (education) and University of California, Berkeley (environmental sciences).
Harvard is the most successful all-round institution, ranking first in 11 disciplines, two more than neighbouring institution MIT. Oxford is world number one in English language and literature and modern languages, while Cambridge's solitary top spot comes in history.
“The range of institutions that are world-leading in a given discipline is much wider than we are often led to believe by overall rankings" says QS head of research Ben Sowter.
"We are conditioned to think of a handful of big-name institutions such as the Ivies and Oxbridge as being the best regardless of the subject. It may be time to challenge that received wisdom."
The rankings point to numerous world-class faculties in Asia-Pacific and Continental Europe, regions that have traditionally been eclipsed by the US and UK in overall rankings.
The most successful universities outside of the US and UK in terms of number top-ten rankings are:
- National University of Singapore (8)
- ETH Zurich (4)
- University of Melbourne (4)
- University of Tokyo (4)
- Nanyang Technological University (3)
- Kyoto University (2)
- Wageningen University (2)
Other universities to make the global top ten in at least one discipline include China's Tsinghua University, Hong Kong University and Sweden's Karolinska Institute.
Five Australian institutions make the top ten in one subject (ANU, Monash, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and University of New South Wales), as do two from the Netherlands (University of Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology).
Latin America's top-ranking institution is Mexico's UNAM (25th in history), while Africa's top Institution University of Cape Town, makes the top 50 in education (32nd), geography (34th), law (40th) and English language and literature (50th).
The rankings are based on research citations, alongside reputational surveys of over 90,000 academics and graduate employers worldwide.