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On 26 October 2023, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2024 by subject was released. This ranking measures performance across 11 key subjects based on data from THE’s World University Rankings 2024assessing research-intensive universities from 108 countries and regions.
The subject ranking uses the same 18 performance indicators as the World University Rankings, namely teaching, research quality, research environment, international outlook, and industry. However, for subjects, the methodology attempts to adapt weightings to better suit the individual fields.
This year’s publication shows a number of key takeaways. Once again, universities in the UK and US continue to dominate the league tables but there is a growing diversification of universities and countries excelling across subject rankings. Such diversity in the top positions is “most evident” when compared with the subject rankings from 2020, especially in social science, education, business and economics.
In particular, the business and economics ranking has diversified over the past five years but China is the only country outside the US and the UK that makes it into the top 10. Other countries, including Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan are in the top 50.
The education list is the most diverse at the top, with five territories – the US, UK, Hong Kong, China and Canada – featuring in the top 10 of the 2024 edition (up from just three in the 2020 edition), and six new countries having joined the top 100: Austria, Brazil, Russia, South Africa, Spain and Turkey. This diversification is said to be driven by the fact that, today, “low-cost and high-impact research are within reach” for many countries in education. This makes it a more level playing field than in other subjects such as such as the sciences, which depend stronlgy on expensive facilities and lab equipment.
At the same time, despite an increase in the global competition in the full tables for all subjects, it is actually getting harder to reach the very top of a discipline. In fact, 13 different universities make the top five of the 11 subject rankings this year, down from 15 in the 2020 edition.