QS, the producer of global university league tables, have released their new ranking of universities by subject for 2016. The University of Oxford is rated first for the Arts & Humanities category defined by QS, third for Life Sciences & Medicine as well as Social Sciences and Management, fifth for Natural Sciences, and ninth for Engineering and Technology.
Oxford’s ranking has risen for Arts & Humanities and Engineering & Technology, which are up from second and 13th respectively in the 2015 rankings, while the ranking for Life Sciences & Medicine has fallen from second. Notable subject-specific rankings for the university include a first place in English and Modern Languages while it comes second in Law, Politics and Medicine, third in Computer Science and occupies the fourth and sixth positions in Mathematics and Physics among others.
The rankings are compiled using a combination of four factors: a worldwide survey based on which institutions academics consider best in their field, an employment survey on the institutions which produce the most employable graduates, an analysis of citations of each university’s research in academic papers, and finally the H-Index which QS describe in their online methodology as “a way of measuring both the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar.” The weightings of these different components vary by field since, for example, there are less publications for History than Medicine.
While Oxford is doing well across the board, the rankings reveal a clear split between the humanities, where Oxford ranks first overall, and science. Peter Saville, studying History at University College tells Cherwell, “Oxford’s success is hardly surprising given the versatile history curriculum which leaves all disciplines and periods open to the undergraduate. This is also supported by a passionate and (often weirdly) knowledgeable set of lecturers and tutors, which means we have no option but to shoe the tabs in academia as well as sport!”
Oxford’s excellent performance in Modern Languages is greeted with excitement by Josh Dernie, a first year French and Linguistics student at Keble, telling Cherwell, “it’s great to see Oxford maintaining its long-held position at the very top of the QS world rankings in modern languages; to receive yet another perfect score is a real tribute to the faculty.”
Third year English student Mina Odile is more skeptical, but ultimately agrees with Saville’s high estimation of Oxford humanities, saying, “I always find these ranking systems a bit suspect, but from the perspective of a third year English student I would have to say that Oxford offers an outstanding programme.” However, she adds a note of caution, “I think the problem with these rankings is that they seem to suggest that the given ‘top of the league’ programme is the ideal programme for anyone aspiring to the best in their field.
“And in reality, while Oxford’s English faculty is arguably at the top of its field in terms of research, it may not provide the best study environment for everyone. Best doesn’t mean best for everyone.”
The sciences, on the other hand, did not do quite as well. The Engineering faculty in particular was rated poorly by QS compared to Oxford’s humanities subjects, though it did improve from last year, receiving 14th place for Civil Engineering, 11th for Electrical and 10th for Chemical Engineering.
Aurelia Vandamme, a first year Engineer at Keble explains this by saying “Oxford does general engineering so it’s pretty hard to compare with universities that do specialised degrees, and it means that we have more overall knowledge/are able to communicate with all sorts of engineers.”