Having also been named the top city for students in 2018 and 2019, London had 115 programs from 19 HEIs achieve a top 50 position for their subject. They were followed by Boston (69), New York (65), Beijing (59), Seoul (50), Tokyo (46), LA (43) and Paris (43).

The Royal College of Art was ranked the best globally for studying art and design while UCL’s Institute for Education came in top for education (for the fifth consecutive year) and King’s College London rose from second place to grab the top spot for dentistry.

“This year’s edition of the QS World University Rankings by Subject serves to underline London’s status as a uniquely successful higher education ecosystem,” said Jack Moran, QS spokesperson.

“No city possesses the same diversity or concentration of educational excellence, shared among so many institutions.”

The rankings are compiled based on academic reputation, employer reputation, citations per paper and h-index (which measures the productivity of research faculty). The weighting varies from discipline to discipline, with research performance for example being more important in medicine as opposed to more vocational subjects such as performance arts.

Overall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology listed 12 programs ranked top globally – the highest for an individual institution – followed by Harvard with 11 and Oxford with eight. However the US itself saw a drop in the number of courses in the top 50, falling from 806 in 2018 to 769 in 2020.

ETH Zurich in Switzerland was also pleased with the results. In terms of number of the courses in the top ten in their field the institution came seventh, with the other six all being English-taught courses in the UK and US.

“The ranking reflects a great team effort from the entire ETH community”

“The ranking reflects a great team effort from the entire ETH community,” said the university’s president Lino Guzzella.

“A community that dedicates their talents to outstanding teaching and research supported by a highly motivated administrative and technical staff. As a public university, for ETH such a result also reflects the support and commitment of the Swiss society.”

In Asia, China had 100 programs in the top 50 by category for the first time – although QS director of research Ben Sowter noted a “slowdown in Chinese progress” – while 26 Indian departments entered the top 100 for their subjects.

Several Hong Kong universities saw themselves slide. At Hong Kong University 21 out of 39 subjects dropped down the rankings, which QS says wasn’t caused by the protests as the data was collected earlier in 2019.

Colombia came out top with the highest-ranked programs in Latin America. All six of Africa’s leading departments which made it into the top 50 were in South Africa, although programs from seven countries were featured in the rankings.

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