World University Rankings by Subject 2023: results announced

Saudi Arabia and the UK make gains while the US stagnates 

October 25, 2022
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The US is losing its edge in some academic disciplines, according to the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject, released today. The number of American universities in the top 10 has dropped in several of the 11 subject rankings, including business, and clinical and health.

While the top 10s of the tables are still largely dominated by the US and the UK, the UK has increased its representation at the top of several tables. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian universities are making gains in several subjects.

Clinical and health

In clinical and health studies, Johns Hopkins University has dropped from joint ninth place last year to 11th, bringing the number of US universities in the top 10 to three. The UK now has five, up from four last year, with King’s College London taking the number 10 spot.

Taking a wider look at the table, the US now has 52 universities in the top 300, down from 60 last year. Iran has improved most, with five universities now ranked in the top 300, up from one last year. Saudi Arabia has increased its representation from two to five institutions and Italy from six to nine.

Business and economics

While the US loses a university in the top 10 of the business table, a Chinese institution has made the top 10 for the first time: Tsinghua University rose from 11th to eighth this year.

China now has 24 institutions in the top 300, up from 21 last year. China is now the third most represented country in the top 300. The most represented is still the US, but it now has 63 colleges in the top 300, down from 69 last year.

Computer science

The US has five universities in the top 10 for computer science – one fewer than last year. The Technical University of Munich is now in 10th position, up from 14th last year. This is a re-entry into the top 10 for the university, which ranked ninth in 2017.

The number of US universities in the top 300 has dropped from 72 last year to 71. Saudi Arabia has made the biggest gains when it comes to the top 300 for computer science, with five universities ranked, up from two last year. China has 17 universities in the top 300 – three fewer than last year.


While the top of the engineering table is mostly unchanged, several countries have improved their representation in the top 300. Saudi Arabia now has seven universities ranked, up from four last year, and the UK now has 37, up from 34. The US has 76 universities in the top 300 – down from 85 last year.

Physical sciences

Saudi Arabia has increased its representation in the top 300 of the physical sciences table, with six universities – up from two last year. King Abdulaziz University has entered the top 50 – in 47th position, up from joint 90th last year. The US has 74 universities in the top 300 – down from last year’s 78.

The declining number of US universities in top spots reflects a stagnation in the league table for US institutions also seen in the World University Rankings, released earlier this month.

Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at THE, said: “The THE World University Rankings by Subject provide further evidence of a clear trend we saw in the overall World Rankings earlier this month: the traditional dominance of the US in international higher education and research is waning. It has been widely pointed out that federal spending on research and development in the US, as a proportion of total spending, is at a seven-decade low and we have witnessed worrying defunding of America’s great state universities. It looks like this is all starting to take its toll on the US’ global competitiveness in research and innovation.”

Simon Marginson, professor of higher education at the University of Oxford, said of the US’ performance: “What we are seeing is relative decline because later-coming other countries are now improving their performance faster than the US. We no longer live in a world in which the US is absolutely dominant in every sphere of life. In 1960 the US performed 70 per cent of the world’s R&D. You could say that ever since then, US higher education and science systems have been ‘in decline’ because the relative position has been eroding. Now we live in a multipolar world and this alleged decline, if it is a decline, will continue.

“Even though they might be a bit nostalgic for the time when the US was absolutely and always number one, few in US universities would say that the rise of other countries in higher education is a bad thing,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s national strategy, Vision 2030, introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016, includes a target of at least five Saudi universities among the top 200 in international rankings. The plan aims to move the Saudi economy away from an over-reliance on oil revenues to a more balanced financial model, and higher education is seen as integral to this.

For Professor Marginson, Saudi Arabia’s “mega-investment” in research capacity is paying off, and “beginning to achieve its goal of lifting the global standing of the country and its higher education institutions”.

“The harder challenge is to effectively integrate what is clearly a stronger higher education system with the economy and society – in what is still largely a commodity economy with narrow scope for utilisation of original science and high skill knowledge-intensive labour,” Professor Marginson said.

The subject rankings also cover education, law, life sciences, psychology and social sciences

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