Four Western subjects named among best in nation

Four Western subjects found themselves among the Top 5 institutions in Canada, according to the latest round of QS World University Rankings by Subject.

In the organization’s fourth annual subject-based rakings, released Tuesday, QS broke down the Top 200 global university – including 23 Canadian – in 30 disciplines based on academic and employer reputation surveys and academic citations per faculty member.

Western made the Canadian Top 5 in four subjects – philosophy, No. 5 in Canada, Nos. 51-100 globally (no specific places are defined after No. 50); psychology, No. 5 in Canada, Nos. 51-100 globally; accounting and finance, No. 4 in Canada, Nos. 101-150 globally; and economics and econometrics, No. 4 in Canada, Nos. 101-150 globally.

Last year, those same four subjects made the list. In 2013, philosophy was ranked No. 4 in Canada; psychology, No. 4; accounting and finance, No. 5; and economics and econometrics, No. 4.

In Canada, the University of Toronto staked its claim as the country’s top university. Toronto ranked first nationally in 21 of the 30 subjects covered in the rankings, well ahead of University of British Columbia with four and McGill University with three.

Toronto’s top ranking comes in education, where it is No. 9 in the world, the highest position attained by any Canadian institution. UBC made the Top 10 in Geography (ranking No. 10), while McGill’s highest position was No. 20, in psychology.

Canadian institutions make the Global Top 20 in 11 of the 30 disciplines, with Toronto accounting for nine: education (No. 9), English language and literature (No. 13), medicine (No. 14), modern languages (No. 14), philosophy (No. 15), pharmacy and pharmacology (No. 16), psychology (No. 18), computer science and information systems (No. 19) and history (No. 19).

“Canadian universities are able to compete with the world’s best in a range of disciplines, and University of Toronto in particular is among a select group of elite global institutions,” said Ben Sowter, QS head of research. “Canada’s solid performance is encouraging given how rapidly global competition is intensifying, especially in the STEM disciplines.”

Asia accounts for 10 of the Top 30 institutions in chemical, civil and electrical engineering and eight in mechanical engineering, showing that several institutions throughout the region can now be considered serious global players.

National University of Singapore makes the global Top 10 in all five of the engineering and technology disciplines, while Hong Kong accounts for three of the Top 20 institutions for computer science: HKUST (No. 11), HKU (No. 14) and Chinese University of Hong Kong (No. 18).

“The STEM disciplines have been the primary focus of global competition over the past decade, as institutions in countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Korea have emerged as genuine competitors to the traditional research powerhouses in the West,” Sowter said.

Published annually, the ranking is based on data collected for the overall QS World University Rankings, broken down to provide insights into the strongest performing institutions in specific subject areas. For the 2014 edition, this meant drawing on 90,000 survey responses, 27 million research paper attributions and almost 11,000 individually verified programs.

This year, a total of 689 institutions are ranked among the 200 top universities in the world for at least one subject, while 65 make at least one Top 10. Like last year, Massachusetts neighbors Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) emerge as the two clear leaders, accounting for 20 of the 30 number one spots between them – 11 held by Harvard and 9 by MIT.