NZ universities perform well in World University subject rankings



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New Zealand has again excelled in the latest world university rankings, being placed in the top 50 universities in the world in 22 different subjects, and in the top 100 in 39 (out of a possible 46) subjects. The annual QS World University Rankings by Subject was released today and compares academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations, and impact.

Achieving.jpg“These are outstanding results for a country with eight universities being evaluated against 4,430 other universities from around the world”, says Executive Director of Universities New Zealand Chris Whelan.  “They reflect the high regard in which our universities’ teaching and research is held across a wide range of disciplines.”

The University of Otago was among those to fare well in the latest rankings, being ranked among the top 50 institutions in the world in five subject areas and among the top 100 in 12.

“This assessment, which I understand involves consideration of over 4400 universities worldwide, is a welcome recognition of what we have achieved in our educational offerings so far across many areas,” says Otago's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Vernon Squire.

Chris Whelan says rankings have become very influential tools.  “It’s not about institutional vanity - it’s about their international reputation. Rankings strongly influence decisions being made by students, as well as countries, top researchers and research institutes about who they will, or won’t, study or work with.”

However, Whelan warns against complacency.

“Between this year and last year, the eight universities collectively saw improvements in 24 subject rankings and maintained their rankings in 64 subjects, but we also saw drops in 55 subject rankings.  

“This overall decline is mainly a consequence of low institutional funding levels by international standards.  With funding now below the OECD average per student, New Zealand universities are struggling to maintain quality compared with the countries that receive above average funding – like Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

New Zealand spends US$15,400 per student, relative to an OECD average of US$16,200.  Other countries are recognising the importance of higher education, research and innovation to drive prosperity and enhance well-being.”

He says, “This year’s ranking results are evidence of the real commitment of New Zealand universities to delivering teaching, learning and research of the highest international standards.  However, they do so under immense and growing pressure. Keeping pace with our peers gets harder each year”.

If we want the universities to continue to rise in the subject rankings, and so give our students even better educational experiences, the nation will have to be prepared to invest in them.

Key results by university for 2017 are:


The University of Auckland

-          featured in the top 50 in the world in 16 subjects , including two subjects in the top 20: ranked 16th in the world in Archaeology, 20th in Education, 29th in English Language and Literature, 33rd in Psychology, 34th in Geography and in Anatomy and Physiology, 36th in Law, 37th in Accounting and Finance, 38rd in Civil and Structural Engineering, 42nd in Modern Languages, 44th in Anthropology, 45th in Social Policy and Administration, 49th in Statistics and Operational Research, and 50th in Linguistics, Nursing, and Sociology.

  • ranked 51-100 in a further 18 subjects.


Auckland University of Technology (AUT)

  • featured in the top 50 in the world, placed 45th in Hospitality and Leisure Management.
  • ranked 51-100 in Art and Design, and in Sports-related subjects, and 101-150 in Accounting and Finance.


University of Waikato

  • featured in the top 50 in the world, placed 24th in Hospitality and Leisure Management.
  • ranked 51-100 for Education, and 101-150 for Accounting and Finance, and Geography.


Massey University

-          featured in the top 50 in the world in two subjects, placed 23rd in Veterinary Science, and 27th in Agriculture and Forestry.

  • ranked 51-100 in Art and Design, Nursing, and Development Studies.


Victoria University of Wellington

  • featured in the top 50 in the world, placed 46th in Law.
  • ranked in the top 51-100 in English Language and Literature, Performing Arts, Psychology, Geography, Accounting and Finance, and Education.


University of Canterbury

  • ranked in the top 51-100 in two subjects: Civil and Structural Engineering, and Education.
  • also ranked 101-150 in English Language and Literature, Geography, Accounting and Finance, Law and Sociology.


Lincoln University

  • featured in the top 50 in the world in two subjects: 39th in Agriculture and Forestry, and 48th in Hospitality and Leisure Management.


University of Otago

-          featured in the top 50 in the world in five subjects, including one subject in the top 20: 7th in the world in Sports-related subjects, 24th in Anatomy and Physiology, 29th in Dentistry, 40th in Archaeology, and 44th in Development Studies.

  • ranked in the top 51-100 in History, Performing Arts, Medicine, Psychology, Geography, Anthropology, and Law.

More information:


-          For further facts and stats about New Zealand’s universities, see

-          QS subject rankings information

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