Medical and agricultural sciences lead U of A performance in two major academic rankings

Latest results include a rise to fourth place in Canada in influential U.S. News rankings.


Medical and agricultural sciences led a strong showing for the U of A in two new major global rankings released this week. (Photo: Richard Siemens)

Two global academic rankings released this week shone a spotlight on the University of Alberta’s strength in diverse subjects across its colleges and faculties, with a particularly strong performance in medical and agricultural sciences.

The institution moved up in the U.S. News 2022-23 Best Global Universities Rankings, climbing to fourth in Canada and ranking among the world’s top 100 in 16 subjects. It also saw three social sciences and humanities programs make significant gains in the Times Higher Education 2023 Subject Rankings.

“Our achievements in a diverse range of subjects showcase our dedication to excellence across the entire U of A. From agricultural sciences to gastroenterology and hepatology to food sciences and technology, we are a proven leader across Canada and the world,” says U of A president Bill Flanagan.

“I am proud of the U of A’s strengths in teaching and discovery and our commitment to lead with purpose today and tomorrow.”

Leading in health sciences

Gastroenterology and hepatology remained the U of A’s strongest subject in the U.S. News ranking for a second year, ranking third in Canada and 33rd in the world. Researchers in this field are doing innovative work that seeks to solve common health problems such as inflammatory bowel disease.

For example, researchers recently uncovered the role of dietary fibre and gut microbes in people who suffer from the disease, with results that could lead to personalized dietary guidelines to help people avoid long-term problems and painful flare-ups.

Last fall, researchers including Daniel Baumgart, professor and director of the Division of Gastroenterology, partnered with Crohn’s and Colitis Canada on a project that looks to improve the quality of life for Canadians with IBD through specialized care and personalized therapies.

“This continued global success in our subject rankings — building on recent strong performances in both nursing and kinesiology, sport, and recreation for program rankings — demonstrates the tremendous power and reach of the College of Health Sciences’ research and innovation,” says Greta Cummings, dean of the College of Health Sciences.

Further foregrounding the U of A’s excellence in medical sciences, the institution rose two places in cardiac and cardiovascular systems and nearly 10 spots in microbiology, climbing from 72nd last year to 63rd in 2022. It also ranked in the top 100 internationally in surgery (81st) and clinical medicine (83rd).

"These strong rankings in health sciences reflect the University of Alberta's culture of innovation and strong interdisciplinary research teams. Our continued success in world-class health research and education position us to address the most pressing health issues of our time,” says Brenda Hemmelgarn, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Advancing natural and applied sciences

Agricultural sciences, another consistent area of strength, rose substantially in the U.S. News rankings, climbing from 58th in 2021 to 38th this year, with food science and technology ranked 48th.

Researchers working in this field are finding solutions for how to grow better crops in a more sustainable way. Innovative projects with potential impact on agricultural practices in the province include a new soil database that allows Alberta farmers to assess and optimize soil health, as well as the development of new strains of wheat with built-in resistance to wheat midge, a pest that causes millions in damage to wheat crops.

To help accelerate the translation of these projects to a wider audience, the U of A recently formed a partnership that allows researchers and startups to bring new agricultural innovation from the lab to the market.

Several other subjects within the College of Natural and Applied Sciences were ranked among the top 100 in the world, including artificial intelligence (52nd), plant and animal science (76th), mechanical engineering (77th) and polymer science (99th), with tied rankings in engineering (85th), environment/ecology (75th), geosciences (97th) and computer science (100th).

“Faculties within the College of Natural and Applied Sciences are known for program excellence and relevance both in terms of fundamental discoveries and innovation, and importantly in how that knowledge can be mobilized for the benefit of society and the economy,” says college dean Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell.

“This list, which includes top 100 programs in each of engineering, science and ALES, reflects the dedicated work of our outstanding faculty members and their teams of post-doctoral fellows, students and staff who continue to lead in their fields,” she adds. “These rankings also highlight our strong external partnerships that allow us to be responsive to government, industry and sector needs in a nimble and effective way. The steep rise in agricultural sciences is a shining example of these partnerships, for which we are grateful.”

Gaining ground in social sciences and humanities

In the Times Higher Education subject rankings, the U of A saw a notable rise in education, law and social sciences, all housed within the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. The institution rose into the top 100 in the law subject category, a considerable jump from last year’s 151-175th ranking. It also entered the top five nationally in social sciences, moving from 251-300th internationally into the 151-175th range.

“I am exceptionally proud to see the ranking results for our college, which clearly acknowledges the stellar reputation of our professors and the outstanding education received by our students. I know these results are just the start of our momentum as our college works together to lead in teaching and research across so many vital disciplines,” says Joseph Doucet, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

The U of A’s world-leading expertise in a diverse range of subjects has been acknowledged by several other academic rankings this year. It was ranked as the best institution in Canada to study nursing and engineering in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject, and placed first nationally in business administration according to the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects.