U of A’s strong subjects stand out in two global rankings

Latest results reflect excellence in teaching and research across an array of disciplines.

Aerial view of Edmonton. (Photo: Richard Siemens)

Two prominent global subject-area rankings highlight the U of A’s strengths in teaching and research in diverse disciplines including health, science, engineering and education. (Photo: Richard Siemens)

Two respected global rankings released last week highlight the University of Alberta’s strength in teaching and research across an array of disciplines including health, science, engineering and education.

The U of A saw five subjects ranked among the world’s top 50 in the 2023 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects, with four deemed best in Canada. The university also had four subjects ranked among the top 100 in the 2024 Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject, with all four making gains this year.

“One of our primary goals at the University of Alberta is to provide students with outstanding educational opportunities that prepare them for success, now and in the future. These rankings are proof that many of our programs are the best in Canada, and among the best in the world, and that’s great to see,” says U of A president and vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan.

“Increasing our global rankings — and, more importantly, our global impact — is an important part of the university’s strategic plan, Shapeand I’m proud to see that we are moving in the right direction.” 

Biological sciences moved up one place both globally and nationally to rank 29th in the world and first in Canada in the latest Global Ranking of Academic Subjects. Earth sciences held on to its first-place ranking in Canada and remained in the 51-75 range globally.

U of A researchers in these fields are looking at everything from the impact of climate change and urbanization on mammals to how disease-causing fungi develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs and how ranchers can help protect vital grasslands.

Within engineering subjects, instruments science and technology finished first in Canada and 36th internationally, and chemical engineering kept its first-place rank in Canada while remaining in the 76-100 range globally. Environmental science and engineering ranked second in Canada but was the U of A’s highest-ranked subject globally at 20th. Automation and control came in at 37th worldwide and second in the country, and mining and mineral engineering ranked 48th globally and fourth in Canada. 

Leading U of A experts in engineering fields include Hongbo Zeng, whose research into how surfaces interact at the molecular level has applications for developing innovative industrial materials, and Tongwen Chen, who has advanced the design of automated control systems for complex industrial facilities. Both were named to the Royal Society of Canada last month.

“It’s fantastic to see several ALES, science and engineering disciplines continue to be represented, and continue to rise,” says Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences

“These rankings reflect the exceptional faculty members and staff who are at the forefront of discovery, innovation, application and commercialization. At the same time, they prioritize education and mentoring future leaders in science and engineering. The rankings also reflect our valued public and private partnerships that continue to invest in our talented researchers and remarkable students.”

The U of A’s best showing in the 2024 Times Higher Education subject ranking, announced Oct. 26, was 73rd place in the clinical and health category, up two places from last year. This category highlights universities that are leading across medicine, dentistry and other health subjects.

Among the U of A’s leading lights in health sciences are virologist Michael Houghton, who was a co-recipient of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the hepatitis C virus and is now working toward testing a vaccine against the disease, and nursing professor Edith Pituskin, who is part of an interdisciplinary team heading up a new lab to explore how people with chronic diseases can get the most benefit from exercise.

“We continue to push the boundaries of health science research, teaching and learning, through collaborative and innovative approaches that advance policy and practice while supporting the full spectrum of health for the diverse communities we serve,” says Brenda Hemmelgarn, dean and vice-provost of the College of Health Sciences.

“Our health science experts remain steadfast in their commitment to conducting accessible and meaningful research in areas such as pandemic preparedness, Indigenous health and health equity.”

The biggest gain for the U of A in the Times Higher Education subject rankings was in education, which vaulted into the world’s top 100 with a tie for 75th place after finishing within the 126-150 group last year. 

The Faculty of Education continues to build on its national reputation for high-quality teacher education, counselling psychology and library and information studies programs. The faculty is also known for high-impact research, including a literacy intervention for young learners that has been adopted around the world, improved educational experiences for students with autism, innovations in integrating Indigenous wisdom in teacher education, arts-based deaf education and AI-assisted formative feedback and assessment.

“I’m pleased to see that the Faculty of Education has moved up significantly in the Times Higher Education rankings, solidifying our position as a world-class faculty dedicated to inspiring and educating our future leaders and teachers across the globe,” says Marvin Washington, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

“Our award-winning professors and innovative researchers consistently push the boundaries of excellence in education, and I look forward to witnessing how the faculty will continue to shape its students for a brighter future.”

The faculties of science and engineering also made significant gains, moving into the world’s top 100 this year. Computer science came in at 89th worldwide and engineering tied for 90th place this year, both moving out ahead of the 101-125 group they were part of last year.

The university has been a consistent performer in global and national subject rankings this year. Earlier this month, Maclean’s ranked the U of A’s nursing and education programs first and third in Canada, respectively. Engineering, computer science and business also ranked among the top six in the country.

Nursing also ranked first in Canada in the 2023 QS World University Rankings by Subject released in March, along with petroleum engineering. In all, 18 U of A subjects were listed among the global top 100 in the QS rankings.

The U of A has seen an upward trend this year in major global rankings. The institution ranked among the top six per cent worldwide and fifth in Canada in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and improved its standing to 91st internationally and fourth in Canada in the most recent Academic Ranking of World Universities.

The university also moved up to seventh in the world in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings of universities based on their efforts toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.