Mathematics University Rankings: How Does It Work?
There are numerous university ranking systems, each with its own methodology and criteria for ranking. For this post, we use the QS World University Rankings by Subject, a ranking system based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact. However, I do suggest that you use different ranking systems (e.g. ShanghaiRanking, Scimago Institution’s Ranking) to get a fuller, somehow ‘less-biased’ picture!
Disclaimer: I am aware that most of these universities are Western ones, which ties into a lot of debate on the power of the West and historical injustice. At the end of this post, I also give a few of the much lesser-known universities to try to provide a more comprehensive, less-Western-biased post.
With that being said, let’s look at the top universities for maths in the UK and the US based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject.
University Ranking Mathematics 2023: The UK 🇬🇧
The table below shows the top universities in the UK for maths (as a whole subject) for the year 2023. The rank indicates the position of the university globally. The overall score is based on an average of the following: academic reputation, employer reputation, and quality of research (based on H-index citations and citations per paper).
|2||University of Cambridge||93.8|
|=3||University of Oxford||93.6|
|=10||Imperial College London||87.3|
|=19||The University of Warwick||83.5|
|36||The University of Edinburgh||79.7|
|=57||The University of Manchester||76.2|
|=71||King’s College London||74.2|
|=74||University of Bristol||73.8|
|=92||The London School of Economics
and Political Science (LSE)
Change from the 2022 list: the University of Bath was pushed down by The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Bath Uni is currently ranking at 108.
There is a channel on YouTube, Oxford Mathematics, where you can get a taste of what you can expect when studying maths at Oxford. Check out one of the student lectures on Oxford’s Introductory Calculus course, showing you how the course works and what you, as an aspiring maths student, should already know before taking the course: (the link will take you to YouTube).
University Ranking Mathematics 2023: The US 🇺🇸
The table below shows the top universities in the US for maths (as a whole subject) for the year 2023. The rank indicates the position of the university globally. The overall score is based on an average of the following scores: academic reputation, employer reputation, and quality of research (based on H-index citations and citations per paper).
|1||Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||97.4|
|6||University of California, Berkeley||92.7|
|9||New York University (NYU)||87.4|
|12||University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)||85.8|
|17||California Institute of Technology (Caltech)||84.1|
|=19||Carnegie Mellon University||83.5|
|21||University of Chicago||83.3|
Change from the 2022 list: California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Carnegie Mellon University pushed down the University of Chicago and Columbia University, currently ranking at 22.
If you’d like to see how different US universities rank for different topics/fields in maths, you can follow this link. For example, I played around with the filters and chose rankings specifically for Geometry. Here, Harvard and Princeton are ranked first, the University of California, Berkeley, is ranked third, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is ranked fourth.
The Best University for Mathematics in the World
OK, so I’m sure it comes as little surprise that the likes of Cambridge, Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard rank as some of the top universities globally for studying maths. I mean, these are the most prestigious universities with exceptionally strong academic reputations that span decades.
But, I want you to know that you also DON’T NEED to attend such a prestigious university to get a good, worthwhile education. Every university will have its good and bad lecturers and its pros and cons. And by all means, if you want to apply to the top universities in the world, you should absolutely go for it (you can check out our scholarship application article for some advice on securing financial assistance)! I mean, OF COURSE, receiving an education from a top university will open many, many doors for you.
That being said, university and the experience you have also come down to you and the effort you put in. I definitely didn’t attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities, but I still got an outstanding education and learnt from some truly brilliant minds – and that’s also because I worked hard, attended my lectures, and had respect for my lecturers and the education I was lucky enough to receive.
Mathematics University: What Students at StudySmarter Say
As I mentioned at the beginning, I also want to talk about lesser-known universities, so I spoke to some of our content creators at StudySmarter who study/have studied maths.
- Aberystwyth University, Wales. Ryan Moorcroft, one of our physics content creators, says that the student experience and teaching quality for maths at Aberystwyth are regularly rated top in the UK. He also says that there are many optional modules you can study to tailor the course to your own learning and interests, along with different maths courses (normal maths, pure maths, applied maths) and an option for an integrated master’s year.
- Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Arjan van Denzen says Utrecht is great for studying maths at the bachelor’s degree level because you can pick a lot of different free-choice subjects in all kinds of sub-directions of maths. He also says that the Netherlands, as a whole, offers fantastic opportunities to study maths at the master’s degree level. This is because the Netherlands has something called MasterMath, and if you enrol for your master’s degree, you can also enrol in MasterMath courses. According to Arjan, roughly one quarter of these are given at Utrecht University, one quarter at the University of Amsterdam (ranked 80 in the world), one quarter at Leiden University, and some others at other universities. There are at least 100 MasterMath courses to choose from, which can get extremely advanced. Universities decide on who the most competent maths lecturer for a particular subject is, and then they’ll offer a suitable course for most beta master students in the country.
- University of Campinas, Brazil. Vladmir Sicca, one of our maths content creators, studied mathematics here and says this university has a common program in mathematics, physics, and applied maths that is really well-rounded and creates a very interesting environment regarding the interaction between maths and physics. Vladmir went on to complete his PhD in maths at the renowned McGill University in Canada, and he says that his undergrad degree really prepared him well to study at McGill.
- At the University of KwaZulu Natal in South Africa, Keshav Singh, one of our physics content creators, says he had one of South Africa’s best lecturers teaching maths. The reason I mention this is because even though you won’t find the University of KwaZulu Natal ranked anywhere, Keshav (and students just like him) still received lessons from some excellent lecturers and academics. As I said, university is also what YOU make of it!
Mathematics University List: Other Countries
Below are the universities not located in the UK or US ranked in the top 100 for maths (based on the QS World University Rankings):
- Universities in Germany. Because StudySmarter is a German company, how could we not see how German universities for mathematics fare? Well, according to the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Germany fares VERY well: The Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität is 49 in the world, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) is 51, and the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) is 64.
- Universities in Europe. ETH Zurich comes out top here, ranking at 9, followed closely by Université PSL in France (number 12). The Institut Polytechnique de Paris is ranked 14, and Sorbonne University, also in France, comes in at 18.
- In the Middle East, King Abdulaziz University (KAU) ranks at 65.
- For universities in Asia, you can take a look at the National University of Singapore (ranked 13), Tsinghua University in China (ranked 24), Peking University (ranked 25), the University of Tokyo (31), and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (33).
- In Australia and New Zealand, the top-ranking universities for maths include The University of Melbourne (=41), the Australian National University (=47), the University of New South Wales (=57), and The University of Auckland (=115).
- In South America, the top-ranked university for maths is Universidade de São Paulo, which is ranked at 95. Universidad de Buenos Aires is tied at 104.
The Best Universities for Studying Mathematics …
… well, you can look at the rankings, BUT I also encourage you not to take the rankings too seriously. Sure, the likes of Oxford, MIT, and Stanford are likely to remain at the top of the rankings for years to come, but every university will offer you something special. Don’t just rely on rankings – do your own research, go to open days, speak to other students, and research what you can study regarding the maths department at a specific university.
And you know what? Sometimes, you just won’t be able to attend your dream university, and that’s OK! I really wanted to study at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, but finances wouldn’t allow. So, I went to Wits University instead (where I also managed to get a scholarship), and I truly got an outstanding education from there. So don’t be disheartened – work hard at whichever university you go to, and doors will open up. And who knows? Maybe you’ll get a scholarship or research grant to study at a top-ranked university for your master’s or PhD!
All the best! Go show calculus or set theory who’s boss.