ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects released its sixth consecutive edition of the expanded ranking on July 19. This is yet another mammoth edition containing 54 subject areas and covering more than 1,800 institutions from 96 locations.

Despite the mixed signals we have seen recently in other ranking schemas, Australian universities have continued to perform well.

The number of Australian universities included in the ranking increased by three from 36 in 2021 to 39. New entrants are Southern Cross (with six listings), Bond and Charles Darwin (with one listing each).

Overall, there are 884 instances in which Australian universities are listed compared to 876 instances last year. The proportion of subjects ranked in the world’s top 100 increased to 37 per cent compared to 35.5 per cent in 2021, or 34.1 per cent in 2020.

However, the proportion of subjects ranked in the world’s top 200 (i.e., ranked in the cumulative range from 1 to 200) decreased from 64.8 per cent in 2021 to 63.1 per cent.

We also observe that the cumulative proportion of subjects ranked in the world’s top 300 decreased from 84.8 per cent last year to 82.7 per cent. This suggests that there is a need for university leaders to create incentives, foster increased collaboration and focus on top quality publications to strengthen overall quality of research endeavours for the subject areas which are in the middle bands.

Number of times listed

There are 18 Australian universities listed that have more than 25 instances in the subject rankings. This is two more compared to last year. UNSW continues to have the most listings across 52 subjects, followed by Queensland (51), Sydney (49) and Melbourne (48). This year we observe that Queensland increased by two listings, while Melbourne went down by two.

Seven of the Go8 universities are listed the most instances (between 41 and 52 listings), followed by UTS (41), then UWA (38), Griffith (37), QUT (37) and RMIT (35).

Closer to the top

Whilst there is not an Australian university which tops in any of the subject rankings, there 15 listings in the world’s top 10.

Australia’s top two subject listings are from Griffith: Nursing, ranked 2nd globally and Hospitality & Tourism Management, ranked 3rd globally.

The other 13 listings are: Mining & Mineral Engineering from UWA (4th), Geography from Melbourne (5th), Mining & Mineral Engineering from Monash (5th), Nursing from Monash (5th), Nursing from Sydney (7th), Hospitality & Tourism Management from Queensland Uni (8th), Nursing from UTS (8th), Telecommunication Engineering from Sydney (9th), Biotechnology from Queensland (9th), Nursing from Queensland (9th), Water Resources from UNSW (10th), Mining & Mineral Engineering from UNSW (10th) and Transportation Science & Technology from Sydney (10th).


While UNSW has the highest proportion of its subject listings in the top 50 (40.4 per cent, up from 36.5 per cent last year) followed by Uni Queensland (33.3 per cent), Monash has the highest proportion of its listings in the world’s top 100 (i.e., band range from 1-100). 75 per cent of Monash’s listings are ranked in the top 100.

Once again, this year’s ranking sees seven Go8 universities as well as UTS with the highest proportion of their listings in the top 100 at above the national average (37 per cent). Adelaide (36.6 per cent) and Wollongong (35.7 per cent) are within relative proximity to the national average.

This year’s results show a degree of stability, which bodes well from my perspective for the long-term usability of this ranking. As this is a ranking which significantly relies on bibliometric data, there is not much variation which can be expected from year to year.

Engineering remains top field

This is a ranking which provides comprehensive coverage of engineering with 22 subject listings. For Australian universities, 35 per cent (309 listings) are in engineering, followed by the social sciences (238 listings), natural sciences (139), medical sciences (117). The lowest number of listings are in the life sciences (81). This year’s distribution is similar to what we reported last year (CMM, May 27 2021).

There is often confusion about why an institution is listed in certain fields in which they do not teach or offer coursework degrees. The construct of the academic subjects is based on the fields of publications of an institution as mapped by ShanghaiRanking using Clarivate’s Web of Science.

There is also the temptation to compare how Australian universities perform in QS World University Rankings by subject. It is worth reminding readers that there are significant differences in the construction of both rankings. QS uses data from Elsevier’s Scopus, whilst ShanghaiRanking uses data from Clarivate’s Web of Science.

Both QS and ShanghaiRanking have developed their own typology for subject rankings. For example, QS publishes rankings in 51 subjects, of which only seven form part of the broad subject area called engineering and technology.

As I have previously noted, ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects is not a ranking designed to appeal to students; rather, it is focused on fostering research and institutional collaboration, academic mobility across institutions and possibly enter into agreements based on research affinity. It may have some appeal to students who are considering doctorate education in a particular field or niche area of research. The subject ranking which has greater appeal to students is the one produced by QS and released every year in March since 2011.

ShanghaiRanking is a ranking which appeals to those academics who are seeking to advance their research career elsewhere.

Methodological construct

The methodological construct of ShanghaiRanking is entirely dependent on objective measures. Four of these are drawn from Clarivate’s bibliometric databases:

The first indicator (Q1) is the number of papers published by an institution which are in journals with Q1 Journal Impact Factor Quartile during the five-year period between 2016 and 2020.

The second indicator (CNCI) refers to the ratio of citations of papers published to the average citations of papers published in the same category during the period between 2016 and 2020.

The third indicator refers to the ratio of collaborative publications (with at least two authors from different countries) during the period between 2016 and 2020.

The fourth indicator refers to the number of papers published in top journals in an academic subject for an institution between 2016 and 2020.

The last indicator is based on the number of staff of an institution winning a significant award in an academic subject.

Next in global rankings

The 2022 rankings season continues with the Academic Ranking of World Universities which is due in mid-August. We can expect some movement in standing given the volatility we saw in recent years, due to the dependency of our universities on highly cited researchers.

Total number of times and band distribution Australian universities listed in ShanghaiRankings’ 2022 Global Rankings of Academic Subjects by faculty
Faculty Total number of times listed Band distribution
Top 100 Top 200 Top 300 Top 400 Top 500
Engineering 309 46.6% 26.5% 16.5% 7.1% 3.2%
Life Sciences 81 29.6% 11.1% 17.3% 16.0% 25.9%
Medical Sciences 117 35.9% 21.4% 21.4% 13.7% 7.7%
Natural Sciences 139 30.9% 24.5% 23.0% 12.2% 9.4%
Social Sciences 238 31.1% 34.0% 21.4% 10.1% 3.4%
Total 2022 884 37.0% 26.1% 19.6% 10.4% 6.9%
Total 2021 876 35.5% 29.3% 20.0% 9.8% 5.4%
Total 2020 34.1% 29.1% 19.6% 11.1% 6.1%
Total 2019 34.9% 29.7% 19.8% 9.2% 6.4%
Source: ShanghaiRankings,
Table compiled by AJ Calderon using 2022 data available online and previous years data extracted at the time of release.

 Angel Calderon is principal advisor, planning and research at RMIT


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