Shock poll: MIT beats Oxbridge for arts and humanities

Shock poll: MIT beats Oxbridge for arts and humanities


norman lebrecht

October 23, 2015

You read that right.

In the authoritative Times Higher Educational Supplement rankings, Stanford, Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the top three spots, beating Oxford, London and Cambridge into 4th, 5th and 6th.

MIT is where this sort of thing counts for piano practise. No idea what they pitch at Stanford.

mit piano

Yale fails to make the top ten and Leiden is the highest placed European continent university at 17, just ahead of the Free University of Berlin.

Heidelberg, six places behind, have called them out for a duel.

Full top 100 here.


  • william osborne says:

    No surprise. A most Anglo-centric appraisal. Private universities are forbidden by law in almost all of continental Europe. Such privileges for the wealthy are considered immoral.

    As for MIT, they feel the world needs new instruments, and they are trying to build them. See:

    Can’t say their efforts have amounted to much, but I admire their efforts. Destroying unrepairable pianos is the least of the waste and neglect created by the US educational system.

    • Alexander Hall says:

      The Bucerius Law School in Hamburg is entirely private and has a reputation for excellence that far exceeds most faculties of jurisprudence in Germany.

      • william osborne says:

        Very much an anomaly, founded in 2000 and with about 100 students. The law in Germany stipulates that all state universities have similar quality. Since private institutions such as Bucerius are rare to the extreme, all students have equal access to quality education.

  • MacroV says:

    MIT may not be Juilliard or Curtis, but it has a fine music school, with a few recognizable faculty names like John Harbison, violist Marcus Thompson, and clarinetist/composer Evan Zaporyn. Plus a student body that one might think are all engineering nerds, but many of them probably know how to play an instrument quite well. Harvard has a student orchestra that would rival most conservatories and I would imagine MIT does, too.

  • Max Grimm says:

    I accord these university rankings as much credence as I do music school, orchestra, luthier and conductor rankings (to name but a few).

  • CDH says:

    You know, music is not the only — or probably in the case of ANY of these institutions the major — element of an Arts and Humanities department, division or section of a University. Literature, language, philosophy, history, fine arts, are probably among the disciplines that count for far more points in any of their criteria.

    And if anything I would say this survey is very America-centric. The American universities, as far as I read down, were all private. The English were not. Yet another area in which America does not feel taxpayer money should be delivered, although I think in spite of the niggardly amounts of money the state supplies, some State Universities are quite good. But most of their dosh probably comes from alumni and football booster clubs.

    • MK says:

      Maybe you didn’t read down very far – both UC Berkeley and UCLA, in the top 12, are public state schools. So is UMich, at no. 19.

  • William Safford says:

    Small piece of trivia: the principal bassoonist of the Minnesota Orchestra is an MIT alumnus.

  • VBHom says:

    My daughter and I teach violin and viola in Lexington, Massachusetts. Most of our high school students have had aspirations to attend MIT, Harvard, or other Ivy and similar schools. We encourage all of them to include their musical experiences when they apply to these schools.

    MIT has many musically gifted/inclined students and alumni. The MIT Symphony, the MIT Summer Philharmonic Orchestra, the Emerson Program, the Jazz Programs, a cappella performances are very well attended events.

    It is a fact that quite a number of MIT students and alumni get music degrees from New England Conservatory and other music schools while they are still at MIT, or after they graduate from MIT.

    It should be noted that visual arts is also a strong field of interest of students going to MIT. Where once MIT was derided as a nerd school, one would be hard-pressed to characterize it as just that now. Also, the athletic programs and opportunities of the MIT community are top notch in the area, and I dare say, worldwide.

    Harvard has many music ensembles where our students are able to involve themselves. Student-led orchestras, mariachi groups, symphony orchestras, and myriad vocal groups are very popular.

    It should be expected that music and arts inclined high school students would elect to attend universities/colleges that value their interests in addition to the academic qualities they bring.