Archaeology top in long line of firsts

08 March 2017
QS World University Rankings

The Faculty of Arts has scooped the bulk of the top rankings in New Zealand in the latest QS World University Rankings by Subject.

QS's analysis of subject-specific university performance lists the world's best universities  including eight in New Zealand  for the study of 46 different subjects.

Of the 12 Arts subjects listed by QS, the University is ranked first in New Zealand in 11 of them.

The University’s top ranked subject for the second year in a row was Archaeology, up from 20th in 2016 to 16th in the world in 2017.

Head of Social Sciences, Professor Simon Holdaway, says the QS rankings reflect the quality of work our archaeologists carry out in the Pacific, Australia, the Near East and in New Zealand.

"The students are put into situations where they can excel, and when they do, they stand out on the world scene."

Simon has been leading archaeological fieldwork on Great Mercury Island off the coast of the Coromandel Peninsula in collaboration with the Auckland Museum and with the support of the island's owners, Sir Michael Fay and David Richwhite. He says that Archaeology students work closely with academic staff in multidisciplinary projects both within New Zealand and beyond, and engage with colleagues from other universities across the world.

One student, Emma Ash, recently graduated with her Master of Arts in Archaeology, and is now off to work for Auckland Museum as a Collection Technician.

Emma estimates her ten trips to Great Mercury Island over the past four years would add up to six months of field work on the island.

"I am always a little bit reluctant to go back to the city. It's a great island, it's really special and the archaeology out there is incredible."

She changed her Biology degree to Archaeology when she became attracted to the subject's mystery.

"It's the unknown, of not knowing what you’re going to find, that’s what keeps it interesting."

Emma spent so much time on Great Mercury Island she became known as 'The Bone Lady' by other students as she studied the bones of kurī, a now extinct Polynesian dog.

The Faculty’s five permanent academic staff in Archaeology have high international profiles and are engaged in multiple research projects. Professor Thegn Ladefoged was recently awarded a $705,000 Marsden grant to study how Māori society transformed after initial Polynesian settlement by understanding the way Māori moved obsidian, a volcanic glass around the country.

The University was also top in English Language and Literature, ranked 29th, up from 31st in 2016; Anthropology is 44th, rising from 49th, and Modern Languages is ranked 42nd, having been ranked in the 51 to 100 range in 2016. Sociology has risen one space to 50th in the world, and Linguistics is also 50th. Development Studies and Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies are ranked in the 51 to 100 range.

Communication and Media Studies, Philosophy, History and Politics and International Relations remained in the 51 to 100 rankings world-wide.

Dean of Arts, Professor Robert Greenberg, says the rankings are testament to the quality of the academic staff and the research generated by the Faculty, which in turn benefits students.

"We are delighted to see that the disciplines in the Faculty of Arts have once again been ranked very highly."

"It shows how the popularity, broadness and versatility of the Arts subjects that we offer at the University of Auckland allow our students to study in a world class institution."

Founded in 1990, QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) is the leading global provider of higher education and careers information and independent research. Its activities span across 50 countries, working with over 2,000 international universities and business schools.

QS ranks universities worldwide based on academic reputation, employer reputation and research citations, with weightings tailored to each subject.

We were ranked first in New Zealand for:

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Communication and Media Studies
  • English Language & Literature
  • History
  • Linguistics
  • Modern Languages
  • Philosophy
  • Politics and International Studies
  • Sociology
  • Theology, Divinity & Religious Studies