A ranking of 800 international universities by discipline has placed five New Zealand universities in its top 50.

The highest position reached by a New Zealand university was 19th - achieved by the University of Canterbury for civil engineering, University of Otago for psychology, and Massey University for agriculture.

The ranking was compiled by a British company specialising in education abroad, Quacquarelli Symonds.

University of Auckland was the country's best-performing institution, making the top 200 in 29 of the 30 disciplines.


The university's strongest subject was accounting and finance, in which it ranked 24th. Auckland also had politics, law, education, psychology, linguistics, english, pharmacy and pharmacology, modern languages and biological sciences in the top 50.

The University of Waikato's education programme was ranked 46th.

The list's research head, Ben Sowter, said the rankings showed New Zealand universities were punching well above their weight - particularly in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

"At the same time, New Zealand's comparatively weak performance across the STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] disciplines shows the extent to which Asian investment is ramping up the global competition in this high-impact field.''

Asia accounts for 10 of the top 30 institutions in chemical, civil and electrical engineering, and eight in mechanical engineering.

Globally, Harvard remains the best all-round institution, ranking first globally in 11 of the 30 disciplines, two more than neighbouring rival, MIT.

The full ranking list is published here.