The annual QS World University Rankings by Subject has crowned Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with the most top places, but Sussex and Loughborough also achieve top awards.
Among UK universities, Oxford was rated top in the most subjects, while the university of Sussex was ranked as the world’s best for development studies and Loughborough was ranked best for sport.
The annual rankings compare institutions across 46 subjects and report on the strength and depth of specialisms, rather than basing comparisons on an overall university ranking.
Harvard topped 15 of these subjects, while fellow US university MIT being awarded the top spot for 12.
In addition to Sussex and Loughborough there were a number of UK universities that claimed first place in their specialist field.
The Royal College of Art was top for art and design and the Institute of Education, which forms part of University College, was first for education.
The University of Cambridge was the most consistent institution, with more subjects in the top 10 than any other.
In total a quarter of all top 10 rankings are taken by UK universities, with the US and UK having the biggest share of the highest places.
The University of Nottingham also fared well, being named as an elite institution in 37 of the 46 subjects surveyed.
Commenting on the results, Ben Sowter, head of research for the rankings firm, suggested comparisons by subject were becoming more important for students when considering courses and institutions.
He added: “Subject rankings are becoming more and more influential” and the UK does particularly well in these rankings, which drill down to a subject level.