The Times Higher Education magazine has published the subject ranking of the world’s top universities. Its results once again demonstrate the global trend in the development of the university community associated with the acceleration of technical and technological progress.

In the world of changing technologies, subject-oriented universities that are focused on engineering and technology and applied developments gain competitive advantages. Conversely, it is becoming more and more difficult for classical universities that implement academic programmes in a wide range of fields of study and mainly fundamental research projects to keep high positions. In this context the case of St Petersburg University is a benchmark. The University keeps its positions in such subject areas as: physical sciences; life sciences (biology); clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences (medicine); and social sciences (sociology). At the same time, the position of the University in engineering & technology and computer science has slightly decreased.

Any university ranking is, in a sense, a mirror reflecting the state of science and education in the world. The dynamics of ranking indicators over the past decade sets a challenging task for classical universities in choosing a way forward. It seems reasonable to increase the share of applied developments in the portfolio of research projects. However, it is obvious that applied developments do not arise out of nowhere. Breakthrough innovations are possible only on the basis of the results of fundamental research. The task of finding the optimal balance between fundamental and applied is being addressed by the new Strategic Plan of St Petersburg University until 2030. It is currently being coordinated with the federal authorities and administration and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings have been published since 2009. The THE World University Rankings by Subject has been published since 2011. The portfolio of the compliers of the respected ranked list also includes: THE World Reputation Rankings; THE Impact Rankings; and a set of 11 detailed subject rankings, covering a wide range of university developments from engineering to social sciences.