Most Arab universities improve in rankings indicators

The majority of universities across the Arab region have improved their overall score in performance indicators in the Arab University Rankings, while universities from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) dominate the top 10 and Egypt has the highest number of ranked universities across the Arab world.

Released on 29 November, the second Times Higher Education (THE) Arab University Rankings ranked 169 universities across 15 Arab countries out of the 22 member states of the Arab League.

The rankings are based on the same framework as the flagship THE World University Rankings, with some adjustments and the inclusion of new metrics to reflect the features and missions of universities in the Middle East and North Africa.

For example, the participation criteria for the Arab University Rankings are less strict than those for the World University Rankings, according to the THE website.

Universities must publish at least 500 publications over a five-year period to be included in the Arab ranking (down from 1,000 for the World University Rankings). “This reflects the growing nature of higher education in the region,” according to THE.

In addition, postgraduate-only institutions have been permitted to participate in the Arab ranking.

There are also three Arab-specific metrics, although these all have relatively low weightings. Because of the strong focus on sustainability in the region, two measures based on participation and performance in the THE Impact Rankings were included. Research collaboration among universities in the Arab world was examined separately.

total of 16 performance indicators are grouped into five areas including teaching (the learning environment – 33%); research (volume, income and reputation – 33%); citations (research influence – 20%); international outlook (staff, students and research – 8%); and society (knowledge transfer and impact – 6%).

Top performers

King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia tops the ranking for the second consecutive year followed by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in second place and Qatar University in third place.

The top 10 universities are located in four countries only, namely, Saudi Arabia (5), United Arab Emirates (3), Qatar (1) and Egypt (1).

These include King Abdulaziz University (first), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (second), Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (fourth), King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (sixth) and King Saud University (joint seventh) in Saudi Arabia; and Khalifa University (fifth), United Arab Emirates University (joint seventh) and the University of Sharjah in the UAE (ninth); as well as Qatar University (third) and Zewail City of Science and Technology in Egypt (10th).

The UAE gained a third university in the top 10 as a result of the University of Sharjah rising to ninth place, up an impressive 10 places from joint 19th.

The top 10 most represented countries in the ranking are Egypt (34 universities), Saudi Arabia (32), Iraq (23), Jordan (14), Tunisia (10), Morocco (10), UAE (9), Lebanon (5) and Palestine (4).

All 15 countries in the Arab University Rankings have improved their overall representation since last year, except for Lebanon and Bahrain: Lebanon has five institutions ranked, down from seven, and Bahrain has one university ranked, down from two last year.

Arab universities performed best on the society pillar and were weakest when it came to research.

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