Eighty universities in Arab countries are ranked in the 2023 edition of the QS World University Rankings, five more than last year.
The new classification, published this week by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, a British higher-education analytics company, compares 1,418 institutions around the globe, the largest number ever.
The universities are located in 100 countries and territories, including 15 Arab countries.
Ben Sowter, a senior vice president with QS Quacquarelli Symonds, said that this year’s rankings shed light on more institutions in the Arab region than ever before, allowing students, faculty, and policymakers to benchmark success, both regionally and globally.
Of the region’s 10 highest-ranked universities, six improved their position since last year and four declined.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University (KAU) was the top-ranked university in the region, in 106th place.
In its methodology for the rankings, QS assesses universities across six categories, including academic and employer reputation scores, faculty-student ratio, research citations, and the numbers of international faculty members and international students enrolled.
This year’s edition considered the performance of 16.4 million academic papers published between 2016 and 2020 and the 117.8 million citations those papers received. The reputational scores are based on surveys of over 151,000 faculty members and 99,000 employers.
This year, QS added two new unweighted performance lenses: an Employment Outcomes Index to assess the employability of students, and an International Research Network Index to analyse international research collaboration and knowledge transfer.
12 Arab Universities in the Top 500
A total of 12 universities in Arab countries ranked in the top 500 institutions.
Two Arab universities joined Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University in the top 200. They were King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (160), also in Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates’ Khalifa University of Science and Technology (181).
Four more universities ranked in the top 300: Qatar University (208), King Saud University (237), the American University of Beirut (252), and the United Arab Emirates University (296).
Five more universities followed in the top 500 list. They were the American University of Sharjah (369), Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University (384), the American University in Cairo (416), and two institutions in Saudi Arabia: Umm Al-Qura University (449) and Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (477).
Saudi Arabia’s Strong Showing
The Arab region has one of the world’s highest international faculty ratios and is home to all ten of the world’s top 10 institutions in this metric.
Saudi Arabia was home to the Arab region’s most improved university and most top-500 universities.
Sixteen Saudi universities were listed in the 2023 rankings; only two of them declined since last year, while two others were ranked for the first time.
Ben Sowter, of QS, said: “Given the profound questions over the sustainability of its oil-based economy, the country’s official development plan, Saudi Vision 2030, has wisely prioritised the modernisation of its higher-education system and upskilling its population to enhance its economic diversification.”
The kingdom’s top-placed institution, King Abdulaziz University, ranked 167th and 94th globally in QS’s Academic and Employer Reputation criteria.
The second-highest placed Saudi institution, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, was rated as the nation’s best university for research in engineering and technology.
Saudi Arabia also attracts an exceptional number of international faculty, with nine of its universities ranking in the world’s top 100 in this metric, including five in the top 30. Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University was the highest-ranking Saudi institution for international faculty ratio, placing 11th globally.
Besides the five Saudi universities in the top 500, five others made it to the top 750 list: Alfaisal University and Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University were both in a group ranked 651-700, and Jouf University, King Khalid University, and Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University were all ranked 701-750.
The other Saudi institutions and their rankings were: Islamic University of Madinah, King Faisal University, Northern Borders University, and Qassim University, all ranked in the 800-1,000 group, followed by Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University and Taibah University, both ranked 1,001-1,200.
U.A.E.: Top International Ecosystem
With 11 institutions in the list, the United Arab Emirates had more universities ranked this year than ever before. Three Emirati universities made it to the top 500, including Khalifa University, which gained two positions to 181st place.
In a news release, QS announced that the Emirates showed the world’s most international higher-education ecosystem, as well as research strength in engineering. Khalifa University had the highest faculty-per-student ratio in the Arab region, placing 80th globally in this metric. In terms of research, the same university placed 248th in the world for citations per faculty, specifically in electrical engineering.
“The U.A.E. is clearly a hugely attractive higher-education destination for international faculty and students alike,” Sowter said. “This, in turn, reflects low student-faculty ratios and impressive research performance.”
In addition to three institutions in the top 500, eight Emirati universities were among the top 1,000. They were: the Canadian University Dubai, in the group ranked 541-550; Al Ain University and the University of Sharjah (601-650); Abu Dhabi University, Ajman University, and American University in Dubai (651-700); Zayed University (701-750); and the University of Dubai, new to the rankings this year (801-1,000).
Egypt: Most Ranked Universities in Africa
The 2023 rankings included 14 public and private universities in Egypt, the highest number of any African nation.
Egypt also displayed significant increases in the Employer and Academic Reputation indicators and in research prevalence in engineering.
The American University in Cairo, Egypt’s highest-ranked institution, showed a particular research strength in petroleum engineering.
AUC was the third-highest ranked university in Africa, after two institutions in South Africa, and the only Arabic-speaking African nation to make it to the top 500 list.
“Saudia Arabia’s official development plan, Saudi Vision 2030, has wisely prioritised the modernisation of its higher-education system and upskilling its population to enhance its economic diversification.”Ben Sowter Senior vice president at QS Quacquarelli Symonds
Two other Egyptian institutions were in the continent’s top 10: Cairo University, sixth in Africa and in the 551-560 group overall, and Ain Shams University, ninth in Africa and 801-1,000 overall.
Three Egyptian institutions ranked in the 1001-1200 band: Alexandria University, Assiut University, and Future University in Egypt (the latter ranking for the first time).
Eight institutions ranked in the 1,201-1,400 band: Al-Azhar University, the British University in Egypt, the German University in Cairo, Helwan University, Mansoura University, Suez Canal University, Tanta University, and Zagazig University.
Elsewhere in North Africa, Sudan had two ranked universities: the University of Khartoum (1,201-1,400) and Sudan University of Science and Technology (1401+).
Tunisia had three ranked institutions: Université de Sousse (751-800), and Université de Tunis and Université de Tunis El Manar (1,201-1,400).
Morocco had one, Université Mohammed V de Rabat (1,401+).
World’s Highest International Faculty Ratios
The Arab region has one of the world’s highest international faculty ratios and is home to all ten of the world’s top 10 institutions in this metric. More than 50 percent of Arab universities in the 2023 list ranked in the world’s top 100.
Nine of the top 10 are located in the United Arab Emirates, including Al Ain University, in first place. Kuwait is home to the only other top-10 university in this metric, with the American University of the Middle East (701-750 globally) placing third worldwide for international faculty.
A similar trend can be seen in international student ratios, with five of the world’s top 10 in this category located in the Arab region. Four of these are based in the U.A.E., while the world’s number one is the Islamic University of Madinah, in Saudi Arabia.
More Results in the Gulf States
In other Gulf states, Qatar University, the only ranked institution in that country, improved by 16 positions to rank 208th.
Oman also had only one institution in this year’s ranking, Sultan Qaboos University, in 384th place.
Bahrain had three ranked institutions: the Applied Science University–Bahrain, in the 561-570 group; Ahlia University (651-700); and the University of Bahrain (801-1,000).
Three universities in Kuwait were ranked this year, namely the American University of the Middle East (701-750), Gulf University for Science and Technology (801-1,000), and Kuwait University (1,001-1,200).
Universities in the Levant
“The U.A.E. is clearly a hugely attractive higher-education destination for international faculty and students alike. This, in turn, reflects low student-faculty ratios and impressive research performance.”Ben Sowter
In the Levant, Lebanon, despite its current stifling economic crisis, was home to four of the Arab region’s 20 highest-ranked universities. After the American University of Beirut, they were: Saint Joseph University of Beirut and the University of Balamand, both in the group ranked 531-540, and Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (571-580).
Other institutions in Lebanon ranked this year were the Lebanese American University and Lebanese University, both ranked 601-650, and the Beirut Arab University and Notre Dame University-Louaize NDU, both ranked 801-1,000.
Eight Jordanian universities made it into this year’s ranking. The University of Jordan was ranked 591-600, followed by three institutions in the 801-1000 band: the German Jordanian University, Jordan University of Science & Technology and Princess Sumaya University for Technology.
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Other Jordanian institutions ranked this year were Mutah University (1,001-1,200), followed by Al-Balqa Applied University, the Hashemite University, and Yarmouk University (1,201-1,400).
Five Iraqi universities were ranked, namely the University of Baghdad (801-1,000), Mustansiriyah University and the University of Kufa (1,001-1,200), and the University of Babylon and the University of Basrah (1,201-1,400).
Three universities in Palestine made the list: Al-Quds University and An-Najah National University, both ranked 1,001-1,200, and Birzeit University (1,201-1,400).
War-torn Syria had only one university on the list: Damascus University, ranked 1,401+.
Seven Arab countries were not represented on QS’s list this year: Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Libya, Mauritania, Somalia and Yemen.
Other Rankings Systems
QS Quacquarelli Symonds compiles a separate ranking of universities in the Arab region. Its most recent such list, for 2022, compared 181 universities in the region.
Several other education-related companies and organisations publish their own international rankings of universities, each using its own methodology.
In addition, the Association of Arab Universities is working on producing its own classification of Arab universities. It aims to comply with international ranking systems but also take into account conditions unique to universities in the Arab region.