Saudi Arabia dominates first Arab universities ranking

Saudi Arabia dominates the first rankings of 91 Arab universities published last Tuesday by US News & World Report. The top three universities are Saudi Arabian but Egypt and Algeria have a substantial number of institutions in the league table, albeit in lower positions.

In pole position is King Saud University followed by King Abdulaziz University, and in third position is King Abdulllah University of Science and Technology, which was formed in 2009 as a graduate and research institution and has the third largest endowment after Harvard and Yale.

The rankings cover 16 countries across the Arab world and include subject rankings for 16 subjects over a five-year period 2009-13.

Saudi universities come top in these as well except for the social sciences, which has Lebanon’s American University of Beirut in number one position.

These are the first in-depth assessments of universities in the region and US News & World Report says it believes they will allow prospective parents, policy-makers and employers in the area to accurately compare institutions – “something that had not been possible in the past due to a lack of standardised educational data”.

It adds that Arab region universities will also be able to use the rankings as a way to benchmark themselves against universities in their own country and region and discover top institutions from other countries to collaborate with.

The rankings, based on bibliometric data, focus specifically on institutions’ academic research output and performance.

“We’re going to evolve the methodology and include additional material,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist for US News & World Report, launching them at the World Innovation Summit for Education – WISE – held from 4-6 November in Qatar.

“Our aim is to be transparent.”

Country concentrations

The rankings reveal a large concentration of top-ranked universities in a few countries. The top three countries in the rankings had 47 universities or 52% of the total.

The top seven countries had 77 universities, accounting for 85% of the total.

Seven countries had only one university in the table. They included Qatar, Oman, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait and Syria.

US News & World Report is expanding its rankings around the world.

Earlier this month it released its list of best global universities.

“We’re beginning to establish a global portal for education where students, whether from Qatar or China, will come through our front door and we will find the right place for them,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of US News & World Report.