Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar improve their position

Saudi Arabia has made strong advances, with 43% of Saudi Arabia’s ranked programmes rising in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, while only 2% fell in rank. There are also more Saudi departments included in the global rankings than ever before.

Some 55 Saudi Arabian programmes now rank among the global top 200 for their subject – 19 more than in last year’s edition.

The 2021 instalment of QS’s global university performance comparison offers independent data on the performance of 257 departments across the Middle East region.

Saudi Arabia remains the region’s dominant higher education ecosystem, with just under one-third (84/257) of the region’s ranked programmes.

Driven by strong financial backing and increasingly international intentions, the United Arab Emirates is also enjoying increased representation and ranking rises.

QS identifies particular strengths for the region’s universities in electrical and electronic engineering (17 ranked programmes), and in petroleum engineering, where it is home to nine of the world’s top-100 institutions.

However, QS is also recording noteworthy improvements for the region’s institutions in physics and astronomy, in which four of the six Middle Eastern institutions ranked last year rise; and in materials science, in which six of last year’s eight ranked universities improve and the other two maintain their position.

The highlights for Saudi universities include:

• King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals is the world’s seventh-best university for the study of petroleum engineering. It is joined in the global top 50 by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (34th, up 11 places).

• King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals has risen to 16th globally for the study of mineral and mining engineering: an improvement of nine places.

• King Abdulaziz University (at 46th) has entered the global top 50 for pharmacy and pharmacology. It is one of nine universities in the region to feature in QS’s ranking, with King Saud University (at 79th) also in the top 100.

Three Saudi university programmes have entered the top 100 in their subject: King Abdulaziz University for statistics and operational research, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals for civil and structural engineering and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals for electrical and electronic engineering.

The Emirian higher education sector has recorded its best-ever performance, with 35 departments at six of the country’s universities included. This is an increase of eight year on year, with only 27 Emirian university departments ranked in last year’s edition.

Seven new Qatari institutions are featured, including two at Texas A&M University at Qatar: an indication of the role that transnational education can offer to the region as it seeks to improve provision (petroleum engineering, 51-100; and mathematics (451-500).

Qatar University is now featured in 11 subjects – four more than in 2020’s edition.

The American University of Beirut in Lebanon is featured in 18 tables, with a top-100 appearance in QS’s development studies table (51-100).