Saudi Arabia and UAE fuel rising esteem for region’s HE

Saudi Arabia’s top universities continue their upward march, with the nation’s top two universities achieving their highest-ever position.

The Arab region’s leading university is King Abdulaziz University, which has risen to 109th globally – up from its previous high of 143rd. It is followed by compatriot King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, which rises to joint 163rd – surpassing its previous peak of 173rd, achieved in 2018.

King Abdulaziz University has now risen in rank for the seventh consecutive year – the consequence of enhanced scores in all six of the ranking’s constituent metrics. Its most pronounced performance gains are in QS’s Employer Reputation indicator, which captures employer esteem for an institution’s graduates; and in QS’s Citations per Faculty indicator, which measures research impact.

Providing further evidence that the region’s global competitiveness is beginning to match its wealth and ambition, a third Arab region university has broken into the top 200. Khalifa University of the United Arab Emirates also achieves a historic high, placing joint 183rd.

Beyond the top three, several of the region’s institutions have reached unprecedented levels of academic excellence within the top 500: Qatar University (224th, previous high 245th), Oman’s Sultan Qaboos University (368th, previous high 375th) and Saudi Arabia’s Umm Al-Qura University (joint 447th, previous high 474th).

The Arab region’s top 10 universities are: King Abdulaziz University (KAU), Saudi Arabia (109th); King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia (joint 163rd); Khalifa University, United Arab Emirates (joint 183rd); Qatar University, Qatar (224th); American University of Beirut, Lebanon (joint 242nd); King Saud University,Saudi Arabia (joint 277th); United Arab Emirates University (joint 288th); Sultan Qaboos University, Oman (368th); American University of Sharjah, UAE (joint 383rd); Umm Al-Qura University, Saudi Arabia (joint 447th).

In total, QS rank 56 universities from 11 Arab-speaking countries. Of these, 14 have improved their rank, 15 have declined in rank, 19 remain stable within their rank or band and eight are new entries.

Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said Saudi Arabia has made consistent progress in recent years.

“Both employers and the global academic community are expressing increased recognition of, and esteem for, Saudi Arabian universities; this increasing esteem, in turn, reflects low student:faculty ratios, and impressive research performance.

“Saudi Arabia’s strong performance in our research metrics is, in part, a result of the high numbers of international faculty at Saudi universities, which ensure that those institutions are home to talented academic minds from across the world.”

He added that over the past five years, the United Arab Emirates has made highly impressive strides forward. As recently as 2017, not a single Emirian university ranked among the world’s top 400. Now, three universities feature among the top 400, and, for the first time, one of the nation’s institutions has broken into the top 200.

“This progress is due to the UAE’s highly internationalist outlook, with every single one of its ranked universities achieving a perfect score for our International Faculty Ratio metric. The next frontier for the UAE is expanding its research impact performance.”