Higher Education World 2016: QS University Rankings: Arab Region

Saudi Arabia continues to dominate the QS ranking of universities in the Arab Region, with 19 of the top 100 universities in the latest edition, including three of the top four.

Sustained investment in higher education has helped Saudi universities to repeat the successes seen in the first official ranking, published in 2015. But the full list remains surprisingly diverse, with 15 of the 21 members of the Arab League represented in the region’s top 100.

Although this is the same number as last year, there has been some movement even in the countries represented, with two Algerian universities appearing for the first time. The University of Tlemcen has come straight into the ranking in the 71-80 band, while the Université des Sciences et de la Technologie Houari-Boumediene features between 91 and 100.

Yemen has dropped out of the ranking – the University of Aden featured in 2015. Like those in Syria, universities in Yemen were excluded because security concerns made it impossible to collect reliable data for the latest ranking.

In all, 270 institutions were evaluated for the 2016 ranking, although only 192 provided sufficient information to be assessed across the board. That represented an increase of 19 universities on last year, most submitting data for the first time. Baerbel Eckelmann, who was responsible for the ranking as Research Manager at the QS Intelligence Unit, said institutions in the region had been more engaged and keen to make submissions, which resulted in increased data completeness.

Like last year, 100 universities are included in the published ranking, with those below 50th place grouped together in bands of ten because the scores become too close to separate each university reliably.

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals remains in first place, as it was in the provisional ranking published in 2014 as well as in last year’s official order. Based in Dhahran, the university scores particularly strongly on academic reputation, staffing levels and citations.

The American University of Beirut (AUB) is again close behind in second place. AUB is the top choice of employers in the region and also scores highly among academics, as well as having the highest proportion of staff with a PhD.

Two Saudi universities – King Saud and King Abdulaziz (KAU) – complete the top four. King Saud topped the poll of academics giving their verdict on the best university in the region, with KAU also in the top three on this measure.

Egypt comes closest to challenging Saudi Arabia’s domination of the ranking. It has 15 universities in the top 100, the highest-placed of which is the American University in Cairo, in fifth position.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) also does well – especially in relation to the size of its population – with 13 universities in the ranking. UAE universities score particularly well on the measures of internationalisation, with 12 institutions on the top score for international students.

As in 2015, nine measures are used in the ranking, including web visibility and the volume of research papers per faculty member – two indicators that do not feature in the QS world rankings. The polling of academics and employers contributes half of each university’s score.
• Academic/employer reputation: 5 years period applied

• Papers per faculty / Citations per paper: normalisation applied

All weightings per indicator remained unchanged.

Written by John O’Leary
Executive Member of the QS Advisory Board