How Qatar University became the most international institution in the world

Sustained investment in Middle Eastern higher education has begun to pay off, says Cesar Wazen

January 14, 2016
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View the full list of the 200 most international universities in the world 2016

Today, it was revealed that Qatar University tops Times Higher Educations list of the world's most international universities 2016.

It is very rare that institutions from outside the established higher education powerhouses – such as the US and the UK – claim top spot in a list such as this. The efforts of this Middle Eastern country to invest its wealth into education and research are finally bringing rewards in the most prestigious and comprehensive of ranking systems.

The international outlook indicator used by THE is made up of three components: proportion of international students; proportion of international faculty; and international collaboration. While high scores on the first two components might be expected in a Gulf country setting (just check the demographics of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] countries), the fact is that the excellent score achieved by QU on the third indicator is the result of a strategy adopted by the State of Qatar.

The Qatar National Research Fund, established in 2006, had a clearly defined vision: “To enable research and development excellence in Qatar in order to achieve a knowledge-based economy”. This encouraged international collaboration, and could be said to be the main reason why Qatar University tops the list of the most international universities.

Analysis: Qatar University tops international university list

Qatar is the only GCC country appearing in the top 10. It is also the first time a Middle Eastern institution has topped this list.

Qatar University has, in the last five years, been one of the fastest growing institutions for research in the region. Our researchers’ publications have increased by approximately 246 per cent in this period. 

The university has undertaken more than 450 research projects with 319 collaborators in the past years. The ever-increasing research efforts have resulted in 3,200 co-authored publications from 1,093 collaborating institutes.

I should also mention that the only reason why those numbers didn’t lead to an earlier appearance on the charts was simply because, as a “young” university, recently engaged in research, we couldn’t possibly meet the threshold set to qualify for THE rankings.

Now that this is solved, and with THE’s willingness to engage in deep discussions to understand the specificities of universities in different parts of the world (one example of which is the MENA Universities Summit), the forecast is that QU and other universities from around the world will start leading the way in this and other indicators.

Winds of change had started blowing when a Swiss institution entered the top 10 of the overall World University Rankings 2015-16 for the first time, breaking the US-UK hegemony. QU’s achievement is another positive result, and a continuation of that change.

Cesar Wazen is scholarships and partnerships director at Qatar University.

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