Top 15 universities in the Arab world announced

Institutions from eight countries feature in a snapshot university ranking for the region

January 27, 2016
Saudi man riding horse, Tabuk, Saudi Arabia
Source: Reuters

Saudi Arabia is the top performer in a snapshot ranking for universities in the Arab region, based on data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.

King Abdulaziz University is first place in the top 15 table, while its national rivals King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and King Saud University are third and fourth respectively. Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (second) and the United Arab Emirates University (fifth) make up the rest of the top five.

Egypt also has three universities in the list, but they are concentrated in the bottom half of the table: Suez Canal, Alexandria and Cairo universities take tenth, 11th and 12th place respectively.

One reason for Saudi Arabia’s success may be its high levels of funding. On average, ranked universities in the country receive $733,069 (£519,290) of institutional income per member of staff, the third highest among the eight countries featured in the list. Egypt’s universities, in comparison, receive an average of just $101,317 (£71,770) on this measure.

Top 15 universities in the Arab world

Rank  Institution Country
1 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
2 American University of Beirut Lebanon
3 King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals Saudi Arabia
4 King Saud University Saudi Arabia
5 United Arab Emirates University United Arab Emirates 
6 Qatar University Qatar
7 Sultan Qaboos University Oman
8 American University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates 
9 Jordan University of Science and Technology Jordan
10 Suez Canal University Egypt
11 Alexandria University Egypt
12 Cairo University Egypt
13 The University of Jordan Jordan 
14 University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad Morocco
15 Mohammed V University of Rabat Morocco

Source: THE DataPoints © THE

Larry Smith, adjunct chair in higher education management and leadership at the University of New England, Australia, and co-editor of the book Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities, said that the three Saudi Arabian universities featured in the ranking are “significantly more involved than other universities in the region in collaborating on major research projects with international universities outside the kingdom”.

He added that these institutions have also all “initiated major strategies for benchmarking against leading international universities in their major discipline areas” and “modified their management structures” to place significant emphasis on the quality of teaching and learning.

Mohamed Harajli, interim provost at the American University of Beirut, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, said that for the past 10 to 15 years the university has “been moving gradually from a teaching-centred institution to a research-centred institution”.

He added that in November its board of trustees reinstated a tenure system for academics after a 30-year hiatus, which he hopes will help the university “attract and retain faculty from all over the world” and “improve research productivity”.

Key statistics for the region 

Top 15 universities in the Arab world: key statistics for the region

The countries featured in the list generally have equal or high proportions of female students. Just two countries – Morocco and Saudi Arabia – have a higher percentage of male students among the cohorts at universities in the WUR dataset.

Internationalisation varies widely across the region. Just 2 per cent of staff and 2 per cent of students at Egypt’s universities come from outside the country, while the respective figures are 85 per cent and 46 per cent in the United Arab Emirates.

The ranking, which has been released ahead of THE’s MENA Universities Summit next week, is drawn from data used to compile the THE World University Rankings 2015-2016. It was calculated using the same 13 performance indicators as in the overall rankings methodology, but only institutions in the 22 member states of the Arab League were eligible for inclusion.

THE is consulting with the sector about the creation of formal, bespoke rankings for the region, using metrics tailored to regional priorities and university missions. To make sure your institution is included, and to respond to the consultation, contact

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Print headline: Star power: the Arab world’s outstanding universities

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