Best universities in the Arab World

Explore the top universities in parts of the Middle East and North Africa based on data collected by Times Higher Education

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December 15 2020
Best universities in the Middle East and North Africa


Times Higher Education has compiled a table of the best universities in the Arab World based on data from the 2021 World University Rankings.

The league table has been compiled by filtering the World University Rankings results to include only universities located in nations that are members of the Arab LeagueTHE has then ranked the best universities based on their overall ranking score. The full methodology of the World University Ranking 2021 can be viewed here.

The top university this year is King Abdulaziz University, in Saudi Arabia. All the universities in the top five are in the Middle East, while universities situated in North Africa – including universities from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria – feature further down the list. 

The most represented country in the ranking is Egypt, with 21 universities altogether. Algeria and Saudi Arabia are next with 10 institutions each; Tunisia has six institutions; Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates have five; Lebanon has four; Iraq has three; and Kuwait, Oman and Qatar each have one university on the list. 

Many of the universities featured in the ranking are specialist science and technology universities.

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The top five universities in the Arab World

1. King Abdulaziz University

King Abdulaziz University was established in 1967 in Jeddah on the banks of the Red Sea. The university was named after the founder of Saudi Arabia, King Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud. It was initially established as a private university but was converted to a public university in 1974.

Students who attend the university receive free education and housing. It has a comprehensive learning programme across faculties, including the arts and humanities, science and technology, and medicine. The university also offers some courses that are unavailable at any other universities in Saudi Arabia, such as marine science, meteorology and astronomy. 

King Abdulaziz University adheres to Islamic regulations by having separate campuses for men and women, each equipped with a library and athletic and recreational facilities.  

2. Alfaisal University 

Alfaisal University is a private non-profit research institute in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The university is still fairly young, having been established in 2002. Some 67 per cent of the students are from Saudi Arabia and the remaining 33 per cent come from 40 other nations. 

Five colleges make up the university: medicine, engineering, business, science and general studies, and pharmacy.

=3. Qatar University

Qatar University is a public research university located on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, Doha. 

The university has 10 colleges – arts and sciences; business and economics; education; engineering; law; Sharia and Islamic studies; pharmacy;  health science; medicine and, most recently, dental medicine.

There are 17 research centres, including the Early Childhood Centre, the Gulf Studies Centre and the Biomedical Research Centre among others. 

=3. United Arab Emirates University

The United Arab Emirates University is the oldest university in the UAE, having been founded in 1976. 

Students come from all seven emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah, Umm Al-Quwain) plus 59 other countries, with international students making up a quarter of the entire student body. 

Some 90 per cent of undergraduate programmes at the university include an internship and many students gain their first jobs with the organisation that they completed their internship with.

5. American University of Beirut

The American University of Beirut was established in 1866 and bases its teaching and learning on the American liberal arts model of higher education.

Its main campus overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and includes athletic fields, a private beach and bird sanctuary.

The campus is also equipped with seven dormitories, the AUB Medical Center, the Charles W. Hostler Student Center, five libraries, computer labs, the Archaeological Museum, the Natural History Museum and one of Lebanon’s few geological collections.

The university has seven faculties including agricultural and food sciences; arts and sciences; engineering and architecture (Maroun Semaan Faculty​); health sciences; medicine; nursing (Rafic Hariri School) and ​business (Suliman S. Olayan School).​

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Top universities in the Arab World 2021 

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021 results

Arab Rank 2021 Arab Rank 2020 University Country
1 1 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
2 2 Alfaisal University Saudi Arabia
=3 7 Qatar University Qatar
=3 3 United Arab Emirates University United Arab Emirates
5 6 American University of Beirut Lebanon
6 4 Khalifa University United Arab Emirates
7 5 Jordan University of Science and Technology Jordan
8 10 King Saud University Saudi Arabia
9 8 Aswan University Egypt
10 9 Mansoura University Egypt
11 13 King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Saudi Arabia
12 11 Suez Canal University Egypt
13 14 Ferhat Abbas Sétif University 1 Algeria
14 15 King Khalid University Saudi Arabia
15 16 Kafrelsheikh University Egypt
16 18 University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates
17 17 Cairo University Egypt
18 25 Al-Balqa Applied University Jordan
=19 NR University of Oran 1 Algeria
=19 20 Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University Morocco
21 26 University of Jordan Jordan
22 19 Beni-Suef University Egypt
=23 12 King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences Saudi Arabia
=23 24 Lebanese American University Lebanon
25 23 Benha University Egypt
26 NR Zayed University United Arab Emirates
=27 =29 Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth Lebanon
=27 =31 Sultan Qaboos University Oman
29 27 American University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates
30 40 Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University Saudi Arabia
31 21 American University in Cairo Egypt
32 37 Sohag University Egypt
33 33 Ain Shams University Egypt
34 =29 Kuwait University Kuwait
35 35 Fayoum University Egypt
36 =31 Tanta University Egypt
37 36 Alexandria University Egypt
38 34 South Valley University Egypt
39 NR Umm Al-Qura University Saudi Arabia
40 44 Zagazig University Egypt
41 22 University of Béjaïa Algeria
42 43 Assiut University Egypt
43 NR King Faisal University Saudi Arabia
44 =48 University of Technology, Iraq Iraq
45 50 Menoufia University Egypt
46 NR Lebanese University Lebanon
47 39 University of Tunis El Manar Tunisia
=48 45 University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad Morocco
=48 47 Minia University Egypt
50 38 University of Sfax Tunisia
51 56 Ibn Tofaïl University Morocco
52 =48 Université Hassan II de Casablanca Morocco
=53 28 University of Baghdad Iraq
=53 41 Mohammed V University of Rabat Morocco
55 46 University of Carthage Tunisia
56 42 University of Manouba Tunisia
57 51 Helwan University Egypt
58 55 Al-Azhar University Egypt
59 NR Qassim University Saudi Arabia
60 =53 University of Monastir Tunisia
61 52 University of Sousse Tunisia
62 57 Yarmouk University Jordan
63 NR Port Said University Egypt
64 NR Blida 1 University  Algeria
65 =53 University of Tlemcen Algeria
66 59 University of Biskra Algeria
67 58 Hashemite University Jordan
68 NR University of Basrah Iraq
69 60 University of Constantine 1 Algeria
70 63 M'Hamed Bougara University of Boumerdès Algeria
71 61 University of Science and Technology of Oran Mohamed-Boudiaf Algeria
72 62 University of Sciences and Technology Houari Boumediene Algeria

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