Best universities in the Arab World 2017

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

May 16 2017
Best universities in the Middle East and North Africa

Times Higher Education has created a snapshot Arab World university ranking based on data from the 2017 THE World University Rankings.

The league table has been compiled by filtering the overall World University Rankings results to include only universities located in nations that are members of the Arab League. THE has then ranked the best universities based on their overall ranking score. The full methodology of the World University Rankings 2017 can be viewed here

The top three universities in the 2017 table are located 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 eight universities altogether. Saudi Arabia is next, with four institutions; Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates have three; Tunisia has two; and Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and Algeria each have one university on the list. 

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

More about the top 5 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. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals 

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals opened in 1963 with a student intake of just 67. The university was established to provide high-level education about petroleum and minerals, which are two of the most valuable natural resources in Saudi Arabia. It was given university status in 1975.

Since then, the university has expanded rapidly and now hosts about 6,600 students. The university claims to be among the most selective in Saudi Arabia and accepts only 10 per cent of applicants.

Most programmes are taught in English, but the courses in Islamic studies and Arabic language are taught in Arabic. 

The university comprises seven undergraduate colleges offering courses across science, engineering and environmental design.

3. King Saud University

King Saud University is the oldest university in Saudi Arabia, established in 1957 by King Saud bin Abdulaziz. It was the first learning institution established in the kingdom that was not dedicated to religious subjects.

The university has 18 libraries. The main one, Prince Salman’s Central Library, has seven floors and more than 4,000 reading seats.

The Palm Mosque on campus and the entrance gates to the university were designed by architect Basil Al-Bayati. The gates were based on the theme of faith and knowledge, two of the pillars of Islam.

The university began to admit women in 1961 and, like many of the universities in this list, there are gender-separate campuses. 

4. Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research 

Khalifa University of Science and Technology is located in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with another campus in Sharjah.

The university is only a decade old, founded in 2007 by a decree issued by UAE president His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

There are 10 undergraduate engineering-based programmes and nine graduate degree programmes. Six of the undergraduate degree programmes are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

The university has a female student population of 60 per cent – twice the global average population for women in science and technology. 


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5.Qatar University 

Qatar University is the largest and oldest university in Qatar. It is a public university located just outside the country's capital, Doha. 

It comprises nine colleges: arts and sciences; business and economics; education; engineering; health sciences; law; medicine; pharmacy; and sharia and Islamic studies. The university continues to expand the courses it provides and currently offers the highest number of programmes of any institution in the country.

 About 35 per cent of the student body is made up of the children of expats, and the institution offers multiple opportunities for studying and research abroad. The student body is made up of 52 nationalities. 

The top universities in the Arab World 2017

Arab World 2017 rank Name Country/region 
1 King Abdulaziz University Saudi Arabia
2 King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Saudi Arabia
3 King Saud University Saudi Arabia
4 Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research United Arab Emirates
5 Qatar University Qatar
6 United Arab Emirates University United Arab Emirates
7 American University of Beirut Lebanon
8 Jordan University of Science and Technology Jordan
9 Alfaisal University Saudi Arabia
10 Kuwait University Kuwait
11 Suez Canal University Egypt
12 Sultan Qaboos University Oman
13 American University in Cairo Egypt
14 American University of Sharjah United Arab Emirates
15 Sohag University Egypt
16 Alexandria University Egypt
17 University of Marrakech Cadi Ayyad Morocco
18 Cairo University Egypt
19 University of Jordan Jordan
20 South Valley University Egypt
21 Mohammed V University of Rabat Morocco
22 Mansoura University Egypt
23 Hashemite University Jordan
24 University of Tlemcen Algeria
25 Ain Shams University Egypt
26 University of Tunis El Manar Tunisia
27 University of Monastir Tunisia
28 Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University Morocco

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