A new perspective on the Arab world

The methodology behind the inaugural Arab University Rankings includes new regional measures on reputation and collaboration

June 25, 2021
Arabian architecture
Source: iStock

Within our World University Rankings, Arab universities are improving their underlying scores across a range of metrics, particularly in the areas of citation impact and reputation. But the continued expansion of our global league table means that this progress can be lost.

We believe it is important that Arab universities are able to understand their performance and strengths in an objective way, using measurements based solely on universities in their region. As such, we are pleased to be launching our inaugural Arab University Rankings on 27 July 2021.

Why a new ranking for Arab universities?

Although the World and Impact rankings are a great source of insight into the progress of universities across the Middle East, a number of factors make the region worthy of further exploration. As well as the unique cultural heritage, many universities are also in the process of growing their research capabilities and their visibility within the world of higher education. These institutions are reflecting the desires of their governments and citizens as their nations develop – so it is important that we reflect on this in the data we explore.

How is this ranking different?

When we first announced this ranking, we revealed that the methodology would be based on the framework for our World University Rankings but there would be some differences. We wanted to include features that are important to the Arab region and rebalance the weightings used in our global league table to reflect the developing nature of the sector.

The below table lists the metrics that make up the methodology of the Arab University Rankings.

Three of the metrics are new to the Arab ranking, while the calculations of some of the other metrics are different for the regional table.





Teaching reputation


Students to academic staff


Doctorates to bachelor’s awarded


Doctorates awarded to academic staff


Institutional income to academic staff



Research reputation


Research income to academic staff


Publications to total staff



Citation impact



Industry income to academic staff


Impact Rankings participation


Impact Rankings performance



International students


International staff


International co-authorship


Collaboration within the Arab world





To enhance our understanding of reputation we conducted an Arab region-specific survey that yielded more than 12,000 votes; this has provided us with a far more accurate picture of university reputation across the Arab region. Only published academics who have been cited in other papers were invited to participate. This survey is used to calculate the scores for teaching reputation and research reputation (the World University Rankings, in comparison, use the results from a global academic survey).


For this ranking, we have switched from the traditional calculation of Field Weighted Citation Impact, which looks at the average FWCI of publications associated with a university, to one that uses the 75th percentile. We believe this gives a more stable measure over time and prevents the distorting effect of a few papers with very high numbers of citations. It has also allowed us to move away from the issues caused by kilo-author papers (publications that have more than 1,000 authors).

We have also been able to remove the country normalisation approach, which was designed to compensate for issues caused by publication of non-English-language papers. Because all the universities in the Arab ranking are from non-English countries, we believe that this is unnecessary.

Arab bibliometrics

We had hoped to include an Arabic language bibliometric measure. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do this for the first version of the ranking, but we will continue to explore this option for the future.

New metrics

We have included three new metrics in the Arab ranking, although these all have relatively low weightings. Because of the strong focus on sustainability in the region we have included two measures based on participation and performance in our Impact Rankings. We have also included a measure of research collaboration between universities in the Arab world.


The participation criteria for this ranking are less strict than those for the World University Rankings. Universities must publish at least 500 publications over a five-year period to be included in the Arab ranking (down from 1,000 for the World University Rankings). This reflects the growing nature of higher education in the region.

Postgraduate-only institutions, single-discipline universities and institutions that do not teach are also eligible for inclusion (in the global ranking, universities are excluded if they do not teach undergraduates or if 80 per cent or more of their research output is exclusively in one of our 11 subject areas). These differences allow more universities to participate in the Arab ranking.

Thank you to all the universities that have participated and shared their data for the inaugural Arab University Rankings. We look forward to sharing the results on 27 July.

Do you have any queries about our Arab University Rankings? Get in touch at profilerankings@timeshighereducation.com.

David Watkins is head of data science at Times Higher Education. Duncan Ross is chief data officer at Times Higher Education.

The inaugural Arab University Rankings will be launched at a free forum on 27 July. Register to attend.

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