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The King Abdulaziz University

Saudi’s King Abdulaziz remains top university in Mena

LONDON, September 3, 2020

King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia remains the Mena region’s highest ranked university, appearing in the 201-250 band worldwide for the 6th consecutive year in a global ranking. 
 
Alfaisal University ensures Saudi Arabia holds the top two regional spots maintaining a 251-300 finish, Times Higher Education (THE) announced in the results of its World University Rankings 2021, which underline the shifting strength of higher education and research around the world. 
 
Elsewhere, Lebanon’s American University of Beirut moves into the 301-350 band (351-400 in 2020). The performance of these universities is all the more impressive given the increasingly competitive nature of the rankings with a record 1,527 institutions qualifying, up 9% from 2020 when 1,397 universities were ranked.
 
The THE World University Rankings 2021 sees 141 universities qualify for the first time. Furthermore, an additional 18 institutions from across Mena qualify since last year, with Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates all seeing new entrants in the 2021 ranking.
 
Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer at THE, commented: “While Saudi Arabia continues to top the THE World University Ranking for Mena, with an impressive 6th consecutive year in the 201-250 band for King Abdulaziz University, it is testament to the growing strength of higher education across the Middle East to see Lebanon and Iran also move into the top 350. As China’s Tsinghua University disrupts the traditional domination of western universities at the top of the table, breaking into the top 20 for the first time, we could be seeing the start of a rebalancing of the global knowledge economy that could be further accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. With a likely decrease in the international flow of students and staff around the world, and possible funding challenges among the west’s established higher education sectors as a result of Covid-19, we could see universities across Mena and Asia capitalise if homegrown talent stays put rather than making its traditional migration to elite western institutions, particularly in the US and the UK.”
 
The wider rankings see the UK’s University of Oxford claim top spot for the 5th consecutive year, the US dominate the top 10, mainland China’s Tsinghua University becomes the first ever Asian university to break into the top 20 (joint 20th ) since the current methodology launched in 2011.
 
The THE World University Rankings are the most balanced and comprehensive global ranking, with 13 separate performance metrics covering the full range of core activities for research-intensive universities -- teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook. 
 
This year’s ranking analysed over 86 million citations across more than 13.6 million research publications and included survey responses from 22,000 scholars globally. 
 
The 17th edition of the Rankings sees a record 18 countries and regions represented in the top 100, and 93 represented overall, demonstrating that geopolitical competition in the global knowledge economy is intensifying.
 
Notwithstanding the success story of the top 10, the UK’s and US’s roles as higher education superpowers is under challenge, as institutions from Asia continue to impress. Of the UK’s top 20 ranked institutions last year, only five were able to improve their position in the table, while 50% of the US’s 20 best performing universities from the 2020 ranking fail to maintain their position. Over the past five years, the US has lost 4 positions in the overall top 200 (63 in 2016, 59 in 2021) as competition rises for the top places.
 
Asia’s rise is fronted by mainland China’s Tsinghua University (joint 20th ), which becomes the first Asian university ever to break into the THE World University Rankings top 20 since the current methodology launched in 2011. This achievement is an indicator of the wider positive movements in higher education for mainland China in recent years. 
 
Since 2016, mainland China has gained 5 additional places in the top 200 (from 2 in 2016 to 7 in 2021). It has also doubled its representation in the top 100 since last year, gaining 3 additional places (6 in total) as mainland China continues to challenge the world’s very best.
 
In a session at THE’s Virtual World Academic Summit titled, Post Covid-19 sustainability in higher education: Have governance priorities changed? On September 1, PwC Middle East highlighted key areas of focus on how higher education institutional governance needs to change for the better in terms of decisions that need to be made differently to improve resilience and financial sustainability of universities in the wake of the pandemic. 
 
During the session, PwC also shared preliminary findings from a recent survey asking university leaders about governance priorities post-Covid-19 lockdowns.
 
Sally Jeffery, Middle East Education & Skills Practice Leader and Global Education & Skills Network at PwC Middle East, said: “It’s encouraging to see a couple of strong Saudi universities holding their own this year despite the increased competition, and my heartfelt congratulations for American University of Beirut who managed to improve their ranking.  It’s clear though that most Middle Eastern research focused universities need to transform faster and smarter to fuel the region’s knowledge economy.  During the pandemic, many of the regulations and traditional governance structures that often constrain agility had to be relaxed, I sincerely hope the sector can recognise and build on the positive outcomes of this experience in the future.” -- Tradearabia News Service
 
 



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