Saudi Arabia leaps ahead in World University Rankings 2023

The kingdom's universities are closing in on the top 100 in the world, leading the Arab region in higher education

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Saudi Arabia is a rising star in global higher education, according to a new league table published on Wednesday.

The kingdom’s higher education institutions are leading the way for the Arab world, as King Abdulaziz University nears the top 100 list of the best universities.

Times Higher Education released the results of its World University Rankings 2023, which showed the UK’s University of Oxford retaining its top spot for the seventh consecutive year.

King Abdulaziz University has risen from 190 in 2022 to a joint-101 spot in the 2023 table, making it the highest ranked university in the Middle East and achieving the best ranking ever by a Middle Eastern university in this table.

King Abdulaziz University tied with Switzerland's University of Basel for the 101 spot.

“The data makes clear that Saudi Arabia is a rising star in global higher education and the beacon of excellence in the Arab world,” said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at Times Higher Education.

“Not only has King Abdulaziz University risen dramatically to move within a whisker of the world top 100 to lead the entire Mena region, but other leading institutions have also made strong progress and Saudi Arabia’s overall representation in the World Rankings has increased — from 15 universities ranked last year, to 21 this year.

“The data shows real improvements in research productivity, impact and the academic reputation of Saudi universities.

“It is clear that the kingdom’s bold ambition, under Vision 2030, to nurture and support world-leading universities to promote a new knowledge and innovation-based economy is being realised. The nation seems to be on a strong upwards trajectory.”

King Abdulaziz University’s number of publications increased by 24 per cent compared to last year. In the 2017-2021 period, 80 per cent of its total publications have at least one international co-author, almost twice the world average of 39.8 per cent.

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals rose from the 351-400 category last year and to be ranked in the top 201-250 universities worldwide.

UAE rankings

In the Emirates, two top institutions leapt forward in the league table.

University of Sharjah jumped to 251-300 from 401-500 and United Arab Emirates University is ranked at 251-300, up from 351-400.

Abu Dhabi University is a new entry for the UAE this year and has been placed in the best 301-350 universities worldwide.

“The UAE’s leading universities are rising up the World Rankings as part of an exciting and dynamic new renaissance for the Arab world, driving the transition to a new knowledge and innovation-based economy,” said Phil Baty.

“Of the six UAE universities included in the overall World Rankings, four are on the rise — led by the United Arab Emirates University and the University of Sharjah, which have both surged this year into the world top 300 list.

“They are closely followed by Abu Dhabi University, which entered the rankings this year straight into the world top 350.”

Higher education institutions in Egypt also increased their overall representation to 26 universities, up from 23.

In the current league table, 1,799 universities from 104 countries and regions have been included.

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings provide an overview of a university’s quality, drawing on an analysis of 15.5 million research publications and 121 million citations to those publications, plus more than 40,000 responses to an annual academic reputation survey and hundreds of thousands of additional data points covering a university’s teaching environment, international outlook and industry links.

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Updated: October 12, 2022, 6:51 AM