Emerging Economies Universities Rankings 2021: Khalifa in top 20 and Sharjah surges

Prestigious listing shows institutions in emerging economies improving fast with China leading the way

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Universities in emerging economies are improving at a faster rate than universities from developed countries, according to results from the 2021Times Higher Education rankings.

This stellar performance is being driven by institutions from Pakistan, Russia and China, the latter accounting for an unprecedented clean sweep of the top five positions. China’s Tsinghua University topped the pile for the fourth consecutive year, for added kudos.

"In the most competitive Emerging Economies Universities Rankings so far, it is a testament to the success of China’s investment in its higher education sector that it becomes the first country or region to achieve the top five positions in this ranking,” said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at the publication.

The National last year reported how Covid had upended higher education establishments and Mr Baty acknowledged the pandemic's disruptive effect.

“[It] has resulted in a number of changes for higher education, with many turning to online learning and teaching, and fewer students travelling internationally.

“We are looking forward to seeing how universities from emerging economies position themselves in the coming year and the opportunities they offer both internally and on a global scale."

The gallery above highlights some of the noteworthy universities in their respective countries to feature in the rankings.

How the UAE fared in the Emerging Economies Universities Rankings 2021

The UAE is represented in the rankings by five different universities, with Abu Dhabi’s research-focused Khalifa University making it into the top 20.

The country's biggest climber, however, is the University of Sharjah, which has shot up 33 places, from 142 to 109.

The five UAE institutions in the Emerging Economies Universities Rankings 2021

1. Khalifa University (20)

2. United Arab Emirates University (33)

3. University of Sharjah (109)

4. American University of Sharjah (184)

5. Zayed University (201-250)

And here is the list of the top 20 universities across all emerging economies.

Emerging Economies University Rankings 2021 Top 20

1. Tsinghua University, China

2. Peking University, China

3. Zhejiang University, China

4. Fudan University, China

5. Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China

6. Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia

7. University of Science and Technology of China

8. National Taiwan University (NTU), Taiwan

9. Nanjing University, China

10. University of Cape Town, South Africa

11. Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), Russia

12. University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

13. University of Sao Paolo, Brazil

14. Indian Institute of Science, India

15. Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), China

16. King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia

17. Beijing Normal University, China

18. Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China

19. Wuhan University, China

20. Khalifa University, UAE

Regional insights from the Emerging Economies University Rankings 2021

Middle East

University of Jordan moves into the top 200 (177), giving Jordan two top 200 institutions for the first time, while Kuwait University slips one band from 201-250 to 251-300.

Oman's Sultan Qaboos University enters the top 200 for the first time, moving up from the 201-250 band to 175.

China is the first country or region to secure all top five positions and has this year set a record of 12 universities in the top 20.

Sixteen of its top 20 universities from the 2020 ranking improved or maintained their previous position, while Zhejiang Normal University is the highest-ranked debutant at 85.

India and Pakistan

Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata makes major gains after previously ranking in the 301-350 band. Its top-performing university, the Indian Institute of Science, climbs back into the top 15, at number 14.

Pakistan universities showed the greatest levels of progress, with 77 per cent either improving or maintaining their previous spots.

Indian Institute of Science has climbed back into the top 15. Courtesy Indian Institute of Science


Nine Russian universities rank for the first time, with Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University (35) and Tomsk State University (49) the inaugural entries in the top 50.


South Africa’s University of Cape Town (10) retains its position in the top 10 and remains the top-performing institution from Africa.

Durban University of Technology debuts in joint 90th, giving South Africa six top 100 institutions for the first time, as North-West University (joint 97th) moves up from joint 109th.

Egypt’s Mansoura University is the country’s only top 100 representative, entering the band for the first time after moving up from 102 to joint 94th.

Nigeria’s Lagos State University debuts at joint 155th, while University of Lagos moves into the top 200, claiming the 172nd spot.

Nigeria has three top 200 universities in total as the University of Ibadan takes 111th place, while Covenant University sees a significant drop from joint 91st to the 201-250 band.


Europe is one of the rare regional disappointments, with no new entries in the top 10, 20, 50 or 100.

The highest-ranked universities from Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Lithuania and Slovenia all rank lower than in 2020, although the highest-ranked universities from Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Malta and Romania have all improved on their 2020 positions.

Latin America

Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo is Latin America’s best performer for the eighth consecutive year, climbing one place to 13 — and a record 52 Brazilian universities appear in the ranking, following debuts from six universities.

Chile and Colombia’s top-ranked universities also improve their positions, as the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile rises to joint 53rd and Colombia’s Pontifical Javeriana University ranks joint 94th.