Two UAE universities in top 50 of Times Higher Education ranking

Khalifa University is ranked 31 and the United Arab Emirates University is 38 on the Asia list

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - July 17, 2018: Stock images of Khalifa University. Monday, July 17th, 2018 at Khalifa University, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Two UAE universities are among the top 50 in Asia for the second consecutive year, according to a regional ranking.

The Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings 2020 released its eighth annual list on Wednesday.

The United Arab Emirates University has moved up 11 ranks, to 38.

Khalifa University slipped three spots, to 31 and the University of Sharjah broke into the top 200 for the first time and is at 169, largely due to an increase in citations.


“The performance for the UAE is relatively stable,” said Ellie Bothwell, the Times Higher Education rankings editor.

“The United Arab Emirates University improved on teaching environment, research environment and citations in particular and that is worth quite a lot in the rankings.”

Universities across the world may face financial challenges if the coronavirus pandemic disrupts enrollment.

AL AIN, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - APRIL 6:  The United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain on April 6, 2010.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National)  For News story by Melanie Swan

Those with large cohorts of international students, in particular, will feel the pinch if more students chose to study closer to home.

“Previous studies have shown that, in general, university enrolment actually goes up during a recession because potentially students can’t get jobs as easily so they think university is a good way to upskill if they’re not going to be employed,” said Ms Bothwell.

“But Covid is quite a unique situation, it’s not just a recession, it’s a pandemic as well.

“If students defer a year it’s not just about losing that income for one year, it’s kind of that pipeline for three or four years. As a result of financial challenges, we might see some universities closing or merging, particularly if they’re already vulnerable financially.”

Moreover, the move to e-learning could put additional pressure on students with less access to online tools, said Ms Bothwell.

“Some countries have more inequality than others and if there are regions of the country where there isn’t a secure internet connection or where students would struggle to get data, we’re going to see that inequality magnified,” she said.

Universities with strong science and medical research may improve their rankings as people invest and share research on areas related to Covid-19.

The universities in the Times Higher Education rankings are measured on three areas of teaching – research, citations and, to a lesser degree, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Universities that do not teach undergraduate students or have produced fewer than 1,000 articles between 2014 and 2018, or 150 a year, are excluded from consideration.

Universities are also excluded if 80 per cent or more of their research is in just one of 11 subjects.

The index of 30 countries and regions is added with other regional rankings to compile the global rankings.

Japan is the most represented country with 110 on the list.

Universities from Vietnam and Brunei Darussalam qualified for the first time, and 72 new institutes entered the rankings this year.

This year’s list had 21 universities from the Middle East in the top 100, with entries from Israel, Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.

Tel Aviv University in Israel and King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia remained the top universities in the region at 25 and 26.

Tsinghua University in Beijing continues its top ranking while Peking University rose from fifth to second.

Hong Kong had three spots in the top ten, while Singapore and South Korea had two each.

“Covid-19 will undoubtedly have a significant effect on higher education across the world,” said Phil Baty, the report’s chief knowledge officer.

“This could include disruption to global talent flow with talent that may have previously moved from Asia to western universities staying in the region," he said.

"If this plays out, Asian universities are in a fantastic position to continue to boost their international competitiveness.”