US and UK dominate best universities as Middle East makes inroads

A record nine Middle East and North African countries and regions feature in top 500

University of Oxford has retained its top place in the world university rankings. Getty Images
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US colleges dominate a widely respected list of the world’s top universities but one British institution has been named the world’s best, as the Middle East and North Africa region notches up record successes.

University of Oxford kept its place for a sixth straight year as the world’s best university while University of Cambridge ranked fifth in a top 10 list predominantly made up of US institutions.

“This past year has demonstrated to our publics, our governments and even to ourselves just how much universities can contribute to society,” said Louise Richardson, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford.

Lower down the World University Rankings 2022, Gulf and Middle East universities made inroads on the list, compiled by The Times Higher Education (THE).

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University, at 190, is the first top 200 finish for the Middle East and North Africa region.

A record nine Mena countries and regions are represented in the top 500, including the United Arab Emirates University, Khalifa University and University of Sharjah.

King Abdulaziz University was the top-ranking institution from the Mena region. Photo: King Abdulaziz University

Palestine’s An-Najah National University also debuted in the top 500, becoming the state’s first ranked university.

At the top of the list, US institutions — California Institute of Technology at second, Harvard third and Stanford fourth — filled out the top five and also made up the remainder of the top 10.

Several universities in different regions climbed the table on the back of success in coronavirus-related research, THE said.

“The vaccine Oxford developed is being distributed in over 170 countries and over a billion doses have been manufactured. Together our universities have made the strongest possible case for renewed public investment in research universities,” Prof Richardson said.

Regional success stories

Asia produced some striking successes, notably Peking University and Tsinghua University, tied at 16th.

South Africa’s University of Cape Town, at 183, remains Africa’s top-performing university, and is Africa’s only representative in the top 200.

“The world’s elite universities have enjoyed a long period of dominance at the top of the table with help from historic reputation, global status and reliable income,” said Phil Baty, chief knowledge officer at THE.

“One of the shifts arising is from the Mena region, where Saudi Arabia has its most successful rankings to date and nine countries and regions are now represented in the world’s top 500 universities.

“The UK has seen some good results this year; Covid-19 has provided new challenges to add to those related to the impact of Brexit.

“These challenges mean the UK must work hard to attract international students and academic talent to contribute to its knowledge economy in both the short and long term.

“With mainland China and Germany rising, this will be essential for the UK to retain its position as a higher education superpower.”

The list is based on 13 performance indicators that measure an institution’s showing across teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Updated: September 02, 2021, 4:01 AM