By Arabia Higher Ed Editorial Team
Times Higher Education (THE) released the 14th annual edition of the world university rankings on September 5, 2017.
The latest edition features a total of 1,000 institutions, representing no more than 5 per cent of the 20,000 or so higher education institutions in the world.
Times Higher Education, which compiles the rankings, said that margins were extremely tight at the top, with all the top-ranked institutions excelling against measures in teaching, research, citations, international outlook and income.
This year, the top two spots went to two British universities, Oxford and, up from fourth place, the University of Cambridge. Stanford remained at No. 3, tied with the California Institute of Technology, which was bumped down a space this year. Harvard landed at No. 6, and Cal, previously tied for No. 10, surprisingly dropped all the way down to No. 18.
A key factor in the rankings is research income and Oxford and Cambridge saw significant increases in their total institutional income - up 24% and 11% respectively while their nearest rivals, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University saw falls in income.
At the regional level, the latest edition witnessed an increase in the number of top-ranked Arab universities to 31. King Abdulaziz University (201-250) is now the undisputed top Arab university, followed by Khalifa University of Science and Technology (KUST) a(301-350).
The Khalifa University of Science and Technology was established by presidential decree in early 2017 through the merger of the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (Kustar), Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and the Petroleum Institute.
Qatar’s national university jumped nearly 100 spots to the 401-500th position, up from the 501-600 position.
However, the university that moved up the most was Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), which leaped from the 601-800 in 2017 to the 401-500th position in 2018, tied with Qatar University.
The American University of Beirut came in the fifth position, tied with Alfaisal University, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, King Saud University, and the United Arab Emirates University.
Egypt, on the other hand, was the most represented country in the rankings with nine institutions, followed by Saudi Arabia with five. Jordan and Morocco have three while the United Arab Emirates has four. Tunisia has two while Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Oman and Algeria each has one institution on the list.
The latest rankings reflect the United Arab Emirates ability to attract students and staff from outside their borders. United Arab Emirates University and American University of Sharjah reached the top 15 in the international outlook pillar.
Qatar on the other hand, has used full scholarships to attract top performers. In fact, 40 percent of the student body at Qatar University are international students on scholarships.
All the universities in the top four are in the Middle East, while universities situated in North Africa – including universities from Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria – feature further down the list.
The THE World University Rankings 2018 are based on 13 performance indicators that are grouped into five areas: teaching (30%), research (30%), citations (30%), International outlook (7.5%), and industry income (2.5%).
In finding the top 1,000 universities in the world, the Times' annual study considers 13 "carefully calibrated performance indicators" across five areas: teaching (the learning environment); research (volume, income, reputation); citations (research influence); international outlook (staff, students and research); and industry income (knowledge transfer).
Points awarded are weighted, with teaching, research and citations each being worth 30 percent, international outlook being worth 7.5 percent, and industry income being worth 2.5 percent. They have all been evaluated by their academic peers through THE’s annual Academic Reputation Survey, which draws on more than 20,000 survey responses from senior scholars from more than 140 countries. The points allotted per area are then independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers for accuracy.
In general, institutions in developing countries are held back when it comes to their reputation for teaching and their research and citation impact. Prestige takes many years to acquire and tends to be bestowed some time after the achievements it marks have been accomplished