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Saudi Arabia is the top performer in a snapshot ranking for universities in the Arab region, based on data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016.
King Abdulaziz University is first place in the top 15 table, while its national rivals King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and King Saud University are third and fourth respectively. Lebanon’s American University of Beirut (second) and the United Arab Emirates University (fifth) make up the rest of the top five.
Egypt also has three universities in the list, but they are concentrated in the bottom half of the table: Suez Canal, Alexandria and Cairo universities take tenth, 11th and 12th place respectively.
One reason for Saudi Arabia’s success may be its high levels of funding. On average, ranked universities in the country receive $733,069 (£519,290) of institutional income per member of staff, the third highest among the eight countries featured in the list. Egypt’s universities, in comparison, receive an average of just $101,317 (£71,770) on this measure.
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Larry Smith, adjunct chair in higher education management and leadership at the University of New England, Australia, and co-editor of the book Higher Education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, Challenges and Opportunities, said that the three Saudi Arabian universities featured in the ranking are “significantly more involved than other universities in the region in collaborating on major research projects with international universities outside the kingdom”.
He added that these institutions have also all “initiated major strategies for benchmarking against leading international universities in their major discipline areas” and “modified their management structures” to place significant emphasis on the quality of teaching and learning.
Mohamed Harajli, interim provost at the American University of Beirut, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, said that for the past 10 to 15 years the university has “been moving gradually from a teaching-centred institution to a research-centred institution”.
He added that in November its board of trustees reinstated a tenure system for academics after a 30-year hiatus, which he hopes will help the university “attract and retain faculty from all over the world” and “improve research productivity”.
Source: Times Higher Education