The Times Higher Education (THE) has revealed the world’s top universities for 2021. The complete list consists of more than 1,500 institutions from 93 countries.
The USA and UK have dominated the top 10 places, with eight institutions from the USA and two from the UK. The UK’s University of Oxford still stands at number one and USA’s Stanford University places second, rising two positions from last year. Harvard University climbed to third place, four positions higher than their previous year’s ranking.
Institutions from Asia have made impressive progress this year. China’s Tsinghua University has placed 20th, with a perfect score of 100 on industry income. They climbed three positions since last year’s rankings.
THE’s 2021 rankings include a number of institutions from the GCC and the Middle East. Five universities from the United Arab Emirates also made the list this year with United Arab Emirates University as their highest contender, with high scores in citations and international outlook.
Saudi Arabia has ten ranked institutions, with King Abdulaziz University (KAU) as their front runner. KAU additionally scored best in citations and international outlook. Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar all have one university included in the 2021 rankings. Iran is also well-represented in the list with 47 institutions. The Middle East has significantly beaten last year’s record of 124 institutions, now with a whopping 151 institutions included.
A common trend among the Middle Eastern institutions is high performance in citations, industry income, and international outlook. Yet the group as a whole appear to struggle in research and teaching – which makes up a large percentage of THE’s scoring system.
“In the past decade we have seen numerous higher education institutions (HEIs) across the MENA region make significant strides in their rankings related goals. The most successful institutions are those who have prioritised advancement, aligned their strategy to these objectives, and implemented this strategy in a practical and purposeful way. Excellence in teaching and research is a marathon not a sprint. It requires authentic commitment to improvement and consistent support for faculty and staff through resources and professional development. We are confident that we will continue to see more Middle Eastern HEIs represented on THE’s ranking in the future.” – Head of Training and Consulting, Knowledge E, Samantha Miles
THE’s ranking methodology
THE World University Rankings evaluate universities across five areas: teaching (30%), research (30%), citations (30%), industry income (7.5%), and international outlook (2.5%).
Although the rankings data covers a period before the emergence of COVID-19, the data collection overlapped with the start of the pandemic. Despite this disruption, 1,527 universities from 93 countries are included for this year, making it their largest and most diverse rankings to date.
The results of the rankings give rise to many discussions among higher education in the community. More so for Asian institutions, on how their approach is very imminent in closing the gaps between them and the USA and UK institutions.
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