The ARWU ranking, often known as the Shanghai Ranking, ranks institutions whose alumni or staff have earned certain distinctions related to research excellence. These include institutions that have Nobel laureates, winners of the Fields Medal, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature or Science, or a considerable number of papers indexed by the Science Citation Index-Expanded (SCIE) or the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI).
It evaluates institutions according to six performance parameters.
- Alumni (worth 10 percent of the overall score). This metric is based on the number of Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners among an institution’s graduates, with higher weight given to more recent honorees.
- Awards (20 percent). This metric considers the number of staff who have received Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics, as well as Fields Medals in mathematics, with more recent honorees receiving more weight.
- Highly cited researchers (20 percent). This metric is based on the number of staff selected as Highly Cited Researchers by Clarivate Analytics.
- Papers published in Nature and Science (20 percent). This metric uses a four-year timeframe and the amount of publications published in the journals Science and Nature. This category does not apply to institutions that concentrate in social sciences and humanities.
- Indexed papers (20 percent). This is based on the number of papers indexed in the Science Citation Index-Expanded and Social Science Citation Index in the previous calendar year.
- Performance per capita (10 percent). The weighted scores of the above five indicators divided by the number of full-time equivalent academic staff.
How Arab Universities Fare in Rankings
The QS Arab Region University Rankings is one of the five independent regional rankings produced by QS Quacquarelli Symonds, in addition to its World University Rankings. Its 2022 report featured more than 180 universities.
The most-represented countries are Saudi Arabia and Egypt with 31 ranked universities apiece. They are followed by Iraq (22), Jordan (20), the United Arab Emirates (15), and Lebanon (12).
King Abdulaziz University (KAU) led the list with an overall score of 100. The rest of the top 10 institutions were as follows:
- Qatar University
- King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals
- American University of Beirut
- United Arab Emirates University
- King Saud University
- Sultan Qaboos University
- American University of Sharjah
- Khalifa University of Science and Technology
- University of Jordan
Limits and Alternatives
Rankings aren’t the only tool students should consider when deciding where to enroll. But they may be helpful when students are choosing between two or more universities, or are sorting out which programmes are considered the best in their field or the most highly valued by employers.
Still, students should keep in mind that rankings have limits, including intended and accidental biases. Those problems, along with concerns about over-reliance of some governments and policy-making bodies on rankings as indicators of quality or performance, have prompted some higher-education groups to consider alternative strategies for comparing institutions.
One approach that has gained attention is known as benchmarking. Benchmarking allows institutions to measure their performance against the top, average, or worst performing institutions in their category.
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One example of a benchmarking system is the University Governance Screening Card Project, which brings together over 100 universities from seven Middle East and North Africa nations. This effort, co-sponsored by the World Bank and the Center for Mediterranean Integration, aims to improve institutional governance and accountability by implementing capacity-building measures that are evidence-based and inclusive.
Participating institutions can compare notes with their peers on governance, quality, and management issues. To improve their performance, many of them have produced specific action plans and accompanying capacity-building strategies.