Sep 12 2012
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Middle East's top universities
King Saud University was the Middle East's only higher educational institute among the world's top 200 universities, according to a new survey.
QS World University Ranking is considered a popular benchmark for excellence in higher education with a very credible ranking method.
The Saudi university has been steadily moving up in the QS ranking, from 247 in 2009, to break into the top 200 for the first time.
" King Saud University is the premier university in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is highly respected in Arab and Muslim countries," QS noted in its report. "It is the oldest university in Saudi Arabia and has educated many members of the national business, political and academic elite, including the royal family. The university offers a broad range of undergraduate courses in the natural sciences, the social sciences, the humanities and professional studies. Tuition is completely free and generous scholarships are available for Saudi and international students."
In the report, QS noted that its rankings highlights the rise of emerging markets especially Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and other areas of the world.
"It shows rising higher education ambitions in the Middle East, where King Saud University is now a top-200 institution and many others are close behind. We hope that the rankings will continue to supply insights such as these for many years to come."
TOP MIDEAST UNIVERSITIES
KSU was one of the few bright spots, as only 10 Middle East universities made it in to the list of the 500 highest ranked universities.
"Some Middle Eastern universities are also making their mark, particularly those in Saudi Arabia, where King Saud University is in the top 200 and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals is only eight places outside it," said QS. "Eleven Middle Eastern countries are represented at some level in the ranking."
QS has been publishing its ranking since 2004 and surveyed 70,000 respondents for this year's survey.
At least four Saudi universities made it to the list, which is a promising start for a country that is looking to focus on education and is investing billions in the sector.
Saudi Arabia has responded to it's education problems and is investing a mammoth SAR81.5-billion (USD21.7-billion) in the sector.
Improving the quality of education and including the kingdom's youthful population in the fast-growing economy has been a top priority for the government.
Saudi Arabia's budget dedicated to education spending has more than doubled in size since 2005. The kingdom spent USD40 billion on education in 2011; up from USD36.7 billion in year 2010. In the last budget, the Kingdom's government designated 25.9% of its total annual budget for education and training purposes.
Meanwhile, the United Arab Emirates University and American University of Sharjah were among the UAE institutes in the top 500. While AUS moved up in rankings, worryingly, UAE University slid from 338th position in 2011 to 370 this year.
American University of Beirut jumped 50 places from last year to emerge as the 250th highest ranked university in the world, while American University of Cairo made an even bigger jump, rising over 150 places to reach 392.
Oman's Sultan Qaboos University which had a respectable 377 rank last year, appears to have slid to the 401-450 bracket.
Turkey's Middle East Technical University rounded up the wider region's top 10 universities.
The Middle East universities low-key presence in the list of the world's five hundred best universities shows how the region's educational standards has not kept up with the region's economic performance.
It also brings into sharp contrast that educational standards are directly linked to economic well-being. Not surprisingly, most universities in the list are in developed economies, with universities in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil rising up the rankings.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) emerged as the world's best university, eclipsing UK's Cambridge and Harvard University.
"The rise of MIT coincides with a global shift in emphasis toward science and technology," says QS head of research Ben Sowter. "MIT perfects a blueprint that is now being followed by a new wave of cutting-edge tech-focused institutions, especially in Asia."
But for now, American and British universities continued to dominate. American institutes took six of the top ten places, 13 in the top 20 and 31 in the top 100. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom had four universities in the top ten and 18 in the top 100.
It's likely that the list may have a different flavour in the next few years as universities in emerging markets rise and pose a challenge to developed economy universities in a few years.
"In China, seven of the top ten universities have gone up, and both Peking and Tsinghua universities remain in the top 50," said QS in the report. "Hong Kong also has three universities in the top 40, including Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, the youngest institution in the top 150."
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