By Shane McGinley
Saudi’s King Saud University was the top MidEast university at number 197
A list of the 700 top universities in the world has seen the Middle East break into the top 200 for the first time in the list’s nine year history, with Saudi Arabia the dominant educational player in the region.
While US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) took the top spot from last year’s reigning winner, the UK’s Cambridge University, Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University (KSU) was the number one university in the Middle East, moving three places up to the number 197, according to the 2012 QS World University Rankings.
A total of 26 universities from the Middle East were ranked in the top 700 this year and QS observed “there has been a marked improvement in standing for the region’s strongest universities, with the 15 highest ranked institutions exhibiting a largely upward trend.”
With the 55 year-old King Saud University topping the Middle East rankings, Saudi Arabia dominating the list with seven universities.
Fellow Saudi institution, the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, was the region’s second highest ranking and climbed 13 places to reach 208. The American University of Beirut surged 50 places to 250, which was attributed to “an improved performance in the employer reputation, faculty student ratio and international faculty ratio indicators.”
Egypt accounted for five universities on the list, while the UAE had three, Lebanon, Iran and Jordan had two each and Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain all have a single representative.
While the region’s third level institutions improved this year, QS’ study found Gulf universities suffered from poor results in the employer reputation survey, especially when compared with other universities in the Middle East.
“With high levels of youth employment an issue, poor employer perceptions may reflect criticisms that Gulf nation’s public universities are not producing graduates who are ready for professional life,” the report concluded.
One of the notable universities to fall out of the rankings is Syria’s University of Damascus, which can be attributed to the ongoing violence in the country.
The report found the top 100 universities averaged nearly 10 percent more international students than in 2011, the biggest single-year increase in the rankings’ nine-year history.
Following on from MIT and the University of Cambridge, third spot on the overall rankings went to Harvard University, followed in the top five by UCL (University College London) and the University of Oxford.
Other well known contenders on the top ten include the Imperial College London (6th), Yale University (7th) and Princeton University (9).
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