Sunday, 05 December 2021 05:54 GMT

Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz University clinches top spot in Arab Region University Rankings


(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz University took the top spot with an overall score of 100 as per the latest QS Arab Region Universities Ranking 2022.

Qatar University in Doha and King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia took the second and third spot respectively with scores of 97.8 and 97.7.

This was revealed at the QS World University Rankings: Arab Region 2022 Conclave that is currently being held in Dubai.

American University of Beirut (AUB) and United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, UAE sealed the fourth and the fifth spot.

Other UAE universities that feature in the top ten include American University of Sharjah that has clinched the eighth position and Khalifa University Abu Dhabi that stands at the ninth place.

Now featuring more than 180 universities, this year's Arab Region rankings contain 24 new entrants including the first-ever institution from Libya.

This year's rankings have been constructed using 10 different indicators, including academic and employer reputation, diversity, international research network, among others.

New University Landscape Post Covid

Different panel discussions were held on the sidelines of the award ceremony with educationists from around the Arab world discussing how the global business landscape continues to evolve, presenting new challenges and opportunities to explore new forms of education.

Shedding light on why university rankings are important, Prof Clayton MacKenzie, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Zayed University, said, "Universities that go up the ranking will get noticed on a regional and on an international stage. That is especially important for young universities that don't have the advantages of history and reputation shaped over centuries. Questions that ranking organisations like QS ask are important. What is the quality of your research, are your faculty active publishers? What is the staff-student ratio? What do your employers think about you? How do you connect with other universities? Even if there were no rankings these are questions that universities ought to be asking about themselves."

Educationists also elucidated on the, "Future of Higher Education in the Arab region" where experts threw light on how a public-private partnership is the way forward for all.

Prof Abdalla Al Hawaj, Founding President & Managing Director, Ahlia University, Bahrain, opined, "I feel the private sector should have a greater role to play and invest in the country's education sector and its development. Increased private involvement can improve pedagogic, technical, and management skills across all levels of education. Government cannot manage everything alone. Private sector involvement gives an opportunity to improve the educational outcomes of students across both public and private schools. I would also like to emphasise that we need to empower women as well, through equal opportunities of quality and higher education."

Talking about quality assurance for continuous improvement, panelists also discussed Covid-19 acknowledged challenges of online learning but majority concurred how the pandemic has been a great learning experience where universities swiftly embraced technology.

Dr Michel Mawad, President, Lebanese American University said, "the future is in distance learning and building alliances with other universities, joint appointment of professors from different countries and cities in the Arab world. Today the way technology aids in transmitting knowledge and distance learning is a good indicator for us to collaborate and save our own resources and leverage human resources that are yet not so common in the Middle East. It will be good for all of us to bring all the universities together."

While technology advocates saw online teaching as the best path forward, they were of a different opinion.

Dr Shadi Hijazi, Principal Consultant, QS Quacquarelli Symonds said, "It was very clear that after you cross this crisis, something is changing in the world for sure. But what we gathered from our assessments is that students are not appreciative of online learning only as human interactions and that connection is important that comes with onsite learning. So, hybrid mode has become more important than distance learning alone."

Mapping out the future of work

The panel then deliberated on mapping out the future of work, which is vital to helping prospective leaders find their place.

Dr Sonia Ben Jaafar, Chief Executive Officer, Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, opined, "two things are important. There is adaptability and alignment of purpose. If you don't adapt you don't survive. The fact is a lot of people lost their jobs because they couldn't adapt, it's not because every single industry went down. When your industry went downhill could you upskill or re skill or say move to those companies that were doing well… because we still have the same amount of money circulating."

She added, "Those who couldn't adapt couldn't survive. The other thing is alignment of purpose. Universities should ensure that there is career guidance in a real and practical manner and sits with industries to usher that purpose. People leave their jobs because they don't find their purpose. Young people are particularly tired of working for the sake of working. So if their purpose is not aligned to the company's purpose then we are not going to get that sustainability."

Rashed AlShamsi, Director of Career Services and Alumni, Zayed University, said, "The pandemic disrupted the existing norms and created new norms that accelerated the future of jobs. So, organisations have to be ready to support remote working. The future has been accelerated by work that is managed by performance. If people are working online, it's not about clocking in and out, it's all about trusting human capital, your employees and gauging their achievements. So moving forward, we will increasingly move away from organisations that adhere to traditional ways of functioning only."

Nandini Sircar

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