On 19 December we celebrate the Arab Language Day! In honour of this day celebrating the Arab language and culture, we’ve compiled a list of the ten best universities in the Arab world. Check it out!
The Arab world comprises 22 independent countries and over 450 million people. With numbers like this, it’s no wonder that some of the best universities in the world are located in this area. If you’re interested in studying in this large and fascinating area, be it for your whole degree or a student exchange year, check out this post for ideas about what university might be the best fit for you.
The rankings in this article are based on the prestigious QS rankings and their World University Rankings 2024 and it was compiled by Student.com, the world’s largest student accommodation marketplace.
1. King Abdulaziz University
Location: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Global university rank: 143rd
King Abdulaziz University was founded in 1967 by a group of Saudi businessmen as a private institution, but today it is a public university. It was named after the first monarch of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz ibn Saud and with well over 100,000 students, it is currently the largest university in Saudi Arabia. Just under 5% of the student body comes from abroad, so you’ll be in an international atmosphere studying at KAU. The university is especially highly regarded for its programs in the fields of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, Chemistry, and Computer Science and Information Systems. In all these fields KAU is ranked among the 50 best universities in the world.
2. Qatar University
Location: Doha, Qatar
Global university rank: 173rd
Qatar University is the only public university in Qatar and is comprised of ten colleges. Classes are taught in Arabic and English, so if you’re interested in studying abroad in Qatar, it can be done even if you don’t speak Arabic. You won’t be the only one either: more than one-third of Qatar University’s students are from outside Qatar. There are four fields of study where Qatar University is ranked among the 150 best universities in the world: Theology, Divinity and Religious Studies, Petroleum Engineering, Sports-Related Subjects, and Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
3. King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals
Location: Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
Global university rank: 180th
The King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals was founded in 1963 as the College of Petroleum and Minerals and started using its current name back in 1986. As the university’s name suggests, it’s especially strong in the fields of Petroleum and Mineral and Mining Engineering, but has highly-rated engineering programs also in Chemical, Civil, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering. The university has partnerships with many notable US universities such as MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford, and Caltech, as well as large Saudi companies such as the national oil company Saudi Aramco (which is also headquartered in Dhahran) and its subsidiary Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC).
4. King Saud University
Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Global university rank: 203rd
King Saud University is a public university in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The university was founded in 1957 by King Saud bin Abdulaziz, after whom the university is named. KSU offers teaching in both Arabic and English, but it is expected that all students are able to speak Arabic. Around 10% of students are from outside Saudi Arabia. The university is ranked among the best 100 universities in the world in three fields: Petroleum Engineering, Dentistry, and Pharmacy and Pharmacology.
5. American University of Beirut
Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Global university rank: 226th
The American University of Beirut was founded way back in 1866 and is one of the most cosmopolitan universities in the region. The courses are taught in English, around 20% of students come from outside Lebanon and there are alumni of the university living in about 120 countries around the world. It’s a reasonably small university, with less than 10,000 students. In the tradition of American universities, AUB has signature colours (burgundy and white) and a mascot (phoenix). There are several fields where AUB’s program is ranked among the best 200 in the world: Development Studies, Medicine, Architecture and Built Environment, Business and Management Studies, Nursing, Politics, Accounting and Finance, and Civil and Structural Engineering.
6. Khalifa University
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Global university rank: 230th
Founded in 2007, Khalifa University is one of the youngest universities in the Arab world, but it has quickly risen to the top of the ranks, ranked currently as the 230th-best university in the world and the 6th-best in the Arab world. More than a quarter of all students come from outside the United Arab Emirates in the cosmopolitan institution of higher learning. Khalifa University is particularly focused on engineering fields, and ranks especially well in Petroleum and Electrical Engineering, as well as in Computer Science. Khalifa is a relatively small university with less than 5,000 students and a very good student-to-faculty ratio.
7. United Arab Emirates University
Location: Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
Global university rank: 290th
The United Arab Emirates University is a public university that was founded in 1976. It’s located in Al Ain, about 140km east of the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. The university is divided into nine colleges that offer degrees in a variety of subjects, such as engineering, business, law, and medicine. The most highly-ranked programs are in Petroleum Engineering, Civil Engineering, Architecture, and Pharmacy and Pharmacology. Traditionally it has focused mostly on undergraduate degrees, but lately it has also launched the first PhD program at a national university in the United Arab Emirates.
8. Hamad Bin Khalifa University
Location: Doha, Qatar
Global university rank: 310th
Having been founded in 2010, Hamad Bin Khalifa is another newer university. It’s based in Qatar’s Education City, and has quickly risen the ranks to become one of the most highly-rated universities in the world. The university is divided into six colleges: Islamic Studies, Humanities and Social Sciences, Science and Engineering, Law, Health and Life Sciences, and Public Policy. Its most highly-ranked programs are in the fields of Engineering and Technology, and Computer Science and Information Systems. Hamad Bin Khalifa is one of the more international universities around, with more than half of its students coming from outside Qatar.
9. American University of Sharjah
Location: Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Global university rank: 364th
Another one of the American universities in the Middle East, the American University of Sharjah was founded in 1997. It’s one of the more international universities in the region, with a large portion of the student body being from abroad, coming from almost 100 different countries. The university’s high quality and connections to the United States can be seen in the fact that in 2010, the AUS Bachelor of Architecture program became the first architecture program outside North America to be accredited by the United States National Architectural Accrediting Board. In addition to architecture, AUS has highly-rated programs in Business and Management Studies, Art and Design, and Accounting and Finance.
10. Cairo University
Location: Giza, Egypt
Global university rank: 371st
The British representative in the area, Lord Cromer, didn’t want to establish an institution of higher education in Egypt for fear of it causing unrest. He retired in 1907, and the Egyptian University was promptly established in 1908. Today known as Cairo University, it is the highest-ranked university in Egypt. It’s a massive institution, with well over 150,000 students. Despite the name, the main campus is actually in Giza, right across the River Nile from Cairo. Its highest-ranked programs are in Petroleum Engineering, Veterinary Science, and Dentistry. There are three Nobel Prize winners among the university’s alumni: Yasser Arafat (1994) and Mohamed ElBaradei (2005) have won the Peace Prize, and Naguib Mahfouz won the Literature Prize in 1988.
So there we are, the ten best universities in the Arab world. Three universities in Saudi Arabia, three in the United Arab Emirates, two in Qatar, one in Lebanon, and one in Egypt. All of these universities are among the best 400 universities in the whole world, so if you end up studying in any one of these institutions, you can be sure you’re receiving a world-class education. So all that’s left to do now is figure out which university is the right fit for you and send your application. Good luck!