The country's oldest university has been listed as one of the top 400 higher education institutions in the world for the first time. UAE University, in Al Ain, shares the 374th position in rankings released by Times Higher Education, a London-based newspaper, and the career and education organisation QS.
Last year, UAE University, founded in 1976 and the oldest federal university in the country, was listed between 401 and 500 in the same table. Institutions that appear outside the top 400 are grouped together rather than ranked individually. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the chancellor of UAE University, credited an increase in research at the institution for the improved position.
"This is the most important thing for any university," he said. "We're planning to move up the ladder every year." The only other universities in Middle Eastern Arab countries in the top 400 are King Saud University (247) and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (266), both in Saudi Arabia, and the American University of Beirut (351). In joint 374th position with UAE University are Scotland's Heriot-Watt, which has a branch in Dubai, and Kyung Hee University in South Korea.
Among the institutions ranked lower than UAE University are Bangor University (394) and the University of Aberystwyth (386), both in Wales, the University of Tennessee (380) and Osaka City University (399) in Japan. The scoring system, in which UAE was awarded 37.5 points out of a possible 100, is 40 per cent based on reviews by academics. Ten per cent of the score is based on an employer survey, 20 per cent on the student-to-faculty ratio, 20 per cent on the number of times research is cited and five per cent each for the proportions of international faculty and international students.
Phil Baty, deputy editor of Times Higher Education, said: "Any institution that's heading in the direction [of the top 200] is doing the right thing." Dr Rory Hume, the provost of UAE University, said its improved ranking showed that "the world is beginning to pay attention to what's going on here". "It's nice to have that recognition," he said, adding that "focused investment on people and programmes" was behind the improved showing.
Dr Hume added that he believed the university was on course to be among the world's top 100 institutions within five years, one of its stated goals. It is also in the midst of a major reform programme. Next year, it will become the country's first federal university to offer PhD courses. There had been some "phenomenal applicants", Dr Hume said. "We are working on our first group of scholarship and we expect to offer 20 scholarships within a month," he said.
There are also plans to substantially increase research by taking on more doctoral students each year and hiring academic staff with international reputations. Next year, the university will move to a new campus, where all functions will be consolidated. Currently the university is scattered across several campuses.