Revealed: Top 5 research universities in the UAE

Evaluation measures have been anchored on a national agenda geared towards growth and innovation


Nandini Sircar

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Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File
Image used for illustrative purpose. Photo: File

Published: Thu 27 Jun 2024, 5:23 PM

Last updated: Fri 28 Jun 2024, 11:55 AM

The Ministry of Education revealed the top five research universities in the UAE based on a new classification.

The American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates University, Khalifa University, Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, and New York University Abu Dhabi are all listed in the “outstanding category.”

Notably, these evaluation measures have been anchored on a national agenda geared towards growth and innovation.

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In classifying universities, the UAE is placing a strong emphasis on scientific research and innovations, and teaching quality — with each being attributed 35 per cent in the National Higher Education Institutions Classification Framework.

This was revealed at The National Higher Education Institutions Classification Framework media roundtable that was held on Thursday.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the event, Dr Sameera Almulla, Acting Assistant Undersecretary for the Curriculum Sector and Director of Certificate Equivalency Department at the Ministry of Education, said: “Today we are doing the classification and not the ranking of the universities. The classification at this stage is meant only for ‘research’ universities, and a few weeks from now, classification will be announced for ‘non-research’ universities."

Sameera Almulla. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar
Sameera Almulla. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar

In line with the world’s best practices in higher institutions ranking, MoE-licensed HEIs in the UAE were classified into two categories: the first is the Research Cluster, which encompasses HEIs that offer postgraduate studies alongside bachelor studies. The second category is the Non-research Cluster; it includes HEIs providing bachelor’s (or lower) studies only. The new Framework does not encompass HEIs established within the last five years, those exclusively offering master's and doctoral programmes, or universities with revoked or suspended licenses.

"The national classification framework consists of four pillars. The scientific research and innovation is attributed is 35 per cent, teaching quality has also been given 35 per cent, employment and job market alignment is 20 percent and international collaborations is attributed 10 per cent.”

Research institutions and non-research institutions

Institutions are segmented into two major categories: research institutions and non-research institutions of higher education.

They are further classified into one of four levels within each category. The objective of this framework is to elevate the standards of educational institutions, encourage the implementation of best academic practices, and create an educational environment that enhances both the quality of education and the overall student experience.

“This will also help students and parents to make informed decisions when it comes to their careers and future while pursuing higher education and this would help them better align with the job market. All this information will be available on the MoE website —,” said Dr Mohammad Al Mualla, Undersecretary for Higher Education Academic Affairs at the Ministry of Education.

Dr Mohammad Al Mualla. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar
Dr Mohammad Al Mualla. KT Photo: Nandini Sircar

Additionally, it was highlighted that the results of the classification provide an opportunity for universities to implement changes to support their development and improvement plans.

Al Mualla, added: “In 2017 MoE launched the National strategy for higher education institutions with four key pillars. Year-on-year, the quality and level of level of education delivered in the UAE has consistently been going up. This is also reflected in the global rankings where the UAE’s higher education institutions consistently feature.”

However, he explained, global rankings do not always prioritise the metrics that the country’s national strategy will factor in, which may be specific to the UAE.

“The global rankings framework typically includes a large number of universities, often exceeding 1,500 institutions. These rankings primarily depend on surveys and the reputations of these universities rather than on criteria that might reflect the national interests of individual countries,” he added. “But what about the other universities that are not included in this survey? That’s one of the main reasons that showcase the importance of setting up the national framework. Classifications will be updated annually, starting from this year.”

Over 150 classification standards

He also elaborated that six years ago, when this framework was introduced, it began with standard comparisons.

“Today, we utilise over 150 classification standards and consider the most relevant indicators specific to the UAE. The framework was developed in consultation with leading universities and higher education consultancies worldwide,” added Al Mualla.

Complete list

Meanwhile, the rankings for the research universities are grouped as’ Outstanding’, ‘Very Good’, ‘Good’ and ‘Satisfactory’.

The ‘Outstanding’ category, Group 1, includes universities like the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates University, Khalifa University, Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, and New York University Abu Dhabi.

In the ‘Very Good’ category, Group 2, are nine universities. These include Abu Dhabi University, American University in Dubai, The British University in Dubai, Al Sharekah University, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Zayed University, Ajman University, University of Wollongong in Dubai.

Universities ranked as ‘Good’, Group3, include the American University in the Emirates, The American University of Ras Al Khaimah, Emirates College for Educational Development, Gulf Medical University, Sorbonne University, Al Ain University, Canadian University in Dubai, Institute of Business Administration Technology in Dubai, University of Dubai, Dubai College of Pharmacy, Raydan Academy, Saint Joseph University Dubai.

Under the category of ‘Satisfactory’, Group 4, there are eight universities. Horizon University College, Emirates Aviation University, Imam Malik College of Islamic Sharia and Law, University of Fujairah, City University Ajman, Al Wasl University, Jumeirah University, and Ras Al Khaimah University of Medicine and Health Sciences.


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