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Rankings for World’s Best Universities 2023 revealed. Which UAE schools can get you places? Which university in the UAE tops the list?

The World’s Best Universities 2023 have been revealed by Times Higher Education, and The University of Oxford once again grabs the top spot for the seventh year – both in the UK and across the world.

In 2021, UAE schools sent around 65 students to study at Oxbridge according to figures released by The Telegraph newspaper. Dubai College sent the most students (11) to Oxbridge from Dubai, followed by The English College, which sent four students to Oxbridge in 2021.[1]

The UAE sends 15,000 Emirati students to international universities each year – a figure that has been steadily rising by about 4% annually, and which would be far higher if you were to include students of other nationalities who are long-term UAE expats.

The UK, the US, Australia and Europe are all very popular destinations for UAE students, with many choosing to go to universities that appear high up in this new World’s Best Universities list.

But there have been some interesting movements in the rankings – in particular, universities in the Middle East are rising up the league tables and getting themselves noticed on the global map of higher education.

What is the World University Rankings?

Each year, The Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings list is released. This year, the World University Rankings includes 1,799 universities across 104 countries and regions, making it the largest and most diverse university league table to date.

The table is based on 13 performance indicators that measure an institution’s performance across four areas: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

This year’s ranking analysed over 121 million citations across more than 15.5 million research publications and included survey responses from 40,000 scholars globally. Overall, THE collected over 680,000 datapoints from more than 2,500 institutions that submitted data.


Top 10: World’s Best Universities 2023

Oxford University applications from Dubai College

Ranking University name/ country Overall Score Teaching Research Citations Industry Income International outlook
1 University of Oxford 96.4 92.3 99.7 99 74.9 96.2
United Kingdom
2 Harvard University 95.2 94.8 99 99.3 49.5 80.5
United States
3 University of Cambridge 94.8 90.9 99.5 97 54.2 95.8
United Kingdom
3 Stanford University 94.8 94.2 96.7 99.8 65 79.8
United States
5 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 94.2 90.7 93.6 99.8 90.9 89.3
United States
6 California Institute of Technology 94.1 90.9 97 97.3 89.8 83.6
United States
7 Princeton University 92.4 87.6 95.9 99.1 66 80.3
United States
8 University of California, Berkeley 92.1 86.4 95.8 99 76.8 78.4
United States
9 Yale University 91.4 92.6 92.7 97 55 70.9
United States
10 Imperial College London 90.4 82.8 90.8 98.3 59.8 97.5
United Kingdom

Most popular Universities for UAE students 

While the UK and US have always been very popular university destinations for UAE students, the tides are starting to shift. According to higher-education consulting platform Univibes, the countries in highest demand by UAE students right now among their customers are Italy and Germany.

In the increasingly cost-conscious climate, Europe in general is becoming a popular study-destination for UAE students due to its “low tuition fees, broad scholarship opportunities, and highly-ranked programs in management, IT, economics and more.”

At the same time, South Korea has been gaining unexpected popularity. Students say that they are attracted by “K-pop culture, traditions and the opportunity to learn a less widely studied language.” South Korea is also attractive from a financial perspective: the average cost of education in South Korea is cheaper than in the UAE, generally costing between 4000-8000 USD per year.

Between the growing popularity of Asian countries and the growing range of European scholarships, the US – with its high cost of education – is losing its dominant position as the main destination for students seeking to study abroad, according to Univibes.

This is part of a wider trend across the world, according to the Times Higher Education analysis:

“North America, in particular the US, has for a long time reigned supreme over higher education. At the highest level, US institutions continue to dominate, with 12 universities in the top 20, but taking a broader view of US performance, it is clear that the crown is slipping.

This year, for the first time, continental data reveal that Oceania has overtaken North America to enjoy the distinction of the highest average overall score (based on universities ranked each year since 2018).

Simon Marginson, Director of the Centre for Global Higher Education at the University of Oxford, told THE that the expanding number of world-class universities is having “a slight crowd-out effect in relation to US universities”, causing a small relative decline in reputation.

How have GCC universities fared?

Recent investment into higher education in the UAE and around the GCC is starting to pay off. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are improving their overall score on the World’s Best Universities ranking at a faster rate than the global average.

Saudi Arabia has had the biggest increase in overall score since last year, with an average overall score of 50, compared with 45 last year; since 2018 the average score has risen by 17 points. The country scores particularly well on the international criterion, especially on international staff.

The UAE saw a similar rise, with an average overall score of 44.4, up from 40.0 last year.

The best Universities in the GCC

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulalziz University gets the highest rating of any GCC university, with a ranking just outside of the top 100 at 101 – up from 190 last year. This ranking places the GCC university just below Switzerland’s University of Basel, and well above many other well-known universities, from the UK’s  University of Warwick, to the University of Montreal, Michigan State University, and many, many more.

The UAE’s top-rated university is The University of Sharjah, which is rated in the 251 – 300 bracket (having shot up from the 401-500 bracket last year). This is then followed in the UAE by United Arab Emirates University and Abu Dhabi University.

Top 15 UAE and KSA Universities in World Ranking

1 King Abdulalziz University, Saudi Arabia

2 King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Saudi Arabia

3 King Saud University, Saudi Arabia

4 University of Sharjah, UAE

5 United Arab Emirates University, UAE

6 Abu Dhabi University, UAE

7 Al Faisal University, Saudi Arabia

8 Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University, Saudi Arabia

9 University of Hail, Saudi Arabia

10 Khalifa University, UAE

12 Jazan University, Saudi Arabia

13 University of Tabuk, Saudi Arabia

14 Zayed University, UAE

15 American University of Sharjah, UAE


(1) Worth noting the analysis by Mike Lambert, Headmaster of Dubai College, on the way the Telegraph rankings of schools securing Oxbridge places are decided: “As with all league tables you also need to interrogate the data. Schools have been ranked by absolute number of successful applicants rather than % success rate which paints a different picture. We have a higher success rate than 6 out of the top 10 international schools.”

(2) For more on the top UAE schools for Oxbridge, read the (excellent) article by WhichschoolAdvisor here.

(3) Visit the official Dubai College web site here.

(4) Visit the official The English College Dubai web site here.

(5) It would be interesting to rank UAE schools for places secured to Oxbridge, Ivy League and top European universities. This is in planning by Edstatica.

(6) Read about a student’s experience applying to the University of Oxford here.

© A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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