Times Higher Education (THE) has just published its ranking of universities in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. It is, according to THE's rankings editor Phil Baty, "just a snapshot" of what MENA rankings might look like after consultation.with interested parties.
The ranking contains precisely one indicator, field-normalised citations, meaning that it is not the number of citations that matter but the number compared to the world average in specific fields. This was the flagship indicator in the THE world rankings and it is surprising that THE should continue using it in a region where it is inappropriate and produces extremely implausible results.
Number one in MENA is Texas A & M University at Qatar. This is basically an engineering school, evidently of a very high quality, and it is not clear whether is a genuinely independent institution. It offers undergraduate courses in engineering and has master's programmes in chemical engineering. Its output of research is meagre, as THE obligingly indicates in its press release.
How then did it get to the top of a research impact ranking? Easily. One of its faculty, with a joint appointment with the mother campus in Texas, is one of the collaborators on a multi-contributor paper emanating from CERN. I will leave it somebody else to count the number of contributors.
Another CERN collaborator, Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco is in sixth place. King Abdulaziz University is third.
There are ten Egyptian universities in the top thirty, including Alexandria but not Cairo.