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Top Universities in Africa and the Middle East

By Laura T

Updated March 3, 2021 Updated March 3, 2021

In the latest edition of the QS World University Rankings®, there are 47 ranked universities in the regions of Africa and the Middle East, split between 14 different countries. Some nations, however, boast more entries than others; the country with the largest rankings presence is Turkey with nine offerings, despite no entries within the top 400. Tied with seven ranked universities each are South Africa and Saudi Arabia, although South Africa appears higher up, with the regions’ second highest ranking. Israel, despite its miniscule size in relation to its competitors, has five ranked universities, four of which are impressively included within the top 10 universities in Africa and the Middle East.

Here’s a closer look at those 10 top universities in Africa and the Middle East, followed by a comprehensive ‘Best of the Rest’, which gives a deserved mention to all the African and Middle Eastern countries included within the QS rankings.

Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

MethodologyLocated in Israel, the world’s only Jewish-majority state, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the highest ranked of these top universities in Africa and the Middle East. The university is ranked 141= in the world and counts among its founders the likes of Nobel Prize laureate Albert Einstein, who served on the first Board of Governors alongside Sigmund Freud. The school has three campuses in Jerusalem and one in Rehovot, and is home to the world’s largest Jewish studies library. The university is also well reputed in mathematics and has been awarded a Fields Medal in the subject.

University of Cape Town, South Africa

The oldest university in South Africa and ranked 145= in the world, the University of Cape Town is an English-speaking institution with a vibrant and cosmopolitan community. The main campus is located on Table Mountain’s Devil’s Peak and boasts panoramic views of much of Cape Town. The school, with a growing population of over 25,000, says it aims to promote diversity and to create graduates with firm values of social justice and citizenship.

Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Israel

Ranked 183= in the world, Technion – Israel Institute of technology, is (as its name suggests) a science and technology- focused research university and the oldest in Israel. Hebrew is the main language of instruction and the school offers various levels of Hebrew language courses to help students improve their proficiency. The university has also helped the country gain the nickname “Start-up Nation”, with its contributions to technological innovation having helped Israel become home to more high-tech start-up companies than any country except the US.

Tel Aviv University, Israel

At 196= in the world, Tel Aviv University offers the widest range of teaching and research fields in Israel and is the country’s largest university with over 30,000 students enrolled. Located in Tel Aviv, Israel’s financial, cultural and industrial center, the institute has a metropolitan global outlook and again prides itself on fostering and supporting a spirit of innovation.

King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Saudi Arabia

Ranked 216= in the world, the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals has an enrollment of over 8,000 students and provides courses in engineering, science and management, with the aim of producing globally competitive graduates to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s vast petroleum and mineral industry. The university’s fast growth, having started with just 67 students in 1963, is tied to the rapid development in Saudi Arabia’s economy, which has been synonymous with a surge in higher education investment.

American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon

The American University of Beirut (AUB) is an independent and secular university in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut, ranked 250th in the world. The main language of instruction at the university is English and there is a choice of over 120 programs for its student body of 8,000. The city is known for its mountain trails and ski resorts as well as its cuisine, rich history and archaeological interest. The campus itself overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and boasts 60 acres of fields, beaches and wooded land.

King Saud University, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s second highest entry, King Saud University, is ranked 253= in the world and is the oldest university in the country. The institution, which offers tuition completely free, is held in high esteem in the region, having educated many elite figures in the realms of politics and business, as well as members of the Saudi royal family. The state-of-the-art campus, in capital city Riyadh, currently houses 18 libraries and over 35,000 students.

University of The Witwatersrand, South Africa

Commonly known as Wits, the University of the Witwatersrand is ranked 313= in the world and situated in the busy commercial and industrial South African city of Johannesburg. The institute is home to around 15 museums, including the Paleontology Museum and the Geology Museum, reflecting the institution’s – and the city’s – roots in the mining industry. The school strongly encourages diversity, and has a current enrollment of over 30,000 students on almost 1,000 acres of land split between its campuses.

Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel

BenRanked 331= in the world, Ben Gurion University of the Negev is named after Israel’s first prime minister and is dedicated to continuing the social and environmental development of the Negev desert region (which covers over 60% of Israel) as well as the rest of the country and the world. With close to 20,000 students, the university specializes in scientific innovation and the applied sciences and says it encourages its students to develop a social conscience and the ability to think originally. The school’s campuses boast state-of-the-art sports facilities, cinemas, restaurants and chic espresso bars.

American University in Cairo, Egypt

Completing our list of the 10 top universities in Africa and the Middle East is the American University in Cairo, ranking at 348th in the world, with just over 5,000 students and boasting the largest English-language library in Egypt. The university publishing house, the AUC, is also the leading publisher of English-language books in the Arab world. A non-profit, apolitical, nonsectarian institution that provides liberal education, the university’s main campus reflects Egyptian urban styles of architecture and is located in the area of New Cairo, a satellite city created only very recently in 2001.

Best of the rest…

That’s the 10 top universities in Africa and the Middle East, but there are many more universities in these regions ranking at international level. Here’s a breakdown of the best of the rest, by country:

Bahrain (Rankings presence: 1)

University of Bahrain (701+)

Egypt (5)

Cairo University (551-600)

Ain Shams University (551-600)

Al Azhar University (651-700)

Alexandria University (701+)

Iran (2)

University of Tehran (601-650)

Sharif University of Technology (601-650)

Iraq (1)

University of Baghdad (701+)

Israel (5)

Bar-Ilan University, Israel (651-700)

Jordan (2)

Jordan University of Science and Technology (651-700)

University of Jordan (701+)

Kuwait (1)

Kuwait University (701+)

Lebanon (2)

Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth (601-650)

Oman (1)

Sultan Qaboos University (501-550)

Qatar (1)

Qatar University (551-600)

Saudi Arabia (7)

King Abdul Aziz University (KAU, 360=)

Al-lmam Mohamed Ibn Saud Islamic University (491-500)

Umm Al-Qura University (551-600)

King Khalid University (601-650)

King Faisal University (701+)

South Africa (7)

Stellenbosch University (387=)

University of Pretoria (471-480)

University of Kwazulu-Natal (501-550)

Rhodes University (551-600)

University of Johannesburg (601-650)

Turkey (9)

Bilkent University (ranked 431-440)

Middle East Technical University (431-440)

Bogazici University (461-470)

Koc University (501-550)

Sabanci University (501-550)

Istanbul Technical University (551-600)

Hacettepe University (601-650)

Istanbul University (651-700)

Cukurova University (701+)

United Arab Emirates (3)

United Arab Emirates University (ranked 421-430)

American University of Sharjah (AUS, 431-440)

Abu Dhabi University (601-650)


Read more about universities in Africa >

Read more about universities in the Middle East >

Image credits: Richard Whittemore; Mark Plassio; Adrian Frith; Hanay – wiki commons; TAU; KFUPM;; GMW architects; SABC; Davis Saranga; AUC.

This article was originally published in December 2013 . It was last updated in March 2021

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Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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