Discover the history of higher education in the GCC region as we list the top universities in the Gulf and Arab World.
A few decades ago, Arab high school students had very few options after graduation. They could either to try to get into one of the few universities available in the region, travel outside of the Arab World for higher education, or jump into the jobs market sufficing with education they have.
Today, however, much has changed. Fresh high school graduates have hundreds of universities around the Arab World to choose from, many of which compete with much older universities around the world in quality and deliverance.
The first formal university in the GCC must be the King Saud University, established in 1957, but it didn’t take long for the rest of the Arab Gulf nations to follow and open up universities of their own.
In 1966, Kuwait established their first university, Bahrain followed to open their first university two years later, in 1968, Qatar in 1973, and the United Arab Emirate in 1976. The last of the GCC countries to open up a university was Oman, where the Sultan Qaboos University didn’t open until as recently as 1986.
Today, the GCC countries are known to have some of the top universities in the Arab World. Among the top 10 universities in the Arab World, six are located in GCC countries. Three of them are in Saudi Arabia, two in the UAE, and one in Qatar.
However, when you look into the university rankings with respect to the GCC alone, Saudi Arabia and the UAE share the top 15 universities spot.
Both the KSA and the UAE sport 3 spots among the 15 top universities in the GCC, while Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait each have one university on the list.
The first university to ever open in the Arab World was the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco, which is also the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records. It is believed that the university was established in 859 AD.
Another older university in the region is the American University of Beirut, which was established in 1866. For long, the American University of Beirut was believed to be the highest ranking university in the Middle East, however, it has today stepped down to second spot, leaving room for the King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals.
You can read more about education and the literacy rate in the GCC and Arab World here on the Life Pile.