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Balqa Applied University shines in 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings

By Maram Kayed - Sep 15,2020 - Last updated at Sep 15,2020

Al Balqa Applied University has entered the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings in the 601-800 category (Photo courtesy Al Balqa Applied University website)

AMMAN — Continuing its consecutive two-year international academic advancement, Al Balqa Applied University (BAU) recently entered the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings in the 601-800 category.

BAU has managed to move from the 801-1000 category in the 2020 ranking to the 601-800 category for the ranking prepared for 2021 in the renowned Times Higher Education World University rankings.

“BAU’s transformation in the last four years is a testament to the hard work done by our administration and staff,” BAU President Abdullah Zu’bi told The Jordan Times.

Another achievement by BAU is its ranking as the  106th in the world and first among Jordanian public and private universities on the UI GreenMetric World University ranking for two years, the university president noted.

“These achievements are the result of everyone’s commitment and the implementation of the university’s 2017/2021 comprehensive strategic plan and objectives which we targeted systematically,” said Zu’bi.

He noted that administrators and academics alike were committed to achieving their targets and that “their hard work has now borne fruit”.

Consolidating all of the university’s academic publication research under one name, introducing research award schemes and updating the university’s academic promotion criteria, all of which, Zu’bi said, have been “instrumental in boosting research at BAU and, subsequently, our research and citation indicators”.

The 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings show that BAU’s “strength lies predominantly in its scientific research”, a criterion in which the university went up by 12 per cent between 2020 and 2021, he said.

These publications in high impact journals resulted in strong citation indicators, or what is also known as the Field-Weighted Citation Impact, Zu’bi said.

“This is not to say that our performance in the other indicators such as teaching, international outlook and industry income is lacking, but we are conscious that there is room for much improvement across the board,” he added.

To that effect, BAU has introduced a number of measures to encourage its academic and research staff to improve in the other indicators, such as the launch of teaching awards.

The Best-taught Class Award, the Electronic Teaching Award and the Best Instructor Award are now permanent fixtures of the university, said the university president.

“We have also started a research incentive and award scheme to recognise researchers’ academic publications in high impact journals,” said Zu’bi, adding that the university has also signed cooperation agreements with the chamber of industry to promote collaboration.

“By facilitating consultancy work that would benefit both parties, our focus here is on research income from industry,” he added.

When it comes to boosting the university’s ranking further to reach the top 500 universities in the world, Zu’bi said “the plan is clear”.

“The Times Higher Education World Rankings provide a clear view of where our challenges lie. We are aware that we need to boost our research reputation and research publications. We also have to improve our international outlook, particularly in terms of the proportion of international academic staff and students,” he noted.

Zu’bi also said that work needs to be done to introduce new postgraduate programmes.

“Another venue where there is room for improvement is in collaborating and partnering with world-class higher education institutions. This step will boost our research reputation and publications in high impact journals, aid the introduction of new postgraduate programmes and facilitate sabbaticals and research exchange,” he added.

A two-year improvement on the Times Higher Education ranking could possibly attract more government support, a move that Zu’bi said would be welcomed.

“It is no secret that government support can boost BAU’s position and help it maintain its competitive edge. This is true for all Jordanian universities. One place where this can be instrumental is in relaxing or amending some of the legislation set by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research on hiring international academics,” said the president.

He noted that financial support would also “facilitate state universities’ efforts in aligning their policies and teaching philosophies with His Majesty’s discussion papers and the National Strategy for Human Resource Development”.

Government funding would moreover help in improving infrastructure and meeting accreditation and quality assurance requirements, said Zu’bi, adding that it can also facilitate working with and learning from world leaders in higher education.

With the foreign student percentage at BAU currently standing at 4 per cent, Zu’bi said that  the higher ranking will attract more international students to enroll in academic programmes offered by the university.

“This is one of the reasons why BAU aims to be ranked within the 500 top universities in international rankings. This requires hard work and funds. If we get there, attracting international students, academics and researchers will become easier,” he added.

To advance the university’s world rankings and secure international accreditation, BAU has to address several areas, among which Zu’bi noted are the capacity of its faculty and staff, a detailed understanding of performance indicators in the different ranking systems, the adoption of quality assurance best practices and the establishment of an international academic outreach department whose responsibility would be to work on raising the university’s international profile and outreach.

Other potential areas include hosting local and international seminars to increase academic and research outreach, enhancing the university’s website and online presence, taking part in international competitions such as The Asia Awards, hosting world-ranking related activities like the QS and UI GreenMetric, boosting incentives for high impact factor academic publications and organising and participating in international conferences, he said.

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