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Times Higher Education: 5 Moroccan universities appear in the 2021 ranking

The famous Times Higher Education ranking of the best universities in the world has published its “Ranking2021”. If it perpetuates the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon universities, it also confirms the poor performance of university institutions in Africa and the Arab world, and the rise of Chinese universities.

The Times Higher Education TOP 10 of the best universities in the world is trusted by American and British behemoths, such as Oxford (1st), Stanford (2nd), Harvard (3rd). The first university in continental Europe is in 14th place (ETH Zurich/ witzerland) while the first Chinese university – Tsinghua University – has just entered the TOP 20. The Chinese performance is all the more “appreciable” that it places 6 of these institutions in the global TOP 100.

The first African university is in 157th place. It is the South African “Cap Town University”, while the first university of a member country of the League of Arab States points beyond the 200th place (201-250) thanks to the University of King Abdulaziz, based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In Morocco, it is Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in Fez that leads, but points beyond 800th place.

A few days ago, the Cooperation and Partnership Directorate of the department in charge of higher education and scientific research, in a tweet, was proud to see five Moroccan universities appear in this benchmark ranking. A somewhat misplaced self-satisfaction, when one looks more closely at the ranking of Moroccan universities.

5 Moroccan universities appear in the Times Higher Education University Ranking 2021:
– The USMBA of Fez
– The UMV of Rabat
– The ITU of Kenitra
– The Marrakech UCA
– The UHII of Casablanca

Indeed, the University of Fez, although the leader of this local ranking, is in sharp decline compared to the previous year, when it was among the 600-800 pool. The Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech, the first to enter this ranking in 2015 in 300th place, continues its fall towards the abyss, now pointing beyond 1000th place.

The individual underperformance of Moroccan academic institutions is also to be put into perspective compared to the countries of the region. Indeed, compared to the countries of North Africa, Morocco is in last place in terms of the number of universities appearing in this ranking. Similarly, at the continental level, South Africa and Nigeria do better than Morocco.

Morocco lagging behind in Africa

The Times Higher Education ranking, however, remains “generous” with Moroccan universities. The Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities 2020, and the QS World universities, the other two benchmarks in the field do not include any Moroccan university in their 2020 editions, nor in previous ones.

Beyond this benchmark exercise, this overall underperformance of university Morocco can in the medium and long term become costly for local universities and their graduates. Indeed, the attractiveness of our universities for foreign students, especially African students, could suffer from these poor rankings. An essential instrument of the soft power that Morocco wishes to exercise on the continent, the kingdom risks being disputed for its place as the leading university destination in French-speaking Africa for the benefit of other “higher-ranked” countries such as Algeria or Tunisia.

The lack of visibility of Moroccan universities can also become a handicap for their international openness. Indeed, some rely more and more on these rankings to select their foreign partners. Finally, with this growing interest in international rankings, it is not excluded that graduates of Moroccan universities pay the price at some point, whether on the international job market, or worse, on the globalized market for research, doctorates and scholarships.

The line ministry would therefore benefit from paying more attention to these rankings and the image they may reflect on our higher education and research institutions. The analysis of the issues linked to international rankings should indeed make it possible to identify relevant avenues for public intervention to improve performance.

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