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Questions concerning the drop in ranking of Sultan Qaboos University

In the QS World University Rankings®, the position of Sultan Qaboos University has dropped from 377 in 2011 to 401-450 in 2012 and now to 501-550 in 2013. The university have contacted us requesting a statement as to the reasons for this and whether or not this reflects a genuine deterioration in performance for the university. The reasons are three-fold:

  1. A decline in performance in our academic reputation measure – a trend shared by many institutions in the region
  2. The inclusion of over 100 additional institutions in 2013, which whilst most are ranked lower than SQU has had an effect since many perform better in some areas thus reducing SQU’s relative score
  3. A genuine data error in our 2011 data collection exercise where total staff were taken instead of academic staff, placing SQU in a higher than deserved position in our faculty student indicator and consequently overall

Based on information provided by the institution more recently it appears that SQU’s previous ranking was incorrect and the subsequent decline in position has largely been down to the correction of this error where in reality in areas such as faculty student ratio, the university itself has been genuinely improving.

QS is committed to transparency, honesty and integrity in compiling our rankings and admitting our mistakes is central to this philosophy. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and are working with the university to notify stakeholders to mitigate any confusion. The following statement has been issued to the university on this basis:

In an exclusive statement, QS Intelligence Unit Head – Ben Sowter observed that most institutions in the Middle East featured in the QS World University Rankings 2013 have dropped in rank this year.

“Scores for academic reputation and research citations have declined across the region this year, which has caused most institutions to lose ground on the international competition,” Sowter said about the Middle East drop in rankings.

Sowter further added that “having said that, there were over 100 new universities added to the list this year; and many of the institutions worldwide already in the rankings have noticeably improved in academic reputation. This has led to some universities, such as Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, showing a drop in ranking, even though their score may have improved relative to last year.”

Commenting on the drop of Sultan Qaboos University, he said, “Sultan Qaboos University was first featured in 2011. We were initially unsuccessful in reaching anyone at SQU in order to file official numbers; hence figures available at the time on the university website were taken for the faculty and student numbers. However, it seems that the number used for academic staff was actually the total number of staff – thus inflating the faculty student ration of SQU resulting in a higher ranking. This was corrected by an official submission in 2012 by the administration at SQU. Since the position published in 2011 was unnaturally high, the drops in 2012 and 2013 have been largely corrective, rather than reflecting a deterioration in SQU’s actual performance”.

He added that “Analysis of our results over time reveal that institutions in general are producing more research, attracting more international research and doing a better job of communication their achievements to the world at large. Increasingly, institutions need to exhibit continuous improvement just to maintain the same position and a drop in overall ranking may not signify an objective deterioration in performance. Such may be the case for SQU”

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