Israel’s global share in scientific research falls 9% in 5 years

Amid war, five Israeli universities ascend in international rankings

UAW-based report on top 2,000 universities places majority of Israeli research universities among the top 3 percent worldwide

Gavriel Fiske is a reporter at The Times of Israel

Students at Hebrew University on the first day of the academic year on October 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Students at Hebrew University on the first day of the academic year on October 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Five of Israel’s nine research universities improved their academic quality this year, despite the turmoil and uncertainty of the Israel-Hamas conflict, and most were among the top three percent of universities worldwide, according to a 2024 ranking of international universities released Monday.

The list, compiled annually by the UAE-based Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), examines almost 21,000 universities around the world in the categories of education, employability, faculty and research to reach final rankings for the 2,000 top institutes of high education.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel’s number one university, came in at 66th, up from number 70 last year. Weizmann Institute of Science was ranked 74, up from the 87 spot in 2023, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev rose to number 352 from its previous spot of 363.

Ariel University was ranked 1,502, up 45 from last year, and Reichman University, although the lowest-ranked of the Israeli universities, advanced 61 spots to number 1,870.

Tel Aviv University was ranked at 154, the same as last year.

Israel’s other universities descended in the rankings: The Technion was ranked at 176, down 4 places, Bar-Ilan University at 576, down from 559, and Haifa University came in at 670, down from 660 in 2023.

All nine of Israel’s research universities were in the top 2,000 list, and all were among the top 10% of universities worldwide, with the majority considered to be in the top 3%, according to the CWUR ranking system. Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University and the Technion were all ranked among the top 1% of universities worldwide.

The results showed that despite the difficult conditions of operating during wartime, “Israel is increasing its competitiveness in higher education on the global stage,” CWUR said in a press release.

However, according to CWUR, Israel’s global share in scientific research has fallen by 9% over the last five years. “Without additional government investment in research and development, Israel faces the possibility of declining in the future,” commented CWUR president Dr. Nadim Mahassen.

The top ten spots on the 2024 CWUR list were held mostly by the top American universities. Harvard University came in at number one, followed by MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Yale and CalTech.

Notably, many of the top ten universities, especially MIT, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania, have been embroiled this academic year in various controversies and student demonstrations related to anti-Israel sentiment on campus, which kicked off after the October 7 Hamas massacres.

This turmoil does not seem to have affected the rankings of affected schools and the headline-making campus protests were not addressed in the materials sent by CWUR.

The broader results paint a complex global picture that confirms “the world-class standing of the US higher education sector” even as the rankings showed a “concerning” decline among “nearly two-thirds of American institutions,” the organization noted.

Despite the presence of Oxford and Cambridge in the top five, over 60% of universities in the UK also declined in rank, as did the majority of universities in Russia, Germany and Japan.

This decline is partly due to “stiff competition” from China, which has invested heavily in higher education in recent years, causing a full 95% of Chinese universities to gain in the 2024 international ratings, CWUR noted.

“China’s remarkable rise is due to heavy investment in research and development, and recruitment of talented researchers… With Chinese universities challenging their Western counterparts, American and European institutions cannot afford to be complacent,” opined Dr. Mahassen, according to the CWUR press release.

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