Important Considerations Related to World-Class University Status

For a university to become world-class, it has to ceaselessly strive for excellence. This has obvious implications for the quality of higher education. The distinction of a university and its academic preeminence is dependent on the maintenance of enduring and prolonged high levels of academic and educational excellence and accomplishment. Expectations of quality differ from one viewpoint to another depending on factors such as educational situation, processes, input and output, vision and mission, university objectives, teaching and research outcomes, graduates' employment status, and student involvement.

There are other dimensions to definitions of quality such as excellence, consistency with set standards, appropriateness, and stakeholders' satisfaction.

Quality in higher education is not straightforward to define, but the substantial increase in international competition and variation in the higher educational sector, which has created a rich diversity of courses, programs, and degrees, has resulted in an increasingly necessary requirement for quality evaluation and assurance. In fact, quality assurance is a phrase with a wide range of interpretations encompassing a continuous process of assessing, observing, securing, maintaining, and improving the quality of higher educational institutions. Improvement in practice is a result of the persistence of quality assurance. Thus, it is inseparably related to standards in education, which are used to measure outcomes to be used for comparison against indicators. Quality assurance can be assessed by inspection and accreditation. High quality is indicative of high status and high ranking which is a recognized measure of world-class excellence [11–15].

With regard to ranking, there are three global university rankings employing different methodologies. These are the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), which is conducted by Shanghai Jiao Tong University [16], the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings [17], and the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings [18]. Many organizations and companies believe that the quality of a university is measured by its position in the ranking tables. Uppermost universities in the ranking lists are recognized as being of uppermost quality. This is the reason for ranking being regarded as a means to draw higher educational institutions into the global knowledge market, despite the fact that more weight is put on research output rather than the quality of teaching by most of the rankings. This is due to the fact that research performance can be easily ascertained from international data sources without subjective measures having to be undertaken.

Since educational quality encompasses all three primary functions of higher educational institutions: teaching, research, and community service, KAU has strived for excellence in all three functions. In addition to seeking to be placed in the ranking tables, KAU has also made great efforts to obtain accreditations for all of its academic programs. This is an important stage on the pathway we have elected to follow for the establishment of a world-class university.

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