UBD breaks into Times Higher Education World Rankings

UBD achieved a major milestone this year, entering the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings for the very first time with a global position in the 401 to 500 band. UBD is now the fourth-ranked university in ASEAN. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a small 34-year old university, and only made possible through the strong support of the government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam.  

The Times Higher Education rankings is one of the most influential university rankings in the world and is widely used by many of the world’s top peer universities, industry and government agencies as well as by prospective staff and students. The THE world university ranking is generally regarded as an objective, robust and transparent system which uses a global performance table that judges research intensive universities across all their key missions, including Teaching, Research, Knowledge Transfer and Industry Income and International Outlook. Thirteen carefully calibrated performance indicators provide a comprehensive and balanced comparison of universities across the globe. 

UBD’s entry into the THE rankings confirms its status as an internationally recognised institution, attesting to its excellence in teaching and research, including innovative applied research, and increasing collaborations with industry and private sector companies to translate research into commercial enterprise. This in the longer term will contribute to the economic diversification and development of the country. 

UBD’s mission is guided by His Majesty Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Titah during the 29th Convocation in 2017 in which His Majesty who is the Chancellor of UBD highlighted that it is imperative for research activities to contribute towards the enrichment of knowledge, while at the same time helping to develop the country’s economic growth. His Majesty also expressed hope of seeing yet more research outcomes which could be harnessed for commercial activities and further employment opportunities. His Majesty also called for the continuous improvement on research and innovation, especially involving collaborations with other universities and relevant agencies. 

While UBD did well in all the categories, its particular strength lies in the categories of International Outlook and Research Influence. In International Outlook, UBD is ranked 126 in the world, in the 85.8 percentile. UBD scored highly in percentage of international staff (96.7%), international joint publications (97.5%) and percentage of international students (63.1%).  This attests to UBD’s ability to attract high quality staff which has enhanced the quality of teaching for its students. Research Influence measures the quality and impact of research and its contributions to the sum of human knowledge. UBD scored 74.4% and is ranked 311 in the world.  This shows that the publications of UBD staff are of a very high calibre and are widely read and cited by peer academics. 

UBD’s success in the THE rankings has been made possible partly by a sustained increase in research output and research impact. Recent research publications in international peer reviewed journals rose by 43%, and citations which measure impact increased by 71%. Between 2013 and 2018, UBD staff published a total of 1,653 papers in top peer reviewed international journals with a citation count of 9,271. The latest Field Weighted Citation impact is 1.37, which suggests that the quality of UBD staff publications is 37% higher than the global average. Since 2018, UBD is considered a “Very High research intensive” university by QS. The 2019 Times Higher Education World University rankings cement that reputation. 

Other than fundamental academic research, UBD is focused on research that is relevant to Brunei Darussalam and has economic and social impact. Key areas of research include Energy Studies, Biodiversity and Environmental Studies, Islamic Studies, Agro-technology, and Halal Research. One of the strategies has been to focus on emerging niche areas with applied relevance, through the setting up of multi-disciplinary research groups comprised of staff from different faculties. Five new research groups have been established in Herbal Medicine, Catalysis Research, Smart Sensors, International Comparative Education and Tourism. 

This focus on novel and impactful research with practical applications has begun to show results. To date, UBD has filed 58 patents, in various geographies, including the US. Some of these have resulted in commercialisation, such as the licensing of a patent on anti-bacterial and anti-fungal photo-catalytic coating to Smart Coating Technologies (B) Sdn Bhd. 

Research informs teaching. The high quality research conducted by UBD staff is translated into state of the art education for UBD students in the GenNEXT Programme.   Through their projects the students are also involved in the research process. Students become active participants in the production of knowledge rather than passive recipients. This remains UBD’s core mission, to produce future ready graduates through innovative education and enterprising research, driven by national aspirations and guided by the values of Malay Islamic Monarchy. It is critical to train graduates who are industry relevant and employable. 

UBD’s rise up the ranks in the QS rankings as top 300 in the world, top 100 in Asia, and 35 in the world for universities under 50 years old, and now in the THE world rankings, has resulted in increasing international recognition of UBD as a university of teaching and research excellence. This has led not only to greater international research collaborations but also the development of joint degree programmes with top peer universities. These will benefit UBD students who can now spend part of their education in top peer universities. UBD has started a dual degree programmes with Korea University in Biodiversity Studies and a joint Masters and PhD in Engineering with Sungkyunkwan University in the field of Smart Manufacturing Technologies and Smart Factories. 

“Alhamdulilah, UBD’s success in entering the THE rankings is made possible by the collective hard work and efforts of all our academic and administrative staff, students and stakeholders,” Datin Dr Hajah Anita Binurul Zahrina Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Wijaya Dato Seri Setia Haji Awang Abdul Aziz, the Vice Chancellor said, and “Most importantly, the sustained and continuous support from His Majesty Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s Government and its agencies.” She added, “Moving forward, UBD will strive to produce high quality innovative research with practical and commercial applications which will contribute to the nation, and remains committed to enhancing the learning experience for our students. Insya Allah, producing responsible, highly skilled, employable and entrepreneurial graduates who will support the economic development of the country in an increasingly competitive and knowledge-based world.”

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