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2023, September 28 NU now#NUgoesGLOBAL

NU Enters THE World University Rankings: Scores Top 30% of International Research Universities

NU Enters THE World University Rankings: Scores Top 30% of International Research Universities

2023, September 28

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Nazarbayev University has debuted in the top 30 percent of international research universities in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2024.

The results, released by THE on September 28, rank 1904 universities from approximately 100 countries. NU participated in this highly recognized international evaluation for the first time. Achieving a place among the top one-third of the world’s leading research universities in just 13 years is a significant milestone and an outstanding achievement by international standards.

NU secured a position in the range of 501-600, thereby demonstrating the best performance among universities in Kazakhstan and the region of Central Asia and Caucasus. In 2024, Kazakhstan is represented by a total of four universities, with Nazarbayev University being at the top of the list.

“This impressive result validates Kazakhstan’s decision to establish Nazarbayev University as a world-class research-intensive university for the country and the region. This ranking reflects the diligence, talent, and ambition of the entire Nazarbayev University community. It recognizes the position of the university as an established leader of higher education in Central Asia,” noted  Chairperson of the NU Board of Trustees, Kazakh Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov.

"This extraordinary milestone is an opportunity to reflect and to thank the many people who supported the original vision for a world-class university. We are grateful to the colleagues who laid the foundation for NU's success over the past twelve years and dedicated themselves to the success of this institution. We are extraordinarily proud of the talented students, professors, and staff who have created a strong institution, founded on integrity and excellence. NU will continue to contribute to Kazakhstan's economic growth in the years ahead, and pay attention to sustainability issues, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals," said Shigeo Katsu, Founding NU President, who led the university for over a decade.

Nazarbayev University decided to enter THE WUR for several compelling reasons, aligning with the university’s values and mission:

  • Comprehensive and balanced evaluation methodology;
  • Objectivity in assessing university performance, examined by an annual independent external audit;
  • Focus on the world-leading research agenda and research activities of universities.

THE’s new methodology ranks universities on 17  performance indicators based on:

  • Teaching 29.5%,
  • Research Environment 29%,
  • Research Quality 30%,
  • Industry 4%, and
  • International Outlook 7.5%.

NU scored very highly for its Research Environment and Research Quality: these categories assess a university’s reputation for research excellence, and the number of research publications in the top 10% for field-weighted citation impact worldwide. Over the past five years, NU's Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) reached 1.34, indicating that NU's publications are cited 34% more than the global average. In this specific indicator, the university falls within the range of well-established leading East Asian universities in China, Japan, and South Korea.

"The results confirm the breadth and depth of talent here in Kazakhstan. We have scholars, students, and researchers who meet and exceed stringent international standards. The data indicate that we already have significant research strengths. We are developing an action plan to ensure we meet our strategic ambitions. The work is only half done, and now, we must guard against complacency. Onwards and upwards," Acting President and Provost, Dr. Ilesanmi Adesida, stated. 

THE’s World University Rankings provide a rigorous overview of a university’s quality. It is the most respected global university scoring system. As per THE’s WUR methodology, two-thirds of its indicators look at research. Therefore, NU needs to prioritize the creation of a conducive environment for conducting world-class research to ensure continued success in international university rankings. This includes (1) building the research capacity and research staff development, (2) ensuring adequate financial resources for conducting world-class research, and (3) collectively developing a research culture in higher education in Kazakhstan. 

NU’s strong performance in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings underscores the university’s ongoing commitment to academic and research excellence. Currently, the number of research publications made by NU has exceeded 7,000, which is approximately 1/6 of all scientific publications put forth by Kazakh universities from 2011 to 2022 (42,549).

Notably, NU’s publications in the most prestigious academic journals in the Q1 (first quartile) category — highly cited and significant in the scientific community — have increased from 615 to 2,896 in the last five years, comprising over a third of all scientific articles published in Q1 journals by Kazakh universities since 2011 (8,110). Typically, Q1 journals accept only about 10% of submitted articles, evaluated for scientific significance by independent reviewers.

Over the past five years, NU’s Field-Weighted Citation Impact (FWCI) reached 1.34, indicating that NU’s publications are cited 34% more than the global average. In this specific indicator, the university falls within the range of well-established leading East Asian universities in China, Japan, and South Korea.

Nazarbayev University actively integrates research into its academic programs, encouraging student involvement in research from day one.  23% of NU’s scientific publications that came out in 2023 were co-authored by NU students. 

It is important to note that globally, countries have recognized that the foundations for a competitive modern economy driven by technology and science are firmly linked to the presence of high-quality research universities. Fundamental and applied research translates to innovation and new products in the economy. NU is no different, with research in materials, biotechnology and medicine, energy, and data sciences - all leading to new economic opportunities. Thus, the number of universities included in the ranking increases every year. In 2023, the number of universities in the ranking totaled 1,799 universities, the 2024 ranking includes 1,904 universities. There are more than 30,000 universities worldwide, and only around 2,000 meet the inclusion criteria for THE.

Nazarbayev University’s next strategic ambition is aiming to enter the top 20% of world universities in THE WUR by 2030.


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