The mid-20th century marked the birth of higher education systems in the majority of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries. Driven by post-independence nationalism, ruling elites deemed education, including higher education, as a crucial part of nation-state building, next to the development of the army, bureaucracy, and economy. With government funding, new public universities were established throughout the region. Enrollment steadily increased as governments expanded access to higher education through lax admission and free or highly subsidized admission, and often guaranteeing employment for university graduates in the public sector. By the end of the 20th century, higher education became widely accessible in most Arab countries, but decades of neglect have led to a crisis in quality and research. Academic quality has deteriorated under the weight of decades of neglect from overcrowded classrooms, outdated curriculum, poor pedagogy, underpaid faculty, lack of quality mechanisms, strapped budget to limited autonomy. No more encouraging is the universities’ role as a center of knowledge discovery and innovation, given their lack of adequate qualified human and necessary physical resources. The low performance of public universities on the global ranking systems and the high unemployment rate among university graduates sums up the Arab higher education system’s inauspicious condition. During the last two decades, governments enacted various reform measures. To relieve overcrowded public universities and reduce public finance burden, countries in the region authorized private higher education. Consequently, the number of private universities has mushroomed, many of which are for-profit and exclusively focused on teaching. However, a shortage of cash and limited freedom to manage academic and administrative affairs continue to beset most public institutions. Some countries have made incremental changes, such as introduced measures to increase equity, endorsed new admission policies, and established accreditation and quality assurance bodies. The Gulf countries undertook far-reaching measures to transform the system. Cushioned by oil and gas revenues and a relatively small population, the six Gulf countries have invested considerably in upgrading public universities’ infrastructure, hiring faculty and administrative staff from abroad, and developing a research infrastructure including establishing new research-oriented universities. Consequently, the Arab higher education landscape has become increasingly diversified and with growing differences among countries. To compare the Arab countries on their current state of their higher education system, the countries are ranked on an index composed of three key aspects: access to higher education (gross enrollment ratio), equity (gross enrollment ratio for female), and publication intensity (citable documents per million inhabitants). The ranking shows the Gulf countries vying for the top spots. At the low end of the rank are countries which have been conflict-ridden or poverty-stricken.