(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) has been ranked among the top 500 universities in the world for the first time by London-based research firm Quacquarelli Symonds in its annual survey that was released this month.The report this year surveyed tens of thousands of academics and employers worldwide, covering 729 institutions in 72 countries, and ranked SQU between 401-450. This year's report, the ninth by Quacquarelli Symonds, rated academic institutions on a variety of criteria, such as teaching standards, research and graduate employability.Speaking to Muscat Daily, Ben Sowter, head of division at Quacquarelli Symonds' intelligence unit, explained the lack of a specific rank for SQU, saying there was little to distinguish institutions ranked from 400-500.''Institutions are ranked overall down to position 400 after which the margins become so fine as to make the validity of publishing the precise ranks a little less certain. Obviously, universities outside 400 do have a rank, but these are grouped for publication,'' said Sowter.''One of the aspects we are most proud of is the greater diversity in our approach. The ranking is a public service we provide, there is no charge for students to access the results, nor to institutions who participate. We are very glad to count Oman amongst them.''As part of the analysis, SQU's programmes in arts and humanities dropped two places to 379 from 377 in 2011 when the university itself was outside of the top 500.The result, however, was not considered as being significant unless it forms parts of a long term decline, said Sowter.''Given the size and scale of our survey, a drop from 377 to 379 in arts and humanities is not especially significant unless it forms part of an ongoing trend, so we will see next year which direction SQU moves in, if at all.''The World University Rankings, one of the most renowned academic databases in the world, was first published in 2004 with the intention to provide prospective international students with another resource with which to make their decision. It is followed by academics, governments and universities and recorded 1mn hits on the Quacquarelli Symonds website following publication.