NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 09

Pakistan’s failure at QS Rankings

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) releases its publication titled The QS World University Rankings, every year, reminding governments and authorities concerned across the globe, especially in countries like Pakistan, of their responsibilities towards the next generation in the field of higher education. The annual QS rankings are among few international rankings that are looked up by students, education experts, academicians and the industry as a reliable source internationally. However, it is painful to note that successive governments have failed to pay attention to the findings of the London-based higher education analyst firm in Pakistan, and improve the country’s ranking in the most crucial sector.

The Quacquarelli Symonds was founded in 1990 by Nunzio Quacquarelli, and its an annual publication comprises the global overall and subject rankings, which name the world’s top universities for the study of 48 different subjects and five composite faculty areas. This year’s ranking, released on Nov 27, 2019, was dominated by universities in the US and UK, which together grabbed nine of top 10 positions for year 2020. The top spot went to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a record eighth year, making it the longest reign of a higher education institute in the QS rankings’ history.

However, The QS rankings brought no good news for Pakistan this year also. Only seven Pakistani universities were included in the best 1,000 universities in the world, finding a place in the prestigious list. These institutions include Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS), National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Quaid-e-Azam University, Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS), Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), University of Engineering and Technology (UET) and Punjab University, with PIEAS securing the highest 375th spot in the world. However, the number still falls short of 23, which is the number of Indian universities included in the World University Rankings 2020; one less from last year’s ranking. India’s best ranking was secured by Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) which jumped 10 spots, securing 152nd spot QS rankings 2020.

According to the latest listing, PIEAS became the highest ranked Pakistani university in the QS 2020, jumping from 397th in 2019 to 375th spot this year, securing an overall score of 29.2, with individual scores of 96.4 in faculty-student, 5.4 in academic reputation, 4.6 in employer reputation and 36.2 in citations per faculty.

The second higher education institution on the list from Pakistan is NUST, which took 400th position, with a slight improvement from its 2019 placement of 417th attaining an overall score of 28.2, with 76.6 in faculty-student, 39.4 in employer reputation, 16.4 in academic reputation, and 9.2 in citations per faculty.

Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad was the next in the ranking, which jumped from 551-560 band in 2019 to 511-520 band in this year’s ranking, attaining 77.4 in citations per faculty category.

Lahore-based LUMS retained 701-750 band in this year’s ranking, getting 36.3 in employer reputation, while COMSATS fell down from 751-800 to 801-1000th spot this year. The UET and Punjab University also retained their last year’s positions, securing a place in 801-1000 and 800-801 bands respectively, both securing 26 and 20.2 in employer reputation category.

Pakistan’s neighbouring and most trusted friendly country China topped the Asia region with 42 higher education institutes making a mark in the top 1,000 for the year 2020, followed by Japan (41), South Korea (30), Malaysia (20), Taiwan (16), and Iran (6).

A subgroup of the QS World University Rankings, covering only Asia, was improved by 68 higher education institutions this year. It covered 17 different locations and around 29 universities from Pakistan were included in the rankings for this year. Indian and Chinese universities dominated the QS University Ranking Asia 2020, while the top-ranked university in Asia was found to be the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The latest assessment of Asia’s 500 best universities saw institutions from China taking seven out of the top 10 slots in the rankings. Since the founding of New China 70 years ago, China has achieved great success in modernising its higher education. Some of China’s cutting-edge research areas have started to assume global leading positions.

The universities’ worth in the ranking has been determined on 10 indicators – academic and employee reputation, faculty-student ratio, citation per paper, paper per faculty, staff with Ph.D., internationalisation and a few others.

Among the top 500 institutions assessed, China has the highest number, 165 in total (118 from the Chinese mainland). India follows with 101, Japan with 87 and South Korea with 71.

Ten Chinese mainland universities are among the top 50 for academic reputation, an indicator based on a global survey of 94,672 leading academics, while six mainland universities make the top 50 in the employer reputation measure, based on a global survey of 44,884 recruiters, with Peking University ranked first and Tsinghua University second, according to QS.

India has 96 universities ranked, including 20 brand new entries in the QS World University Rankings: Asia 2020. The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) leads nationally at overall 34th place, and it is followed by IIT Delhi (IITD) in the 43rd place and by IIT Madras (IITM) in 50th position. The country has 31 institutes among the top 250. Of these, 18 dropped compared to last year, 12 gained ground and one remained stable.

Pakistan, however, doesn’t seem under any obligation to compete with its neighbouring countries in the higher education sector. Only 29 Pakistani varsities featured in the list of a total of 557 Asian Universities that are included from 17 different countries. Also, only seven Pakistani varsities featured in a group of top 200 universities, compared with eight in the previous corresponding rankings. Out of which, four are private universities from Punjab, and no private institute in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

In Sindh, there are five public sector varsities, including University of Karachi, University of Sindh, NED University, Mehran University and Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS). Karachi University (KU) and NED University have retained their ranking as of last year, University of Sindh ranking has depreciated while the Mehran University has improved its ranking. Iqra University (IU) has been included in the category of Business School while Dow University has also been included in the medical category.

The QS Ranking showed that IU has the strongest faculty-student ratio indicator in the whole region with the rank of 264th position in Asia. The score of the university in the indicator is 27.8. The National University of Science and Technology (NUST) has climbed four spots as it retained its top position in QS Asia University Rankings 2020. It shared its position with China’s Shandong University. Over the past three years, NUST has improved its ranking by 29 positions. From 112 in 2017, the NUST ranking has improved to 83 in 2020. Also, NUST is among the top 400 global universities according to the QS World University Rankings.

The other top five universities included in the ranking are Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) at 110, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) at 111, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology at 151, and the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) at 168.

Dr. Attaur Rehman, founding Chairman of Higher Education Commission, and incumbent Chairperson of Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Science and Technology, is quite dissatisfied with the country’s higher educational institutions at the QS Rankings. In a telephonic talk with Cutting Edge, he admits that the education sector in general, and higher education in particular, could not be established on a sound footing over the past decade or so.

He regrets that universities and academicians failed to develop a good research culture at their institutions. That is why our education system is not producing good teachers, researchers and world class research. He claims that the language and content quality of dissertations, especially those being produced by social sciences scholars, is so poor that international research journals mostly refuse to publish them.

The educationist says that universities all over the world perform two basic functions: teaching and research. However, mismanagement on part of universities or higher educational institutions, low budgetary allocations and lack of investment in research and development by private firms are contributing to the deterioration of higher education in the country. Allocation for research and development expenditures, he adds, have always remained low, with only 0.29% allocation of GDP, way less than the average expenditure in developing countries (2.4%) of their GDP on research.

According to a recent survey, Pakistan is short of 40,000 PhDs. Currently, there are 60,699 researchers working in Pakistan, out of which 10,670 hold a PhD degree, which is a far less number compared with developed countries.