Lifting university rankings
There has long been some controversy about the credibility of ranking higher education institutions but two or three firms have acquired reliability over the years in this respect. The Times Higher Education (THE) is counted among reputable firms which rank universities of the world at regular intervals. This year’s ranking has drawn an abysmal picture of Pakistan’s higher education sector as only one university could make it to top 500. Digging further, only seven universities fall in the top 1,000. This is a dire situation, requiring immediate government attention. We are a nation with youth forming over 60 percent of our population. They have a right to education and the government is responsible to grant them this right. But the decay in the standard of higher education is not a good omen. This breakdown has not been registered overnight. Higher education has been slipping from the priority list of successive governments for a long time. To the astonishment of everyone, this year the government has cut almost by half what low budget was set for higher education in previous years. Our spending on higher education is counted among the lowest in developing countries.
Against the backdrop of this obvious disregard for higher education, it is a justified statement that our universities are performing well and we have a cause to celebrate that Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) is among the top 500 of the world. Dictators have built universities that look like castles and forts. High security pomp, tight monitoring and a culture of refined protocols have stifled any chances of critical thinking there. They have robots passing out of them every year. In contrast, the QAU is thick with encroachments and beset by shortage of funds. But it has a system in place that promotes research and dialogue. It has been observed that interfaith dialogues are held as a matter of routine on campus. Its fees are lower which leads to growth of a culture of merit. The students who meet merit put up hard work to retain their positions.
This is the secret of success that other universities should also learn from and implement. Notwithstanding the marketing aspects, ranking universities at least draws a line for all stakeholders to know who is who and what is what. It, overall, is a positive practice that generates healthy competition, which is welcome. *
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