Whenever international bodies release higher education institutions’ rankings, one has to struggle to find the names of Pakistani universities among the top 100 or 500 varsities. A few known universities of the country, however, have been appearing on the lists every year, giving a breath of sigh to those who are concerned with the quality of education. The recently released list of top 650 QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) Asia University ranking for 2021 has 40 universities on it, and of them the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) has secured a spot among the top 100 one. The 100-300 list, however, has the Quaid-i-Azam University, Lahore University of Management Sciences, COMSAT University of Islamabad, University of Engineering and Technology of Lahore, Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of the Punjab, University of Peshawar, Aga Khan University, University of Agriculture Faisalabad and University of Karachi. Overall, 40 Pakistani universities have made it to the list. Yes, only 40. Is it really hard for universities to make it to the top rankings? Not at all. The only thing the universities have to ensure is to meet certain indicators. In the QS ranking, the indicators include academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, international research network, citations per paper and papers per faculty, staff with a PhD, proportion of international faculty and proportion of international students, proportion of inbound exchange students and proportion of outbound exchange students.
Earlier, not a single Pakistani university could be ranked among the first 500 universities in the World University Rankings 2021 released by the Times Higher Education. There were, however, 17 Pakistani varsities in the list of top 2,000 higher education institutions, and of them, the little known Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan, beat the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, to grab the first university position in Pakistan, and 510th all over the world, whereas the QAU stood at 575th position. Vice-chancellors are to lead their respective institutions towards top ranks, and in this regard we see consistency in NUST, the PU and the QAU. PU and QAU VCs Prof Nazeer Akhtar and Dr Muhammad Ali Shah have steered their versities to the top positions using their matchless leadership skills. Though all varsities have badly been hit by the shortage of funds, these varsities did not let paucity of funds impeach their path. All Pakistani universities need to collaborate with each other and international varsities discovering the way forward for higher education in the country and academic excellence and professional integrity of faculty to generate critical mass for society. *