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Experts find flaws with HEC’s varsity ranking

Experts find flaws with HEC’s varsity ranking

ISLAMABAD: The ranking of public sector universities announced by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has several flaws.

Some education experts believe that the ranking should be carried out by independent bodies as per international practices.

The HEC recently announced the fifth ranking of Pakistan’s higher educational institutions which was mostly based on research output and PhDs produced during the year 2014.

Out of the total 100 marks, 15 were for quality assurance, 30 for teaching quality, 41 for research, 10 for finance and facilities and only four for social integration/community development. However, there was no parameter to know employability – one of the major concerns for Pakistani graduates. Similarly, there was no input from students. The HEC ignored some other important criteria such as international outlook and employers’ perception.

Globally, rankings are done by neutral bodies such as The Times Higher Education Ranking, US News College Ranking, QS University Rankings and Maclean’s University rankings (Canada).

“If producing PhDs is one of the main components for ranking, I’m sorry. Currently, our universities are producing more and more PhDs by compromising on qualities,” said an educationist who wished not to be named. He said employability should be a major criterion to know the worth of any institute.

“Across the globe, there are some parameters for ranking. There is a general practice under which independent bodies conduct ranking but here the HEC – the funding sponsor of universities – is itself ranking institutions,” he said.

Another educationist, Prof Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, said the HEC’s ranking had no credibility.

“If HEC says a university is good or bad, it could be either. One should not pay a slightest attention to it (ranking) because HEC uses wrong or irrelevant criteria for assessing the universities.”

He said everyone knows generating research publications or giving PhD degrees had become the easiest thing to do.

“Some individuals have produced hundreds of papers but if you ask them a simple field-related question, they would not be able to answer it.

“We have a massive PhD production factory in the so-called highly-rated universities but they are actually producing incompetents,” Dr Hoodbhoy added.

Last year, the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) and Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, had expressed doubts over the ranking procedure of the HEC. Last year, the University of Peshawar was put at number five in the general category but this year it was ranked at number eight.

Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Mohammad Rasul Jan said besides other factors the ranking of his university downed because he had closed the evening shift to improve quality of education.

“Following the closure of the evening classes, the strength of our university decreased significantly. Due to this, we have gone down in the ranking,” he said.

Dr Hafiz Abid Masood, a spokesman for IIUI, said the university had some concerns over the HEC ranking.

“We have 20,000 students, most of them undergraduates. There should be a difference between universities like IIUI and those having 3,000 to 5,000 students.” He urged the HEC to change its procedure to conduct ranking.

HEC spokesperson Ayesha Ikram could not be contacted for comments on Saturday. However, a few days ago she had said the ranking was conducted fairly and in accordance with defined standards. She said the basic objective of ranking was to create a culture of competition among universities.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016

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