Educational Institutions Ranking: Pakistan
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Toil and trouble — II
Last week, Dr Mohammad Latif Virk pointed out few flaws in the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) system of ranking. The debate concludes this week.
THE rank order can be considered irrelevant on the basis of indicators and differences between institutions. Different institutions have been clubbed together which differ in age, geographical reach, the range of disciplines, enrollment and other multifarious roles, such as the affiliating function. The HEC has created a great deal of confusion with respect to university rankings. There is so much diversity and uniqueness among the universities in the country that these cannot be grouped together for meaningful comparisons. Thus, the diversity of institutions renders the entire system of ranking as misleading. For example, the Quaid-i-Azam University is a research university, with 16 departments, whereas the Punjab University is the biggest in the country, which apart from having more than 68 departments has more than 300 affiliated colleges to look after.
Both universities are in no way comparable in range, enrollment, diversity and multiplicity of functions. Public-sector universities, except for the Quaid-i-Azam University and International Islamic University, are regional universities, catering to the needs of each province.
Professional universities are mostly geared to a particular profession, whereas general universities are not only teaching but also providing affiliations, with many affiliated colleges in tow. Thus, they differ in their domain and sphere of activity. The question is whether these comparisons are meaningful. Obviously, the variegated nature of the sector makes it difficult to compare.
The weakness of the research potential of our universities stands well-documented. The ranking in essence is reflective of the PhD faculty of each university and the ranking order coincides with its strength. This is obvious from the research profile of professional universities.
The position in agriculture universities is much better as compared to others when it comes to PhDs.
The position of general universities with respect to the PhD faculty is also worth considering. Despite all this, the research potential of our scientists has been well-documented by the Pakistan Council for Science and technology (PCST) in its publications “Leading scientists of Pakistan” and “Scientific research in Pakistan.” These studies have identified only 709 active scientists. It concluded that out of 73 universities, there were only 33 that had one or more productive scientist.
Out of the total number of university faculties which stands at 7,684, only 2,300 are PhDs. Roughly 52 per cent hold a PhD in basic sciences, 26 per cent in agriculture and 30 per cent in social sciences. Overall, 29 per cent hold PhDs at universities. The number of PhD holders range from 15 per cent in the NWFP at the University of Engineering and Technology (UET) to 64 per cent at the Quaid-i-Azam University. We know that the investment in higher education till 2002, which was the year of establishment of the HEC, has been abysmally low. With less than one per cent of the GDP spent on universities, what can one expect?
Faculty profile of engineering universities (public sector), 2002
Name of university Total number of teachers Teachers with PhD
National University of Sciences and Technology, Rawalpindi 365 103
University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore 233 89 Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, Jamshoro 238 36
Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Islamabad 69 31
NED University of Engineering and Technology, Karachi1 83 25
NWFP University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar 141 21
Quaid-i-Awam University of Engineering Sciences and Technology, Nawabshah 84 8 University of Engineering and Technology, Taxila 49 7 Balochistan University of Engineering and Technology, Khuzdar 45 0 Total 1,407 320
During 1955-1998, from the time of implementation of the first five-year plan to the eighth plan, the government spent roughly Rs14 billion only on higher education in 33 years. The HEC now spends more than that in one year. Under one of its schemes, only three scholarships per year were allocated to each university. The allocation for research lies between one to two per cent of the total university budget. For example, during 2002, the total University Grants Commission (UGC) budget for research in universities amounted to Rs56 million only. The total research budget of all universities during 1991-2001 amounted to Rs298 million. Universities have been starved and deprived of proper funding.
There has been no support given to the private sector other than lip service and finding its way in the policy documents. Until 2002, the budget of each university comprised: one-two per cent on research, 75 per cent on establishment, 15 per cent on teaching and eight per cent on services. The universities were so under-funded that they had to be bailed out twice in the ’90s by the government by sanctioning special funds.
What impact will rankings have on student choices? Regrettably, it will be very little, as public sector universities are regional and parochial, and cater to the needs of their regions where admission is on the basis of domicile and not nationality. Thus, a student from Sindh would have absolutely no chance of admission in Punjab and vice versa; s/he will also not be eligible for admission elsewhere. Only private universities cater to the needs of the society on a national basis. Thus, the ranking is not going to have any impact on student choices, for which this system of ranking has been initiated. Furthermore, limited seats in institutions of higher education are a barrier, given that each student now applies to five-six universities, desperate to find a place.
Faculty profile of agricultural universities, 2002
Name of university Total number of teachers Number of PhDs
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad 474 270
NWFP Agricultural University, Peshawar 170 89
Sindh Agriculture University, Tandojam 219 64
University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpin 88 39
Total 951 462
The HEC ranking will remain controversial just like some of the other initiatives introduced by the HEC. The Federal Universities Ordinance 2002 and tenure track package for faculty members of universities are cases in point. It is but natural that when you choose greater visibility through the media, it will invite more public scrutiny and criticism. The current policy of the HEC tends to rely more on government support rather than its clientele, the universities, in order to establish goodwill among them. Experience has shown that any federal-motivated change effort, which involves coercive strategy and a top-down approach, arouses resistance and suspicion. Universities are more likely to adapt to change through policy dialogue, consultation and the consensus-building process and not through power and coercion.
The current exercise has dented the HEC’s credibility as a referee. Assuming that this exercise was needed in the first place, it should have been carried out by an autonomous body.
The writer is registrar, National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences and is co-author of the book, Higher Education in Pakistan: A Historical and Futuristic Perspective.