M Murtaza Noor
RECENTLY, Times Higher Education (THE), a reputed international higher education agency, has announced its first Asia-Pacific University Ranking 2017 to analyze the region’s growing pattern in the higher education sector. THE’s Asia-Pacific University Ranking 2017 evaluated universities across 38 nations in East Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania. The overall ranking features just over 200 universities from 13 different nations. The Asia-Pacific University rankings are based upon 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators into five main areas: teaching (the learning environment), research (volume, income and reputation), citations (research influence), international outlook (staff, students and research) and industry income (knowledge transfer).
According to the announced ranking, China has been represented on second place with 52 universities after Japan with 69 universities. If we look at the brief profile of these top ranked Chinese universities; the 2nd top Peking University was founded in 1898 and was the first national university in Chinese modern history. The university consists of 31 colleges and 14 departments with the largest university library in China containing more than 4 million volumes, including more than 1 million thread-bound Chinese books. The 4th top Tsinghua University is one of the most selective institutions in the world and situated in northwest Beijing, in the Haidian district, which was traditionally reserved specifically for universities and other academic institutes. It is recognized as complete research university with 20 schools and 54 departments.
As per QS World University Rankings 2017, another reputed higher education ranking, as compared to one Pakistani universities among top 500 universities, 8 are from India, 21 from China, 5 from Turkey, 3 from Saudi Arabia, 5 from Malaysia and 14 from South Korea. According to World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 , under the heads of Higher Education and Training, Pakistan’s ranking is way down at 124th out of 140 countries as compared to India at 90th, Bangladesh 122nd, Nepal 113rd, China 28th, Iran 69th, Bhutan 103rd, Qatar 27th, UAE 37th and Saudi Arabia 49th.
As per QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings 2016 , Pakistani higher education system has been ranked at bottom with 9.2 score as compared to China 83.5, South Korea 80.1, Singapore 62.3, India 60.9, Chile 46.7, Saudi Arabia 36.7, Turkey 26.1, Kazakhstan 25.1, Lebanon 19.8, Ukraine 16.6 , United Arab Emirates 10.9 scores. Surprisingly, Pakistan lags behind from small country of smaller country, Estonia.
It is very important to learn how China has emphasized over internalization of higher education within last few years. In 2013, China produced 71,003 documents with international collaborations, compared to India with 17,484 and Pakistan with 4,278. According to the media reports, with almost 19,000 students from Pakistan studying in China last year, Pakistan has risen from the ninth-largest source of China’s international students to the fourth. According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, more than 200,000 students from 64 countries along the Belt and Road Initiative were studying in China last year with increase of 13.6 % from 2015. The growth rate even exceeds that of China’s international students as a whole. More than 440,000 students from 205 countries and regions were studying in various universities of China last year with rise of 11.4%.
This remarkable rise is the result of various special policies including offering 10,000 places each year for students from countries along the Belt and Road Initiative, introduced by the Chinese government for international students. About 49,000 international students from 183 countries and regions received the scholarship last year. In order to attract foreign students, a close working relationship has been ensured by the Chinese government through signing agreements with eight Chinese provinces and others regions. As a result of these positive reforms, China has now become the largest hub for students seeking overseas studies in Asia. Last year, about 210,000 international students, enrolled at various universities of China especially in the disciplines of medicine, engineering, economics and management.
Moreover, in order to bring excellence in higher education sector, continuous efforts have been undertaken by Chinese government, aimed at building world-class universities including new schemes concentrating government funding support to develop a few selected universities to compete globally. In this regard, China has undertaken Project 985 with key objective of transforming China’s most elite universities i.e Peking University and Tsinghua University into “super-elite” world-class institutions. Learning from international best practices/experiences especially from China, can be greatly helpful in promoting higher education in Pakistan and through close collaborations with Chinese universities, Pakistani higher education sector can also play a pivotal role in making CPEC a successful and beneficial project.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.
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M Murtaza Noor