Understanding ranking of world-universities | By Aijaz A Hingorjo

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Understanding ranking of world-universities


IN modern information age, it is a million-dollar question why world universities are ranked each year by different academic ranking bodies and what are the standard parameters on which ranking is based? To explore the answer, some highlights are projected in this article.

There is not any trace of doubt in it that ranking in any field produces way for cooperation, competition and ultimate betterment which produces great results as a whole.
Let us understand the scope of ranking in university domain.

Each year, some global ranking bodies issue ranking of world universities as per certain specified indicators which reflect the status of universities, produced output and their standing on global academic arena.

Consequently, higher educational institutions cooperate and compete in multiple fronts ranging from scholarships, research excellence and international collaborations to trainings and academic advancements.

At the moment, it is significant to understand the ranking bodies/agencies which set parameters for ranking of world universities.

This point will help us in understanding why one university is at the top of list and the same university is placed at different position by another university ranking body.

It is all because of the fact that the universities are ranked through variant metrics and parameters set by the university ranking bodies.
To understand more, it is better to know the basics of the world university ranking bodies.

In this connection, the names of Times Higher Education (THE), Quacquarelli Symonds (QS),Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), Webometrics Web of World Universities, Centre for World University Rankings, Leiden Ranking, Eduniversal, G-factor are a few to mention in this article.

Let us understand the designed metrics of ranking by the Times Higher Education, a British publication, first.

It was a partner with Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) from 2004-2009.In 2010, it worked in association with Thomson Reuters.

The assessing and weightage criteria for university ranking through the said body include; Teaching-(the learning environment), Research-(volume, income and reputation), Citations-(Research influence), Industry income-(Innovation), International outlook-(Staff, students and research).

It is considered as one of the influential ranking body across the global academic landscape.

Second, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) is a British company and it is a popular source of comparative data about the performance of world universities and their ranking is strongly based on ‘reputation’.

The point can be further understood from the fact that 50 percent of total weightage is on academic and employer reputation.

Furthermore, the ranking to universities under QS is given on six metrics which include; academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.

For academic and employer reputation, the surveying methodology is used by QS. Moreover, institutional research quality is measured by using citations per faculty metric.

In order to calculate it, QS check and analyze the total number of citations received by all papers produced by an institution across a five-year period by the number of faculty members at that institution.

Even though, there is criticism from different quarters on design of opinion surveys and their objectivity but it keeps weightage and matters a lot to QS ranking system.

Third, the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) which is popularly known as ‘Shanghai Ranking’ focus the indicators relating to research excellence in universities.

Numerically, six performance indicators are assessed by the said forum, these include; the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers selected by Clarivate Analytics, articles published in journals of Nature and Science, articles indexed in Science Citation Index – Expanded (SCIE) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and per capita performance of a university.

These indicators are applied to all the world-universities participating in ranking race despite differences in educational systems.

Moreover, the question of data accuracy and reliability keeps existence which needs to be clarified by different global ranking organizations.

In addition, many other university ranking initiatives and organizations exist globally such as: Webometrics Web of World Universities, Centre for World University Rankings, Leiden Ranking, Eduniversal, G-factor and many others which provide a space for competition and improvement in higher education sector.

The need of the hour is that our academics should go shoulder to shoulder with world-class universities.

In order to get competitive edge, our higher education institutions should need to work the areas of research excellence, industrial collaboration, scholarships, attraction of international students and faculty to our universities and projecting international outlook on war-footing basis.

Hopefully, our standing to world-class universities ranking will improve in the days to come.

—The writer is Assistant Director (Research and Development), Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.

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