University rankings

Ranking shows Pakistan is climbing the academic ladder, but education experts claim it has instead regressed


September 04, 2021

Twenty-one Pakistani universities have been included in the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2022. Out of these, five have made it to the list of top 800 institutions in the world. The ranking is considered as one of the most prestigious in the world and Pakistan has shown tremendous improvement year on year, especially in two key areas: research citation and teaching scores. Unfortunately, this achievement doesn’t do much apart from giving Pakistan international recognition.

Researchers have long been critical of global development indicators of such publications, claiming that they have been introduced by Western countries on the basis of their own paradigm and conditions; and are thus not suitable for developing countries, particularly in South Asia. Even if this argument is put aside, the real indicator needs to be in terms of how much higher education contributes to the overall growth and prosperity of Pakistan. This includes producing intellectuals and academics as well as skill- and technical-based workers who can work together to build resilient, inclusive and responsible industries.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case since decades. Pakistan suffers from a massive brain drain, unemployment is rampant, the higher education curriculum is archaic and outdated, and freedom of expression is heavily curtailed. Only certain academic subjects and narratives have been allowed to flourish. One hopeful aspect is that there is greater awareness on climate change and environmental issues. The University of Agriculture Faisalabad is ranked 24th globally for Climate Action while NUST is the 67th leading university working on Affordable and Clean Energy.

While the ranking shows that Pakistan is rapidly climbing the academic ladder, education experts would claim that Pakistan has instead regressed when it comes to higher education. Instead of fighting against each other, there needs to be collaborative effort and concerted action by concerned officials and students in working on resolving existing issues. Students and academics need to be given more autonomy.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2021.

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