Universities fault HEC’s ranking methodology

The tertiary education panel discarded two heads from the criteria because of data collection troubles.

Riazul Haq July 10, 2013
The tertiary education panel discarded two heads from the criteria because of data collection troubles. PHOTO: FILE


The university rankings released by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) last week have come under serious heat from institutions that did not find themselves a place on the list. A number of universities have pointed out loopholes in methodology and questioned the HEC.

Since the release of the rankings the HEC Quality Assurance Cell has been flooded with phone calls from different universities questioning the methodology it used.

“The HEC immediately needs to withdraw the incorrect and misleading rankings of higher educational institutions in Pakistan for 2012 and 2013,” said Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, Rector of the Lahore School of Economics (LSE)

The HEC had displayed its criteria on its website and asked universities to submit data against the said heads which will be considered in rankings. The heads included ‘explanatory notes’, an ‘employer perception survey’ and a ‘peer perception survey’, whereas 10 points were to be awarded as per the varsities’ data.

It is important to note that Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), Guardian and Thompson Reuters use the same heads for international ranking of the universities.

The HEC, however, independently decided to disregard the two heads of employer perception and explanatory notes, making the university rankings a hotbed of controversy and finger-pointing.

Moreover, the international rankings divide universities according to their age: under 50, over 50, but the HEC has clubbed all institutions together for the purpose of rankings which is unfair to small, newly established universities, criticised Iqtidar Khanzada, Director Quality Assurance at Bahria University Islamabad.

“Our university has maintained the position it had in 2011 but giants like National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and Punjab University are also competing with small universities like ours, which receive no grants from the HEC,” he added.

The University of Faisalabad, Faisalabad topped in the general-small category while Beaconhouse National University, Lahore was ranked second in the same category. These institutions were, however, placed 59th and 98th, respectively, by another HEC report on research publications for the period 2009-11.

With the HEC allocating 36 points out of 100 for research, such universities being placed in the top 5 in any category have put strong questions about the credibility of the rankings issued by the HEC on July 5. “Such things are to be counterchecked. What was the criterion of ranking these universities when they are doing so poorly in research, which is the basic aim of a university,” said an HEC official on condition of anonymity.

The rejoinder

HEC chairperson Javaid Laghari told The Express Tribune that university rankings across the globe tend to be controversial as all of Harvard, Oxford or MIT claim to be the best university in the world, but they have to accept the rankings.

When asked about the two heads being disregarded, he said that data collection for the employer perception survey was impossible and hence, the head was dropped. Regarding the other head, he said that he could not exactly recall why the head was discarded in the computation for university rankings.

He rejected the claim that ranking agencies club universities age-wise, saying that Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is not centuries old, but it is still considered one of the leading institutions in the world.

The HEC chairperson said that the HEC would not have an issue with a credible third party organisation like the British Council compiling an independent and transparent ranking for the next year.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2013.