Higher education around the world is evolving very fast. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has become the key factor in accelerating the pace of its transformation. The rapid evolution triggered by pandemicpaved way for some opportunities to our educational think-tanks to alter the conventional systems and reform the higher education sector in the country.
The struggling higher education system in Pakistan is steadily progressing while solely relying on the universities that already facingnumerous hard challenges particularly on the part of technological advancement, inadequate funding, bad governance, poor infrastructure, political interventions, lack of academic freedom and growing competitive environment.
Despite such major adversities, our universities have made remarkable gains in terms of global recognition. It is for the first time ever that twenty-one academic institutions of the country bagged spots in an edition of the prestigious Times Higher Education (THE) World Rankings for 2022.
It is pertinent to mention here that premier universities ranking agency hold immense weight when it comes to gauging a university’s progress. For the 2022 rankings, the Times Higher Education team analyzed 108 million citations and 4.4 million research publications.
Times Higher Education Team’s analysis has referred Pakistan as one of the world’s fastest improving nations on a range of key metrics and is one of the top five of nations globally for improvements in research citations, international outlook and industry links.
THE World Rankings 2022 showed Quaid-i-Azam University (Islamabad) at top position followed by Hazara (Mansehra) and Abdul Wali Khan (Mardan) and Government College (Faisalabad) universities.
THE report also pointed out that Pakistan is also among the top five countries in terms of teaching, learning, research facilities and predominantly in the categories of research citations, international outlook, and industry linkages.
Following THE ranking 2022, in which Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) ranked as No. 1 in Pakistan and among 501-600 in the world university rankings 2022, the writer critically reviewed the last three years performance and implementation status of the reformist agenda introduced by renowned educationist Professor Dr. Muhammad Ali (Tamgha-i-Imtiaz) soon after joining the varsity as Vice Chancellor back in 2018.
The QAU faculty members in series of their interviews with the scribe said that quality of research work was given a top most priority by the incumbent VC in addition to the improved teaching skills and international outlook. Catering the needs of fast evolutions in higher education around the world, the QAU management took some bold steps to keep pace with the global emerging trends in the sector. These interventions yield encouraging results as the QS also ranked QAU 23rd globally on Citation per faculty and 324th in Employer Reputation in the world which is, no doubt an exceptional achievement of the institution.
The Vice Chancellor Dr. Shah ensured that education being imparted or research conducted in the QAU must cater to the needs of the society. For this purpose, special grants were given to the researchers and faculty to produce quality work in their domains. The VC remained successful in establishing a strong link between academia and industry which resulted into the creation of better employability opportunities for passed out graduates. Such steps turned the varsity into an eminent international educational brand.
In the leadership of Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ali Shah, the university has continued retaining its top slot for the consecutive three years and significantly improved QS ranking from 454 to 378. In the 2022 edition, the institution performed among the top 29% in the QS World University Rankings.
The QAU VC, who is also chairman of the Voice Chancellors’ Committee hasdiligently work for the reforms in higher education sector throughout the country and stood against the educational mafia and courageously fought for the rights of the academia.
There are major institutional drawbacks exist in our higher educational system which includes quality and compatibility of higher education with international standards and industry requirements, fragile institutional structure, and knowledge gaps between cross-culture educations systems.
To make the country into an educational hub, the government ought to reexamine and set clear objectives for university education, strengthen the educational institutions by giving autonomy to academia, adaptation of modern technology and producing quality research work through adequate funding and developing regional and international partnerships with emerging higher educational institutions.
It is a dire need of the time to give leadership role to the renowned educationists to form a functional and effective body to oversee the prospects and challenges of higher education in the country. It is high time for the government to rethink, overhaul and set the priorities for the Higher Education Commission and give its reigns to those eminent educationists who proved themselves in the field to set the right direction.
The upward trend of Pakistani universities in global ranking is a very encouraging, we need to sustain and further improve it. We still have ways to go..!