By Dr. Imran Ali
Whenever QS or TIMES issue world rankings for universities, a hue and cry is initiated in media about why our universities are seemingly unable to break into the top universities of the world.
It’s not unwarranted though because the simple fact of the matter is that our universities do not break the top 500 in the world rankings and not even the top 100 of Asian rankings by QS and TIMES, which are the most reputed ranking bodies in the world.
In QS rankings, the first Pakistani flag is visible after you scroll down about 700 places till you find LUMS, which is also 111th in Asia according to QS rankings. Similarly, according to TIMES, the 1st Pakistani university to appear in World ranking is Quaid e Azam University having 601+ rank and it ranks 101+ in Asia.
One of the main reasons is the emphasis of HEC and universities in Pakistan of quantity over quality. The universities force faculty to publish as much research articles as they can even if they are published in junk journals.
In a recent example, the University of Balochistan made it compulsory for MPhil students to publish their work in impact factor or HEC recognized journals. This forces students and faculty to waste their data in local HEC journals, as the international reputed impact factor journals sometimes takes over a year to publish research by peer review process.
HEC. for some unknown reasons. is still recognizing journals in Pakistan which do not even fulfill the necessary criteria of being recognized as a research journal. Many Pakistani journals even do not publish their volumes on internet or at least take years to upload them, a step that cripples the research being cited in other studies.
Focus on Quantity of Citations is Killing Research in Pakistan
QS and TIMES clearly focus on citations and they count for 20% and 30% respectively in university rankings. QS obtains the citations data from a reputed indexing agency SCOPUS, amongst which a negligible amount of Pakistani HEC recognized journals are indexed.
Similarly, the TIMES reserves 2.5% of the total score for transfer of knowledge to industry but the way research is done in Pakistan makes it impossible for researchers to strive for real innovation. Anything that’s patent worthy takes time, which they simply do not get.
Pakistan is currently ranked 46 in the World by Scimago in terms of citations. Our near neighbors like India and Iran ranks 9 and 22, respectively. The decline of Pakistani universities rankings is inevitable if we do not prioritize quality over quantity.
HEC must follow the QS and TIMES ranking criteria and must only encourage citable research articles.
The author is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Biochemistry, University of Balochistan.