The 13th edition of World University Rankings issued by Times Higher Education has placed UK’s University of Oxford the world’s top, snatching the slot from California Institute of Technology.
The top 980 universities on the list this year, however, have only seven institutions from Pakistan.
Of Pakistan’s seven institutions, five are new entrants this year. Three universities make it into the top 800, including COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, National University of Sciences and Technology and Quaid-i-Azam University (all in the 601-800 cohort).
The University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Bahauddin Zakariya University, University of Karachi and University of Lahore are among 801+ group.
US lost the top spot for the first time in the 13-year history of the rankings as the UK’s University of Oxford becomes the world’s top university. In Asia, 290 universities from 24 countries made it to the ranking while an elite 19 landed in the top 200.
The calculation of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings has been subject to an independent audit by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), making these the first global university rankings to be subjected to full, independent scrutiny of this nature.
7 Pakistani universities among top 980 institutions
In 601-800 band
1. COMSATS Institute of Information Technology
2. National University of Sciences and Technology
3. Quaid-i-Azam University
In 801+ band
1. University of Agriculture, Faisalabad
2. Bahauddin Zakariya University
3. University of Karachi
4. University of Lahore
Phil Baty, the editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, is elated at Pakistan’s gains.
“It is good news that Pakistan takes seven places in this year’s newly-expanded list of the world’s top universities,” he told Dawn.
According to the report issued by Times Higher Education, three Pakistani universities made it to the top 800 this year, up from two last year.
There are also four entries in the new 801+ band. However, Quaid-i-Azam University has dropped from the 501-600 band to the 601-800 band, due to a decline in its score for its research environment.
“The country spends just over 2 per cent of its GDP on higher education – less than India, Iran, and Bangladesh – although it has committed to spend 4 per cent by 2018,” said Phil Baty.
He was of the view that educational reforms have made the establishment of universities much easier, resulting in an increase in the number of higher education institutions since 2000.
“Pakistan has one of the largest and fastest-growing youth population in the world – with 59 million 10-24 year olds – meaning it is now more crucial than ever that the country invests in higher education.”
Pakistan’s “Vision 2025” programme commits to doubling the proportion of its young people enrolled in higher education to 12 per cent within a decade, and doubling the number of doctoral students to 15,000.
“It is encouraging that Pakistan is taking measures to improve its universities but academics in the region have claimed that progress has been slow,” said Baty.
The World University Rankings feature an increasing number of leading East Asian universities that are beginning to rub shoulders with the global elite.
Baty said, “Pakistan will need to work harder at improving its universities, as global competition heats up, if it wants to achieve the same ambitious task.”
While most Asian countries are suffering from an ageing population, the number of young people in South Asia is increasing. India is set to have the largest student population by 2025, with the number of 18 to 22-year-olds predicted to reach 119 million, the report said.
It added that Pakistan has one of the largest and fastest-growing youth populations in the world, with 59 million 10-24 year olds. It is now more crucial than ever that South Asia makes higher education a priority.
“It is encouraging that so many of the developing nations in the ranking aspire to follow in Asia’s footsteps and build premier universities that can compete with the very best in the world,” the report concluded.