Four Pakistani universities have made it to the 14th annual edition of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings this year.

The rankings reflect a decline from last year's list, which included seven Pakistani institutes among the top 1,000 in the world.

Of the four, only Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) is among the top 500 universities. The shift into the 401-500 cohort for QAU is an improvement from its position in the 601-800 band in last year's rankings.

Other Pakistani universities in the top 1,000 include COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, the National University of Sciences and Technology in the 601-800 band, and the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad in the 801+ group.

In this year's rankings, Pakistan fell far behind its neighbours; 60 institutions from China, 30 from India and 11 from Iran were on the list.

Times Higher Education Global Rankings Editorial Director Phil Baty said the lack of Pakistani institutions in the rankings is "disappointing". He attributed the low representation of local universities to a "lack of funding".

He expressed hope that the increased funding by China would "enable Pakistan to improve its performance in the table in future years".

"The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor unveiled by Chinese president Xi Jinping in 2013 and now in its first phase of implementation has been touted as a potential way for Pakistan to build the technological capacity of its universities," he said.

He lauded the improvement in the ranking of QAU saying that the "big rise is impressive given the global competition".

Evaluation and assessment expert Shagufta Shahzadi, however, wondered why Pakistan’s premier institutes like Aga Khan University, the Lahore University of Management Sciences, National University of Modern Languages, Beaconhouse National University, FAST, Lahore School of Economics, the Institute of Business Administration and the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology never appeared in the world ranking despite having an excellent job market.

University of Oxford retained the top spot in the rankings, followed by the University of Cambridge, the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University, the last two jointly occupying the third spot.

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