The academic rankings racket

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Quaid-e-Azam University

Source: Dawn

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

OVER half a dozen international “well-reputed” university ranking organisations annually publish their ratings. They tell you which university or department is better than which other, both within a country as well as between countries. Feel free to swallow their poisonous bait but do so at your own risk. These cunning ones easily take simpletons for a ride. At best, you will get questionable stuff. More likely, it will be meaningless nonsense or a fat bunch of lies.

An example: from the website of Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities — which ranks thousands of universities globally — the department of mechanical engineering at Quaid-e-Azam University was rated 76-100 in 2017. This placed it just below Tokyo University and just above Manchester University. Wow! Thereafter every year QAU improved its score and in 2020 it jumped into the 51-75 range putting it under McGill University but higher than Oxford University. The reader can google this and may discover other such gems too.

Better than Oxford? Having taught at QAU for the greater part of my life, I could jump for joy. But let the truth be told: QAU does not have a mechanical engineering department! In fact, it does not offer engineering of any kind and none is planned. A clerical mistake might explain a one-off report. But what software generated the precise numbers charting QAU’s progress year after year?

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Categories: Asia, Pakistan

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