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There’s a New Ranking System for Universities in Muslim Countries

By Nushmiya Sukhera

ITU scientist develops ranking system that compare around 450 institutes of higher learning in 30 Muslim majority countries.

Thousands of Pakistanis apply to universities in North America and Western Europe for higher education. Most applicants aren’t in a position to afford tuition and living expenses at these campuses on their own or by using their family’s funds. Scholarships and fellowships are then the most reliable option for these students to fund their higher education. The problem with these scholarships and fellowships is that they are limited in number and highly competitive.

Over the last decade, Pakistani students have started looking towards other areas, closer to home, for higher education options. Chinese universities have attracted a number of Pakistani students. Muslim majority countries in the Middle East, particularly the Persian Gulf states, too have lately started investing in the higher education sector, establishing Education Cities housing foreign campuses of some leading Western universities as well as newly-established national universities.

While there are well-established and reliable ranking systems that can help prospective applicants compare universities in North America and Western Europe, a similarly rigorous ranking system does not exist for the higher education landscape in these Muslim majority countries.

A professor at the Scientometrics Lab of Lahore’s Information Technology University (ITU), Dr Saeedul Hassan, has developed a Quality Research Ranking (ITU- QRR) system to plug this loophole.

Read more: Research Landscape of Pakistan

“Most university rankings give a broad perspective on institutes but don’t assess research potential in specific subjects and themes. We have designed the ITU-QRR system such that it covers both larger academic disciplines and specific subject areas within these disciplines,” says Dr Hassan. For example, he adds, users can look for top institutes for Agriculture, Computer Science or Social Science. Then, they can narrow down their search for specific areas of research like Artificial Intelligence, Data Mining.

The ITU-QRR system compares and contrasts around 450 universities from nearly 30 Muslim majority countries relative to leading universities from across the world. The universities are assigned scores out of 100 – the benchmark score set for Harvard University in the US.

The system benchmarks research performance of these higher education institutes across 250-plus subjects. It covers publications that are indexed in the Scopus database and those covered in journals and  conferences of the Computing Research and Education (CORE) Association of Australasia. It selects publications available only in English language and with proper attributions and those that haven’t ever been retracted.

The 2017 version of the ITU-QRR system has three components: rankings, analytics and university profiles.

Users can check rankings based on individual subject areas organized into 16 broad-level and 250-plus detailed-level categories. The analytics section is targeted at universities with data useful for strategic decision making. The university profile feature provides comprehensive insight into research landscape of individual universities to help users identify strengths and weaknesses.

The ranking system uses the Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) of journals to assess the quality of research work produced by universities. The SNIP normalizes citation potential across fields as it indicates the number of times a journal has been cited in other journals in the same field.

Publications included in the top five percentile of SNIP of journals are categorized as Highest Quality; those in top 10 percentile High Quality; and those in top 50 percentile Medium Quality publications.

Read more: ITU’s Scientometrics Lab Ranks Pakistani Universities on the Basis of Quality of Research

The ranking system encompasses 16 broad disciplinary areas. While Broad institutes are those which are research active in more than eight broad disciplines, specialized institutes are those which are research active in three to eight disciplines. Research active, for the purpose of this system, are those institutes that have more than 50 publications in a given discipline in a six year time frame. The overall score of a given institute is computed by taking the average of high quality publications with reference to research active subject discipline.

The end users of this system are not just students. The developers hope that it will benefit policy makers, national and international funding agencies and the scientific community as well. “Universities in the Middle East are attracting a lot of funding from across the world. Saudi government is putting huge sums of money in its flagship King Abdulaziz University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology,” says Dr Hassan.

The ITU-QRR system can be accessed at the following URL: http://rankings.itu.edu.pk.

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