HEC University rankings: Why not Indus Valley, IBA or NCA?

Published: July 10, 2013

If we want our universities to become more than just followers of a committee and a standard of rules, we must let them find their own ways. PHOTO: FILE

The headlines are in, folks; scholars can stop holding their breath now. The HEC, or the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan, has declared irrevocably who is the best in the business.

The HEC has provided us with some very serious looking numbers that tell us which university is ‘fit’ according to its standards. It includes the analysis of how many HEC research and travel grants and HEC approved PhDs were included in the universities.

It all seems kind of circular, but anyway.

The problem with singular, all-powerful bodies such as the HEC is that there is no check and balance on their judgment. If institutions are to disagree with their decisions, they risk losing all support and all grants.

The HEC ranked the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) and National University of Science and Technology (NUST) on top in the fields of business management, medicine and general disciplines respectively. While these are credible universities that offer credible and valuable degrees, one must pose a few questions forward.

If a certain university refuses to comply with HEC’s policies and yet manages to retain a certain standard (otherwise popular universities such as Lahore School of Economics, Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture Karachi, National College of Arts Lahore, Bahauddin Zakarya University Multan, Institute of Business Management, Karachi were ranked low by the HEC), would that mean that a student should not consider it worthy? Are we to assume that adhering to HEC and maintaining a standard are mutually exclusive?

You cannot walk your own path and expect reward from high government bodies, it seems. I am curious to know whether external agencies were contacted in the assessment of these rankings and also wonder about how much influence the HEC itself has in wanting a certain institution to shine brighter than the other.

Why are there no universities for Performing Arts and Arts? What is the criteria of assessment of such universities? Do we even consider performing arts and media sciences as a discipline of education – or does that, too, fall under the ‘general’ category?

We also need to question why these bodies are still under government patronage. Education, above all, should be transparent and not under the control of a bureaucratic agenda. It is no surprise, therefore, that universities speak out against these rankings when they see their hard work and dedication completely ignored or snubbed with no given explanation for decisions that may shape their future. Statements made by the Rector of Lahore School of Economics are simply the tip of the iceberg of how these rankings tend to affect institutions.

Whatever the HEC’s stance may be in response to the criticism, one thing is for sure; transparency is of the utmost importance in such a sensitive and critical decision. The HEC should employ or at least seek the help of independent agencies and other non governmental institutions in order to compile with these rankings.

While education commissions in most countries fall under governmental rule or the ministry of education, the United States has an independent body (the Council for Higher Education Accreditation – CHEA). Quite obviously thus, some of the top universities in the world belong to the United States. If we want our universities to become more than just followers of a committee and a standard of rules, we must let them find their own way.

Competition between education institutions is a good way to help institutes maintain excellence, but the standards by which these universities are measured against leaves much to the imagination.

Every few years or so there is a furore of the HEC snubbing some university over the other, every year some slightly unknown, underdog of a university seems to come up and provides for a perfect topic to discuss for post-dinner chai. Apart from these slightly interesting controversies, there has been no question regarding the HEC’s methods.

While Mr Javaid Leghari insists that the usage of independent bodies would be established in the next ranking, the issue of one sole body deciding who is good enough and who isn’t, hardly seems fair – especially when it comes to education.

Read more by Mahwash here or follow her on Twitter @MahwashB


Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (twitter.com/mahwashajaz_)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • SyedPk

    Valid point, and I would like to add one uni to your list that is NED university, which has a very good reputation in market, more or less same as UET, but it was nowhere in the ranking , as it took the same stand as yours that ranking should not be done by the financier, so they didnt allow the inspection for ranking… HEC while while being one of the best institutions in the country should improve on this matter.Recommend

  • Tip of the day

    Apply cold water to burned areaRecommend

  • Osama Zulfiqar

    The author has obviously missed the fact that NUST and LUMS (along with QU) are only Pakistani universities also in international rankings developed independently. This only adds to the credibility.

    The argument that students should not consider other universities as worthy is absurd. This is a ranking. So…you rank. Not being No.1 does not means LSE or others arent worthy. It’s just showing who is better than who. Students ought to know which is the best institution in country for their field, and then, which is the second or third best. Students, themselves create ranking when they apply. They call it, first preference, second preference and so on.

    Similarly, Employers do the rankings as well and pay accordingly. There is a reason why say a Wharton graduate will earn more than say Arizona State grad.

    At the end of the day, its the policies and education standards of the universities that ultimately determines who is better than who. Recommend

  • GhostRider

    Totally valid…moreover besides a few top universities market worth of many high ranked universities in this list is much less than many unranked ones.Recommend

  • Shamy

    @Osama Zulfiqar:
    Your comment says it all. Totally agree with it.Recommend

  • meeder

    Hec should not be in the business of uni ranking – this is a brand building exercise even in the rest of the world. There are no absolutes here. Recommend

  • Likewise

    Agree with Osama Zulfiqar here, but I still think that in the better interest of students going through the admission process someone well informed should submit a reply to this blog.Recommend

  • Shafaq

    this is my general observation. all the universities ranked on top of the list are the ones in lahore and then the whole of Punjab. To me the entire ranking is Biased.Recommend

  • Sick of Negativity

    Why do people have a problem with every thing constructive? HEC does not favour any particular university. You should ask your university to work harder in 2013 so that your ranking also improvesRecommend

  • Bewildered

    Certainly there are flaws in the HEC’s current ranking system. Some relatively unknown institutes were ranked to top positions compared to the prestigious and famous institutes. For example, I didn’t see Kinnaird College for women University in the list, despite having highest merit list.Recommend

  • samra

    Good article. A quick review of the methodology adopted by hec reveals countless flaws in their ranking. For one, the heavily comply on the amount of funding obtained by universities by HEC in lieu of travel grants research grants this that. Now hec as per policy doesn’t distrib funds to privite sector universities, which include the likes of Hajvery University, Lse, ucp etc. Whereas these universities may be doing a great job but the ranking seem to suggest otherwise only because the evaluation criteria includes significant marks for ‘winning’ funding which is NOT accessible to them to begin with.

    I am a student of Hajvery University and I feel indignant to see that my university is not being given its due credit in the rankings table. Recommend

  • http://h Ahmed

    “Quite obviously thus, the top fifteen universities in the world belong to the United States”.

    It takes 30 seconds to go over the list and realize that 5 universities from the top 15 are NOT American. Recommend

  • Bilal

    Sour grapes. Institutions you mentioned they need to raise their standards :)Recommend

  • Muhammad hammad

    Well Written , HEC hasn’t consider even Iobm and szabist as well, if we study about Karachi in particular only there are smart no of graduates are working here from that institutes , am facusing on business institutes because am a business graduate , but what about other good universities operating in region and thie graduates are working at reputed universities !!!Recommend

  • zehra

    instead of this rant better would be to read the criteria of the ranking you will find answersRecommend

  • just_someone

    I’ll give you a very quick answer why: Most of the universities you mention dont do a lick of research. In Pakistan, somehow people think of universities are only there to teach. In the west, top universities are mainly places of research. Princeton is, for example, a pretty terrible place to get a bachelors degree. Most of the professors over there dont even teach undergraduate classes, those classes are mainly taught by graduate students.
    HEC rankings are attempting to rank universities on research and publications because the money they are giving away on the basis of this ranking is meant to help research.
    Now one thing I agree with is that NCA should be ranked higher. It does not appear in rankings because our society hasnt reached the precipitous of civilization after which art and culture are highly valued. Hopefully this will change with time!Recommend

  • Citizen


    It sickens me when I see indignant individuals like you make such crass comments towards anything productive.Recommend

  • Zohaib

    And you had to pull that bias card. Get a life dude …Recommend

  • mAS

    Change the name of our country “punjabistaan”Recommend

  • Nobody

    Meri university bi nai hey yr,.:(Recommend

  • Mystic

    Instead of crying about the rankings… why not suggest a better methodology?Recommend

  • Gol Matol

    NED, FAST, UET, GIKI???Recommend

  • http://www.iobm.edu.pk Prof. Dr. Akhlaq Ahmed

    I fully endorse the views of the author. Dr. Leghari, being the chairman of HEC should be aware of the political and other considerations in the ranking process. The informations provided by the recognized universities on a given formate are also questionable. Who will verify the data? Its a big question mark?. The visiting teams sent by HEC for this purpose consists of junior staff with the exception of few. The purpose is not to criticize HEC but to suggest improvement strategy The method of evaluation needs drastic changes.
    In my opinion, ranking should be conducted by an international body like British Council, who will evaluate the data and information by visiting institutions on their own in a transparent manner. Asia Pacific Quality Network (APQN), based in China, awarded IoBM the best internal quality evaluator and is ranked 7th by the HEC. As suggested by Dr. Dr. Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, Rector of Lahore School of Economics, HEC should withdraw its ranking list. Dr. Leghari should call a meeting of the V.C’s with a single point agenda on ranking process. He should also invite senior neutral Professors for suggestions in this regard. We should also study policy proposed CHEA by International Quality Group (CIQG) for major quality assurance tools. Recommend

  • AZ

    Honestly ranking for universities is done by considering a lot of factors other than ‘hard work’. there’s campus size, teacher-student ratio, class size and a whole lot of other things. Just because some institutes ranked lower doesn’t mean they teach sub standard material.

    To quote ‘We also need to question why these bodies are still under government patronage. Education, above all, should be transparent and not under the control of a bureaucratic agenda.’
    While I agree that our curriculum is inefficient and not up to date it’s quite apparent why the institutes are largely under government patronage. Because they provide CHEAP and ACCESSIBLE education. How many students do you think can afford the semester fees at Indus or IBA? Really how many?

    As far as the arts are concerned who are you kidding. Its not just Pakistan the whole world world doesn’t give arts the importance you think it deserves. The rest of the world treats arts better than we do sure but not equal to the sciences and i don’t see it happening soon either.

    @ Dr Akhlaq sir I fully agree that HEC has its internal problems but is the solution really to hand over judgment of our institutes into the hands of others instead of improving our methodologies. Also IBM was awarded on a category, overall considering other factor it is probably behind other universities such as LUMS.Recommend

  • Saad Riaz

    Need to see that these universities have been marked on what criteria. If its research I think the list is very much justified.I remember few years back HEC started grading universities based on the facilities available and then there was a new list based on the PHD fellowships.These lists can be help full for the students to decided and analyze the standard of an institute on the criteria they have been marked. By the way these lists just doesn’t matter , I completed my engineering from reputable university which didnt have the affiliation with PEC at the time I graduated but guess what I was hired by the top telecommunication vendor on the same day I got my degree ( No pawwa totally on merit interviews) and my degree was acknowledged by US and Canadian companies for whom I am working right now. Chill guys and try to excel in your discipline.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/ali.ehtsham Ali Ehtsham

    This kind of articles come when rankings are made while having cup of teas by old fellows, yes no doubt ranked institutions are good and hey show relative difference what we need to see what is induction rate in domestic and international job market. Rector of Lahore school was him self in Government as financial and economic adviser he knew how these hings are executed therefore he responded. however it will take more questionable evaluations to improve the standards of evaluation, that’s how it works around hereRecommend