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Incorrect and Misleading Ranking of Higher Education Institutions in Pakistan by the HEC

Dear Dr Laghari,

As you are aware, I was closely involved in the founding of the HEC and have been associated with it in various capacities over the last decade. I also firmly believe that the HEC is a very valuable institution and has played an extremely important role in supporting higher education in Pakistan. For this reason, I would like to raise the critical issue of the incorrect and highly misleading rankings of higher education institutions on Pakistan released by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) for 2012 and last week for 2013. Despite the best intentions of the HEC in evaluating higher education institutions, the rankings released by the HEC are marked by serious mistakes. If actions are not taken immediately to correct these highly inaccurate and misleading rankings, the reputation of the HEC will be irreparably harmed at the local and international level. In addition, institutions like the Lahore School of Economics, which are amongst the leading academic institutions in academic quality, research, quality of learning and teaching and student placement will be irreparably harmed.

The criteria for the ranking of higher education institutions has never been discussed at any meeting of Vice-Chancellors and Rectors and certainly not at any forum where the Lahore School of Economics was invited. This has resulted in the entire process being non-transparent and having critical mistakes both in its formulation and its implementation. This has also resulted in the process being subject to no level of scrutiny or accountability to stakeholders. For this reason I had expressed my deepest concerns after the 2012 ranking exercise to Dr Sohail Naqvi, then Executive Director of the HEC, at the HEC Vice-Chancellors and Rectors meeting in 2012, and he had assured me that the problems in the ranking methodology (which are detailed below) would be corrected both for 2012 and for subsequent years. This has obviously not been done and the ranking is now even more inaccurate and misleading as a consequence.

The critical mistakes in the HEC’s ranking methodology are as follows:

First, the HEC has allowed either large multi-disciplinary general category institutions or universities with unrelated specialisations to be included as a whole in the rankings for specific sub-disciplines. So large multi-disciplinary universities or universities with large science and engineering schools are included in the rankings for business schools, which both biases the rankings and is contrary to international ranking standards. The correct approach is to place large multi-disciplinary institutions in the general university category, or to only evaluate departments related to the business field (based on internationally accepted practices) from within these institutions in the ranking process.

Second, contrary to all internationally accepted practices of ranking higher educational institutions, the HEC has completely arbitrarily based a significant portion of the weights in their rankings on criteria related largely to HEC financing. More specifically, 14 percent of the total ranking score of an institution in 2012 is related to whether the HEC finances a quality enhancement or research activity. In the 2012 ranking the HEC has given an institution zero points for the ‘Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC) Categorisation’ simply because the institution’s Quality Assurance Department has not been financed by the HEC. Similarly, an institution has received zero points in the ‘Conferences’ criteria because the institution has not taken any funding from the HEC for conferences, even though it may have held multiple international conferences on a yearly basis. Similarly, institutions have been awarded zero points for ‘HEC travel grants’ simply because they have not taken funding from the HEC for faculty travelling for international conferences, and have also received zero points for ‘Indigenous Scholars’ simply because the institutions have not taken any money from the HEC for students scholarships even though the institutions may have a large scholarship programme. The above is only a partial list of HEC related criteria that have no connection in any way with actual quality assurance or research quality. The Lahore School of Economics, which performs exceptionally well against all the above criteria, has received no credit for its performance in these fields because as a matter of policy it does not seek funding from the HEC or any other government agency, and in fact is being penalised for being financially autonomous.

Two important points should be made about these arbitrary HEC ranking criteria used in 2012 and largely apparently used in 2013: First, no ranking system in the world takes these completely irrelevant criteria in evaluating higher educational institutions. Attached in Annexes A and B to this letter are the ranking criteria (highlighted) of two international ranking programmes: (A) QS University Rankings Asia and (B) QS University World Rankings. As you will note, there is absolutely no criteria in any of these rankings that measures the amount of funding an organisation receives from the government or other sources. Also, as the QS rankings show, the majority of the ranking is based on perceptions of academic quality based on surveys of other institutions or based on surveys of employers, and both criteria have been arbitrarily ignored by the HEC in the 2012 and apparently in the 2013 rankings despite being part of the stated ranking methodology [see (3) below]. The second point regarding the arbitrary HEC ranking criteria is that they are biased in favour of institutions that receive funding from the HEC, which is completely wrong and also out of line with international standards of ranking of educational institutions.

Third, on the HEC website, the ‘Explanatory Notes’ on the rankings show that an ‘Employer Perception Survey’ and a ‘Peer Perception Survey’ would be used to contribute 10 percent to the total points awarded to a institution. These surveys were completed as a part of the 2013 ranking process and the Lahore School itself completed such a peer perception ranking survey twice since the HEC’s list of business schools was revised. The 2013 rankings have apparently ignored this criteria that would have given a significantly higher score to institutions like the Lahore School of Economics, which enjoys an extremely strong reputation amongst other academic institutions worldwide and both local and international employers. Again, this apparent change would run contrary to the stated ranking methodology of the HEC itself and also the QS International University ranking criteria, which places a very large weight (of a minimum of 40 percent) on these as mentioned above.

I request that the following measures be taken immediately:

HEC immediately withdraw the incorrect and misleading rankings of higher educational institutions in Pakistan for 2012 and 2013.

HEC immediately call a meeting of Vice-Chancellors and Rectors of all public and private sector higher educational institutions in Pakistan to meet and decide upon the appropriate ranking criteria for all higher educational institutions in line with international standards.

HEC immediately restart the process of ranking universities based on transparent, internationally accepted criteria, which should have been agreed upon by all the Vice-Chancellors and Rectors of higher educational institutions in Pakistan.

HEC immediately release the data from the ‘Employer Perception Survey’ and the ‘Peer Perception Survey’, which the HEC has collected regarding all academic institutions as part of the 2013 ranking exercise.

If these actions are not taken, there will be irreparable harm to the academic institutions like the Lahore School of Economics that have had the ranking biased against them and also to the international and local reputation of the HEC. I urge you to proceed quickly in this regard.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, Rector of Lahore School of Economics

CC: Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Executive Director, Higher Education Commission, Pakistan

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, July 08, 2013,


At 13:26, Anonymous Kausar Bilal said...

I agree with the content of the blogpost. Actually, all the mentioned above reforms are crucial to make in order to justify the existance of HEC. With a vague or unknown creterion, the statuses of all the HEC rankling universities are doubtful. Secondly, we need a quick response on HEC-riented projects from HEC, e.g. HEC PhD supervisors are not paid on time and with efficiency despite following all the procedures and reminders. Hopefully, matters are taken care of in the interest of Higher Education in the country.

At 16:04, Anonymous M Behzad Jhatial said...

The points highlighted above are genuine and HEC must look into it. Because I myself being a professional engineer have never seen anywhere in the world that some university is being given some waitage in ranking if it gets financial support from governament like in case of HEC. Plus HEC must show a true concern if it is sincere enough to bring a real change regarding the higher education in Pakistan.

At 16:19, Anonymous Dr Norbert Pintsch said...

Very strange. I have been to Lahore School and know the School very well. HEC is doing exact opposite of what it should do.

Come on HEC, let us work on merit.

At 16:38, Anonymous Aaima Ashraf said...

Valid point!
Business institutes should be categorized in their particular niche instead of being thrown into the category of general universities.
And second criteria related largely to HEC financing is an absurd theater. Strange are the stories!

At 20:02, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the Rector. But than this is Pakistan. Who cares about merit? Zanib

At 20:52, Anonymous Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

At any time, in any location in the world, when major decisions are made in secret behind closed doors about a school of higher learning it is strong evidence that there is an ulterior motive behind it. Keeping large groups of citizens of a country from getting a quality education is a crime. The Lahore School of Economics hasn't changed, and is likely making continued forward strides. This arbitrary and capricious decision to lower the ranking of the school cannot go unanswered.

At 11:48, Anonymous Sajini Chandrasekera said...

I'm surprised to read this article and knowing Lahore School of Economics for sometime that is to my knowledge one of the best in Pakistan. I think this is known to everyone who knows of the School. It is shocking to know what made the HEC take such decision. Education is the right of every child and when it comes to higher education HEC should be more transparent and genuine in rank the universities.

At 18:12, Anonymous Dr Sohaib Khan said...

I agree with this, except that HEC do the ranking. Never in the world this is the job of the funding agency. Such rankings should be done by independent media group or some NGO. The mentioned bias-ness (for example the university got higher financial aid will be rank higher) will then be ignored. I also have some doubts in categories of 2013 HEC ranking. Thanks for sharing your views with us. I learnt many new things I this article.

At 01:01, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a student of Lahore School of Economics . I can proudly say that this institution can compete with any highly ranked international business school . We enjoy all the latest facilities and technology , which my friends from other universities are not even aware of .
I am doing BSc double majors in Finance and Economics , i can proudly say that all my professors are foreign qualified and well experianced . Most of them has spent their entire lives in USA , teaching in well recognized universities . And now they have come to Pakistan to serve and deliver knowledge to their nation
To beleive it , you would have to step in the institution to see what is being provided to the students and after school how well students perform in the market !

At 12:30, Blogger Syed Ali Akbar Abbas Rizvi said...

Completely agree with this. The current rankings are completely unrepresentative of the true rankings. There is now way that LSE cannot be there

At 15:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

no point in coming down to HEC's level. LSE should ignore these ridiculous rankings which no one takes seriously (other than our government bodies and Ministries of course, i.e. the same people who admitted in open court that they don't know how to block a youtube URL.

At 16:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The MBA programme of Lahore School of Economics is one of the best and most dynamic of educational experiences a student could get.
It takes students to a completely new horizon and nurtures not only the thinking ability of students but also leads to positive character building, ability to take decisions, enhancement of analytical, verbal and theoratical skills.
Moreover if you've been a part of LSE i can certainly say that you WILL stand out in the crowd.
LSE produces not just book worms but street smart decision makers with integrity and humility; who know how to tackle any environment thrown into.
For better or worse HEC should definitely look into this matter and correct its misleading ranking.


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