Recently some of the universities in Sri Lanka have been ranked among the best in the list of South Asian University category, as reported by international grading of universities. According to the ranking Webometrics of World Universities in selecting the ‘Top 100 universities in South Asia in the 2012’, Colombo University is in the top 10 at eighth place while the Peradeniya University is ranked 23rd; Moratuwa University 50th; Sri Jayewardenepura University 61st and Kelaniya University at 98th.
Different ranking methods have been applied in the globe. The Webometrics ranking is actually targeting to promote Web publication. Certain measurements have been used in this ranking consists of supporting Open Access initiatives, electronic access to scientific publications and to other academic material. This ranking has a larger coverage (in terms of universities) than other similar rankings.
Consequently the achievement of Sri Lankan Universities should be celebrated. But again as mentioned earlier Webometrics is targeting to promote web publications. Even in that mechanism the ranking of south Asian Universities among ‘Asia’ and ‘World’ can be observed. As an example Indian Institute of Technology Madras has been ranked as number one among South Asian universities in Webometrics ranking. The same university is in the 66th place in same ranking among top in Asia. This will gives an indication on how South Asian universities are ranked among Asia (not even in ‘World’!).
Consequently there are some other accredited rankings which are acknowledged by top universities in the world. For example October last year most newspapers highlighted the news item titled ‘Harvard Loses Top World University Ranking for First Time’. They employed the ranking of ‘The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2011-2012.’ It is important to understand the measurement used by TIMES rankings (with data supplied by Thomson Reuters Corp.) in this regard. They employ 13 separate performance indicators designed to capture the full range of university activities, from teaching, research to knowledge transfer. These 13 elements are brought together into five headline categories, which are:
Teaching - the learning environment (worth 30 per cent of the overall ranking score).
Research - volume, income and reputation (worth 30 per cent).
Citations - research influence (30 per cent).
Industry income - innovation (2.5 per cent).
International outlook - staff, students and research (7.5 per cent).
It is important to note that 60 per cent has been allocated for ‘research and citations’. Sri Lankan universities have not touched upon this particular area properly. According to TIMES rankings California Institute of Technology, ranked as number one is followed by Harvard and Standard in US. Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay is the only South Asian university ranked among top 400 universities in the world. The same university is ranked as number two in South Asia under the ranking of Webometrics.
Furthermore Prestigious Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) can also be considered as one of the rankings which have been accepted in the world. But not a single Indian University represents South Asia in the first list of top 200. As the methodology of QS six indicators are drawn together to form an international ranking of universities -
1. Academic reputation (from global
survey) – 40 per cent
2. Employee reputation (from global
survey) – 10 per cent
3. Scopus citations per faculty – 20
4. Faculty-Student ratio – 20 per cent
5. Proportion of international student –
5 per cent
6. Proportion of international faculty – 5
Accordingly the University of Cambridge, ranked number one among the world in this ranking, is followed by Harvard (US) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US).
It is apparent that certain rankings used by different Institutes are diverse. For Sri Lanka it is a duty for authorities to understand different rankings and prepare national universities. University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka can introduce such a formula (by benchmarking one of the above methods) to rank our universities. The competition within the sector for better rankings will bring Sri Lanka into the world map in terms of quality of education in the future. This can be used to grade foreign universities operating in Sri Lanka as well. The technique will provide them some targets not only in terms of profit but for the contribution for research.
As in the private sector striving to obtain quality standards like the ISO, there should be preparations for each university by appointing a special task force consisting of respective authorities. As we know Sri Lanka is famous as a country with a higher literacy rate. There should be a framework for the country to move forward in higher education. This can be considered as one of the strategies under the vision to convert Sri Lanka into a ‘knowledge hub’.