There is no knowing whether it is her internal bleeding or the criteria by which the QS ranking exercise is conducted that may explain why not a single university from Nigeria made it in the 2021 global ranking of universities. The ranking released June 8th, 2021 has, interestingly, not attracted much media attention in the country which might be due to the controversy over the banning of Twitter by the Federal Government and President Buhari’s interviews thereafter. But it is bound to be an issue of concern to many interests if Nigeria is totally out in a global exercise in which Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Tunisia, Egypt and South Africa have made their presence felt.
The criteria for the global university ranking generally do not favour universities based in the typical ‘Third world’ but all the African countries mentioned above are classical ‘Third World’ countries. And that is not to talk of countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and some European principalities whose universities have done so well.
Certainly, Singapore does not fit into the typical ‘Third World’ country any more but neither is it a great power. Yet, it has two universities in the global top 20s. That is a feat.
There is no debate about it that the human and material resources are there for Nigerian universities to hit the roof top but critics appear to agree that Nigeria has no leadership and government over the years with the capacity to appreciate that universities constitute an instrument of national power as to have mobilised same into a power resource.
Meanwhile, Brendan O’Malley outlines how the real global knowledge powers stand in this ranking exercise from which other ranking exercises will hardly be widely different. It was originally titled Decline of US Universities and Rise of China’s Continue. It reads as follows:
The United States took top spot but suffered significant decline overall in the QS World University Rankings 2022 published on Tuesday 8 June, as did Japan and South Korea. But it was another strong performance from mainland China, which continues to rise, and from Australia and Canada.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US celebrates an unprecedented, unbroken decade as the world’s best university in the QS rankings. But the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom moves up a record three places to take second spot, with the University of Cambridge (UK) taking joint third with Stanford University (US), and Harvard University (US) at fifth. The latter dropped out of the top three for the first time.
L Rafael Reif, president of MIT, said: “We deeply appreciate the recognition of our institution and the faculty, staff, alumni and students that make MIT what it is – and we also tremendously admire the achievements of academic institutions around the globe.
“The world benefits from a strong higher education network that delivers countless benefits for humanity, from fundamental discoveries to novel solutions to pressing challenges in climate and health, to the education of the next generation of talent.
“We are proud and grateful to belong to this great human community of scholars, researchers and educators, striving together to make a better world.”
The rest of the top 10 positions in the 18th edition of the QS rankings were taken up by sixth-placed California Institute of Technology (US); seventh-placed Imperial College London (UK); joint eighth-placed ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and UCL (UK); and 10th-placed University of Chicago (US).
While the US had five in the top 10 versus the UK with four and Switzerland with one, Asia’s top two universities, both from Singapore, came 11th (National University of Singapore) and 12th (Nanyang Technological University). Switzerland had a second university in the top 20 with Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne at joint 14th.
Malaysian and Russian progress slowed after years of improvement, although both are home to one of the world’s top 100 universities, and Japan saw 48% of its ranked universities drop places.
91 US Universities Lose Ground
At a country level, eight of the top 10 countries – in terms of total number of universities ranked – saw a greater number of their universities lose places than gain places. Worst affected in terms of total number of universities declining was the US, with 91 universities losing ground, more than three times the number gaining places – 29.
Ben Sowter, director of research at QS, said: “While MIT’s well-deserved success will naturally be toasted by all involved in what is, according to our metrics and dataset, the world’s leading academic ecosystem, wider observers may well be more concerned about the state of prolonged decline that American higher education has experienced over the past five years.”
He said previously that ranking falls had been confined to those American institutions outside the upper echelons of the QS rankings. “It will therefore be intensely concerning to many stakeholders that the malaise now appears to have infected Harvard, Cornell, Duke and other world-renowned American universities.”
However, Japan fared worse than the US, with nearly five times as many universities declining (24) compared to those gaining (five), and its neighbour, South Korea, fared almost as badly, with 20 universities declining versus six gaining places.
The UK (36 declining versus 28 gaining) and Germany (23 declining versus 17 gaining) also had a poor year overall.
The top 10 countries by number of institutions ranked are the US (177), the UK (90),China (58), Russia and Japan (both 48), Germany (46), Italy (41), South Korea (39), Australia (38) and India (35).
Among the top 10, mainland China, continuing its rise, was the most improved with 32 universities gaining compared to 13 dropping places and six staying the same. It also achieved the milestone of having two top 20 places for the first time – Tsinghua University (17th) and Peking University (up five places to 18th).
Australia also performed strongly, with 16 gaining places versus 11 declining and nine staying the same. Indeed, Australia’s top four universities rose places – with Australian National University re-entering the top 30 and Curtin University and Macquarie University entering the top 200 for the first time in a decade. Canada also saw more than twice as many institutions rise (16) as decline (7). Mexico and Malaysia suffered significant overall declines.
Six Indicators Used
The QS rankings uses six metrics: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty:student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty ratio and international student ratio.
The ranking was the focus of a recently published study by Igor Chirikov of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education, which found that universities with frequent QS-related business contracts experienced greater upward mobility in the rankings. However, QS said it remained confident in the robustness of its approach.
A commentary by Carsten A Holz in University World News argued that current global rankings gloss over the absence of academic freedom under totalitarian regimes by not including it as an indicator.
Holz said if one adjusts the top 150 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for academic freedom, for example, those from the People’s Republic of China (PRC, including Hong Kong) and from Singapore drop to the bottom of the list.