SARGODHA - The University of Sargodha (UoS) has for the first time made its way to QS Asia University Rankings as one of the top 500 universities of Asia.

In the QS Asia University Rankings 2019 released in October 2018, 23 out of 188 public and private sector universities from Pakistan were included in top 500 Asian universities, with the UoS listed in 401-450 category of Asian universities. This distinctive academic performance is an outcome of some pioneering reforms initiated during the tenure of Vice Chancellor Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad.

"We have proactively pursued progress in four spheres, including quality teaching, productive research, knowledge sharing and global outlook, which is increasing our academic profile both nationally and globally," says the Vice Chancellor, while crediting the university faculty and staff for the latest achievement.

The reforms process underway in the university since the start of 2017 has helped achieve many key indicators of QS University Rankings such as the size of faculty, including PhD scholars, their number of research publications, and the extent of international academic collaborations. The faculty number has increased from 545 in 2016 to over 700 at present; and the number of PhD faculty has risen from 223 to 280 during the same time.

This is because, unlike previously when key statutory bodies like the Syndicate and Selection Board did not meet for years, they have each met for seven times to recruit and promote qualified faculty, and resolve other issues.

Likewise, the number of research publications increased from 524 in 2016 to 710 in 2017, most of which are in Impact Factor journals. In 2018, this figure is expected to be even higher as clear from the data till June 2018 submitted for determining 2019 QS rankings.

This is due to revamping of the Office of Research, Innovation and Commercialization (ORIC), including offering financial incentives to productive faculty members, creating inter-disciplinary research groups, and updating foreign referees lists by including scholars from top 300 universities of the world.

The digitisation process is also making a huge difference. The introduction of online admissions, for example, doubled the number of applications to 44,000 for Fall 2017 Session and increased this number to 52,000 in Fall 2018. The university is also installing a University Management System to ensure efficient management and better service delivery.

Other major reforms to ensure quality education and promote university outlook include consolidating academic programs, including the merger of overlapping faculties and departments, and closure of unnecessary degree programs; increasing the frequency of national and international conferences and workshops; and initiating academic research collaborations with major international institutions, including leading Chinese universities in the field of agriculture.