According to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World Universities Rankings 2012, six Pakistani universities have won their place in the list of top 300 Asian universities. How realistic is this analysis becomes extremely doubtful considering the fact the university producing the highest number of publications (a strong parameter) in the international journals from Pakistan is not even ranked among these. Indeed, a realistic survey would have been to ascertain how much lower is our higher education, instead of wasting our energies in cosmetic rhetoric of meeting the international quality parameters.The starting point should be to first ascertain the credibility of Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) UK, the agency founded in 1990 by Nunzio Quacquarelli. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings is regarded as one of the three most widely observed international university rankings, which is published by the British Magazine, Times Higher Education (THE), with the data supplied by Thomson Reuters. THE began publishing the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings, in partnership with the QS, in 2004. However, in 2010, THE ended its partnership and created a new ranking methodology with a new data supplier. Nevertheless, serious concerns have been raised about the methodology the QS uses for its rankings by many experts. Most are concerned with its use of “academic and employer opinion”, instead of the more mechanistic approach adopted by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) focusing on research.Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, in an article titled ‘Improving Latin American Universities’ Global Ranking’, wrote: “I will not discuss the QS ranking because the methodology is not sufficiently robust to provide data valid as social science.” David Blanchflower, in his article titled ‘The QS World University Rankings are a Load of Old Baloney’, published in the New Statesman, very bluntly puts it: “This ranking is complete rubbish and nobody should place any credence in it. The results are based on an entirely flawed methodology that underweight’s the quality of research and overweight’s fluff. The QS is a flawed index and should be ignored.”Similarly, an article, entitled ‘The Globalisation of College and University Rankings’, by Philip Altbach, Professor of Higher Education at the Boston College, maintaines: “The QS World University Rankings are the most problematical. From the beginning, the QS has relied on reputational indicators for half of its analysis. It, probably, accounts for the significant variability in the QS rankings over the years. In addition, the QS queries employers, introducing even more variability and unreliability into the mix. Whether the QS rankings should be taken seriously by the higher education community is questionable.”The QS uses six indicators with specific percentiles allocated to ascertain the ranking of the universities, which include academic peer review (40 percent), recruiter review (10 percent), faculty student ratio (20 percent), citations per faculty (20 percent) and international orientation (10 percent). The data or information used to compile the World University Ranking comes partly from the online surveys carried and annual information-gathering exercise carried out by the QS. In 2009, classification criteria’s/parameters were added, which included size of the student body, range of faculty areas and research activities. The surveys also include appealing to universities staff for participation, thus generating interest among the staff members to rank their own institution more highly than the others.On the other hand,  THE uses a robust, transparent and sophisticated methodology, which has 13 separate individual indicators grouped under five categories of teaching (30 percent of final score), research (30 percent), citations (research impact worth 32.5 percent), international mix (5 percent) and industry income (2.5 percent).The pathetic state of universities in Pakistan is something to be ashamed of as a nation. On the one hand, we have universities claiming to be the best while adopting the approach of bombarding students with information flood and then expecting them to swallow and come up with an analysis in a time span that no human being can achieve. To add to it is the number of students, who fail to achieve the highest level of “excellence”. The quality criteria is thus defined; a combination of excessive workload plus strict marking criteria of failing students.Then we have another crop of institutions where the number of hours spent by the teacher in the classroom is considered as high level of education. The quantity is given more stress, instead of giving any weightage to the quality of education. The writer of this piece had to let go of a few universities for their lack of vision, pertaining to quality and witness to their vulgarity of deputing lower non-management staff to “watch” the faculty timings. In another instant, the writer pursued academic-industry interaction, which was again bulldozed by the university management, labelling it as “waste of time” for the students. And the classic one is the statement in a faculty meeting by the head of a university advocating writing of research publications as detrimental to the institutions interest. That was the last straw, which broke my connection with the university, for good!The number of patents produced by an institution is a strong criterion to ascertain its standing. In terms of statistics released by the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), American universities are the most prolific international patent filers among higher education institutions worldwide, accounting for 30 of the top 50 institutions. The US is followed by Japan and South Korea with seven institutions each. Ever asked how many patents are produced by our universities? None!The World University Rankings is certainly a controversial issue, but there are certain basic borderline criteria’s that need to be met before even volunteering one’s institution for quality analysis. Measuring quantity, preparing useless cosmetic paper works, bell curve marking criteria’s and overburdening students with course work is not the solution. The churning out of knowledge and creativity deficient students with highest GPA’s is a strong reflection of our declining standards of education. It is time to concentrate on quality output, instead of creating an unending crop of illiterates.

nThe writer is a PhD in Information Technology, alumni of King’s College London and a social activist. He is life member of the Pakistan Engineering Council and senior international editor for IT Insight Magazine. He has authored two books titled Understanding Telecommunications and Living In The Grave and several research papers.Blog: drirfanzafar.com Email: drirfanzafar@gmail.com