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African Universities Want Fairness in Global Rankings

Education managers from universities in Africa and Germany have poked holes in the world university rankings over what they called biased criteria used in the rankings.
Prof. Frank Ziegele, the Executive Director Centre for Higher Education.

Audio 6

Education managers from universities in Africa and Germany have poked holes in the world university rankings over what they called biased criteria used in the rankings.

Prof. Frank Ziegele, the Executive Director, Centre for Higher Education says the rankings are political and aimed at sidelining developing countries.

He said this while delivering his presentation on whether rankings drive change, at Makerere University during a half-day Public Forum on Higher Education.

The forum that was organised by the College of Education and External Studies- CEES in collaboration with the University Of Applied Sciences Of Osnabruck in Germany, attracted over 100 scholars from universities in Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Germany.

This consortium of scholars viewed the rankings as tainted with biases that in the end damage individual university reputations, once the rankings are out.
  

Prof. Ziegele said these global university rankings pose minimal advantages and present huge challenges in terms of influencing public policy towards the rankings.

He says the rankings are biased towards science and technology which disadvantages research in the humanities; create league tables which are harmful since there are no specific parameters.

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These eventually damage the university reputations by creating biases in terms of enrollments and attracting funding from both their governments and external donors according to Prof. Ziegele.

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Prof. Ziegele says world ranking companies such as Quacquarelli Symonds- PS, a British company specialising in education and study abroad, and Times Higher Education World University Rankings do not focus on research based understanding of excellence in teaching which he says is a major tool that could help categorise most of African Universities.

Dr. Vincent Ssembatya, the Director Quality Assurance at Makerere University, said universities in Africa continue to operate under severe challenges which do not favour them in the global ranking competitions.

Dr. Ssembatya says challenges such as under funding, local demands, infrastructural challenges, welfare of the staff make it unfair for the global ranking institutions to generalise them.

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The scholars want special parameters set to include all aspects that affect the universities on the African continent.  

Dr. Ssembatya argues that in order for universities in Africa to compete favourably with other world class universities, they need to set internal, national and regional mechanisms to be able to influence the global rankings.

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Dr. Peace Buhwamatsiko Tumuheki, a lecturer at the School of Distance Learning at Makerere is, however, opposed to the idea of African universities beginning their own ranking forums arguing that it increases mediocrity.

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Dr. Buhwamatsiko however noted that although a lot of research from African universities is not used by global ranking schemes to position the universities.

She says that such should not demotivate them to think of only having own ranking but rather re-position themselves to compete favourably with other world class universities.

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In the QS World University Rankings for 2017-2018, the University of Cape Town, ranked the best in Africa, is in position 191 in the world. It is followed by Stellenbosch University, ranked 361st in the world. The University of Witwatersrand is in 364th position followed by the American university in Cairo in 395th position.