[INTERVIEW] University of Rwanda aims to be among top 20 in Africa

The Centre for World University Rankings last week released its 2014 edition dominated by American universities. In the region, Uganda’s Makerere University was ranked 7th in Africa and emerged number 891 globally.
Prof. Nelson Ijumba. (Timothy Kisambira)
Prof. Nelson Ijumba. (Timothy Kisambira)

The Centre for World University Rankings last week released its 2014 edition dominated by American universities. In the region, Uganda’s Makerere University was ranked 7th in Africa and emerged number 891 globally. Jean de la Croix Tabaro asked Prof. Nelson Ijumba, the deputy vice chancellor for academic and research at the University of Rwanda (UR) why the university did not feature.

Why was UR not ranked?

UR has so far not participated in any of the rankings, except for the Ranking Web of Universities where some of our colleges participated before UR was formed. The web ranking institution, which is commonly known as webometrics, ranks universities on the basis of their websites, with or without their knowledge or consent. 

Are there particular requirements a university must meet in order to be ranked?

A university wishing to be ranked has to engage with specific ranking bodies, by providing them with institutional data in the required format. Each of the ranking bodies has a number of indicators in which the performance of the institution is assessed and scored. The indicators cover areas such as research productivity, quality in teaching, academic reputation, employability of graduates, capacity to attract external research and other funds, proportion of foreign staff and students. 

The Ranking Web of Universities ranks based on their webpages in terms of visibility(impact) and content(presence, openness and research excellence). No submission of any other data is required of the institution.

Which are the important ranking agencies in the area of education?

The main and well known ones are:

a) The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) also known as Shanghai Jiao Tong

b) The Times Higher Education (THE)

c) Quacquarelli Symonds (QS)

d) The Ranking Web of Universities (or Webometrics)

Which ones these have ranked UR?

So far, UR has not been ranked by any of them because it is a relatively new institution. We will need at least three years to acquire data that is specific to UR. However, we are preparing ourselves and working on improving indicators relevant in the Ranking Web of Universities.

UR is going to participate actively in the ranking systems because we believe it is an important driver of quality. The objective is, in ten years' time, is for UR to be among the Top 20 universities in Africa and Top 400 in the World.

What do these rankings add to university or country?

Ranking is an important driver of quality because an institution is forced to conform with international benchmarks. A ranked institution is more known and this advantages it in terms of attracting good students, researchers and scholars. It enhances its opportunities to attract large research grants as well as form meaningful partnerships and collaborative linkages.

A country with ranked institutions benefits in terms of the outputs of its quality graduates as well as quality research which enables the country to be an active participant in the knowledge economy fostering socio-economic transformation.

A university that is not ranked will be less known and this will impact on its ability to attract quality staff, students and external funding for research grants.

How fair are ranking agencies?

They are as fair as any assessment system is based on certain assumptions and parameters. There has always been a discussion on how fair it is to judge with the same standard institutions that are emerging with the long established ones.

In response, ranking bodies have introduced regionally based ranking systems which try and compare institutions in the same region or grouping, by using indicators that are more applicable to the region.

This also gives the institutions to participate in the global rankings as they improve their positions in the regional ones. Examples of regional ranking systems are: BRICS (by THE, QS and RWU), QS Asia and QS South America. Discussions are underway to establish regional ranking systems for Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

A part from Makerere University no other university in the region was ranked among the top 1,000. Can you give an expert advice to local universities on how to prepare for the next rankings?

It is true that many universities in the region and the rest of the continent have not participated in the rankings. In Africa, ranked institutions have mostly been from South Africa and Egypt. However, there is increasing realization of rankings as a way of promoting quality in delivery.

It is essential for local and regional institutions to participate in such benchmarking systems as one way of ensuring quality and standards.

 

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