Webometrics: who takes the blame for the poor rankings?

Following the release of the global university rankings by Webometrics in which most of our institutions are ranked at the bottom line, everyone is up in arms blaming the academic staff for the poor performance of our universities.
Stephen Mugisha
Stephen Mugisha

Following the release of the global university rankings by Webometrics in which most of our institutions are ranked at the bottom line, everyone is up in arms blaming the academic staff for the poor performance of our universities.

Whereas the poor performance of our universities is regrettable and unfortunate, it shouldn’t come as a total surprise any way-may be to those who do not follow closely our university education.

Albert Einstein once described insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results’. Have we had any reforms since last year’s rankings, so that our efforts were not recognised?

 Look at some of the university campuses in your neighbourhood; you can hardly differentiate them from grocery stores! I will leave this at that.

Back to the blame game, surely are our dons entirely to blame? Given my background and experience as an academic staff in one of the universities in this country, my answer to this question would be a resounding NO.

Very often we blame the professors for not carrying out research, but to carry out research the professors would need facilitation in terms of resources especially finances.

Do we have funds meant for research set aside in our universities? We tell them to publish or perish, but who funds the publications and research? When they publish are they acknowledged? So, where is the motivation?

One way of increasing visibility and gain professional skills would be through participating and making presentations in international conferences. Do our universities facilitate the academic staff to attend such conferences? 

Through this article I would like to share my experience and frustrations with those who doubt the reality in some of our universities. In 2010, I got partial sponsorship to attend and present a paper in a conference in South Africa after my abstract had been accepted.

According to the arrangement, the host institution (which was also a university any way) had agreed to offer me the accommodation and small living allowance while my university was supposed to give me an air ticket which was about $600 only at the time.

Surely, I was head over heels, my abstract had been accepted and I was going to present in one of the major conferences, alas it was never to be!

Reason? My university could not afford the air ticket, and they did not have such budget line of sponsoring academic staff going for academic conferences! All my pleas fell on deaf ears.

Left with no any other option I turned to the conference organisers and I eventually attended the conference after they (the hosts) agreed to give me full sponsorship-but inside my heart I never forgave my bosses. I do believe this is an experience I share with many individuals in our noble profession.

Publish or perish is an easy phrase to utter, but who cares? As a student of literature one of my dreams was to make sure that in my lifetime I write a book. My dream came into reality in 2008 when I completed my first manuscript (a children story book) ready for publishing.

When I approached the publisher, one of the options she gave me was co-funding. I turned to my organisation/university for financial help so that I get my book published. From my Head of Department to the Rector no one seemed to take an iota of interest in this academic venture!

Anyhow, through persistence and prayer the book was finally published through other arrangements. But did I even get a notice board acknowledgement, no way! The situation was no different in 2010, when I co-authored English textbooks for the Ministry of Education (P1-P3).

Anyway, the list of frustrations can go on and on and I believe there are more lecturers with similar experiences- each of them would have their own story to tell! My point of argument in all this is that before we blame the academicians for the poor visibility of our universities let’s appreciate the bottlenecks and environment in which they work.

How often do we see call for proposals for research and other academic programmes? What budget is earmarked for research in our universities? Does our society appreciate writers and authors?

What motivations are in place to encourage academicians and other potential writers to carry out research and write?  There is sense of optimism that most of the challenges that our universities face will be addressed through the merger of universities that will see creation of University of Rwanda. But how feasible is this?

To be continued in the next article.

The writer is and educationist, author and publisher.

Subscribe to The New Times E-Paper

You want to chat directly with us? Send us a message on WhatsApp at +250 788 310 999    


Follow The New Times on Google News