Rwandan varsities in drive to improve global rankings

EVERY JANUARY AND JULY, Spanish research think-tank Cybermetrics Lab, publishes the ranking of world universities according mainly to their performance and visibility on the web.
Webometrics ranked Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) at 171st place in Africa and 8,559 globally. The New Times/ File.
Webometrics ranked Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) at 171st place in Africa and 8,559 globally. The New Times/ File.

EVERY JANUARY AND JULY, Spanish research think-tank Cybermetrics Lab, publishes the ranking of world universities according mainly to their performance and visibility on the web.

The rankings, which have been done since 2004 and arguably the largest academic ranking of higher education institutions in the world, aim at encouraging visibility of academic and research institutions on the Web and to promote open access publication of scientific results for the benefits of the global community.

But over the past few years, local public and private universities have been ranking poorly in the world and in Africa, something which has generated debate in the academia and general public. The latest rankings, released last July, were no different.

The National University of Rwanda (NUR), which was ranked the first in the country, came at the 4,470th position in the world and the 77th in Africa. This means that the country’s oldest public university lost 830 places in the world and 19 in Africa compared to the January rankings.

In January 2013, NUR was the 3,631st in the world and 58th in Africa. In the latest rankings, Webometrics put Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) at 171st place in Africa and 8559 globally while Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) is placed at 340 position in Africa and 13627 in the world. Kigali Health Institute (KHI) comes at the 371st position in Africa and 14240th in the world, while Kigali Independent University is ranked as the 15,559th in the world, Umutara Polytechnic comes at 19,397th with Institut d’Agriculture de Technologie et d’Éducation de Kibungo (INATEK) at 20,842nd out of 21,000 ranked universities globally.

There is no common consensus on the reason for the poor rankings, but some observers have blamed universities and lecturers for not conducting research and publicising their findings in globally renowned journals while others blamed it to lack of enough resources.

University representatives speak out


Cybermetrics Lab uses quantitative methods to rank world universities and has designed indicators that allow it to measure the scientific activity of universities on the Web.

The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, one of the critical measures tracked by top universities to measure themselves in the digital space, is based on a composite indicator that takes into account the volume of the web content, the visibility and impact of these web publications and the traffic they receive.

In an interview with The New Times, INATEK’s Partnership and Public Relations Officer, Samuel Musindi, said they are focused at improving the quality of education they provide and improving on research.

“We have been conducting quite a lot of research but our journal is not recognised on the international level,” Musindi, also the university spokesperson,  said. “We want to promote our journal and make sure it meets international standards.”

According to Musindi, efforts to have international reviewers for the journal and acquire International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for the journal are underway to help increase the varsity’s visibility on the global scene.

“We are also encouraging lecturers to keep conducting research and publishing findings for the benefit of the community,” Musindi noted.

According to Musindi, the university is working on improving its website and content. In addition, he said, they are looking at forging a partnership with world renowned universities, including those from Europe and America, to conduct joint research and education programmes.

“We believe all that will improve our visibility on the global scene thus improve on our rankings,” Musindi said. “But most importantly we believe it will improve on the quality of education we provide,” Musindi said.

Efforts to get a comment from NUR’s director of research were futile by press time. But the university’s Director of Quality, Prof. Bonfils Safari,  had previously told The New Times that the drop in international rankings could be a result of ‘periodical activities’ of the university.

Because the evaluation depends mainly on the web visibility and publications, Safari said, the university’s online presence is mostly remarkable in the last six months of the year

“Much of our activities are concentrated in the second part of the year,” Safari told The New Times, citing research conferences, publications, graduation ceremonies and other academic activities which mostly take place between July and December.

“That’s why the university has proved to rank better in [the] January [report],” Safari said.

He also noted that the university is working on improving its website to make it more dynamic for better  visibility.

Is  ‘One University’ the solution?


Though observers seems to be divided on who should bear the blame for the poor rankings of local universities, with some blaming lecturers and researchers while others believe the dons lack proper facilitation to carry out their work properly, there is a growing optimism that the envisaged ‘One University’ will help address the issue.

The University of Rwanda, as it will be named, will be a merger of seven major public higher learning institutions, namely the National University of Rwanda (NUR), Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (ISAE), School of Finance and Banking (SFB), Umutara Polytechnic (UPU) and Kigali Health Institute (KHI).

A bill establishing the ‘One University’ has already been endorsed by the lower chamber of parliament and is likely to start operations the next academic year due to start in September.

KIE Vice-Rector for Academics Prof. Wenceslas Nzabalirwa told this paper he believes the envisaged ‘One University’ system will improve on the higher education standards and international rankings.

Amongst the expected results, Nzabalirwa said, include the sharing of resources and harmonisation of programmes.

That will make the university a stronger institution and will improve its visibility on the global scene, Nzabalirwa said.

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