AWKUM stood at number 510 among the international universities

Having its name at the top of all Pakistani universities in recent international rankings of universities released by Times Higher Education must be a matter of honour and pride for all those affiliated with the Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM) in any capacity.

None of the Pakistani universities could find a place among the top 500 universities of the world. AWKUM stood at number 510 among the international universities. Thus it clinched top position among the Pakistani universities. It is followed by the Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad. AWKUM is among the new universities of the country. The project was approved in 2007 and it started formal functioning as a university in 2009. The university is 13 years old and within such a short span of time it managed to outrank many big and old universities in the country.

The rankings are conducted at national and international levels. At national level Higher Education Commission conducts ranking of the universities in the country. At international level two reputed organizations – Time Higher Education World University Rankings and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), popularly known as QS universities ranking.

The indicators for the ranking at national and international levels do not remain the same. The national ranking is undertaken by the HEC, but it has been unable to release such rankings for the past two years. The key indicators for the current international ranking were teaching, research, citation, industry income and international outlook. The key statistics of AWKUM as per the report released by Times Higher Education – the teacher-student ratio is 1-22.7, number of foreign students is just one percent, male and female student ratio is 29-71 and the total enrollment in the university is 9,664.

AWKUM got 13.1 points for teaching, 9.2 for research, 85.5 for citation, 33.4 for industry income and 45.8 for international outlook. These points enabled the university to get leading position in the country and find space close to the top 500 universities in the world.

It is really a proud moment for a new university located in an underdeveloped region to compete with world class universities. The credit for the excellent performance no doubt goes to the founders of the institutions, who not only established a new institution in a hitherto neglected district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but brought it on a par with world class institutions within 10 years.

The founding vice-chancellor of the university Dr Ihsan Ali led the way as it made strides in academics and teaching standards. Dr Ihsan Ali joined the university as project director on July 3, 2007 and set up the institution in a corner of Government Post Graduate College Mardan. He was made the first vice-chancellor of the university in March 2009. He served for two consecutive terms until 2017. It was under him that 250 acres of land was acquired for the university and the main campus was established at a cost of Rs4.32 billion. The university ran a number of campuses in other districts and several have now been upgraded to university level. The best possible faculty was hired for the university. Having done his PhD from University of Cambridge, UK, he made every effort to recruit highly qualified teachers. Also, he took keen interest in send students and faculty members abroad for higher studies.

For the purpose memorandums of understandings were inked with leading universities of the world including Birmingum City University, Brunei University, London, Durham University UK, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, University of Liester UK, University of Sheffield UK, University fo Southampton UK, University of Rostok, Germany, University of Ulm Germany, University of Malaya, Malaysia, University of Technology Malaysia, Sejong University South Korea, Kyungpook National University South Korea, University of Barcelona, Spain, University of Glasgow, UK, University of York, UK, University of Kentucky USA, North Dakota State University, USA, Victoria University, New Zealand and Massey University, New Zealand.

Under these MoUs these universities not only offered admissions to the students and faculty members of AWKUM for higher studies but also made concessions with them in charges. The majority of the students sent abroad have returned to the university. According to official documents, some 101 students/teachers of the university were sent abroad for PhD, 66 were awarded scholarships to do PhD in the universities in the country and 60 were enrolled in AWKUM for PhD. The university won the top position in Pakistan mainly because of the points it got for citation and international outlook. It means the articles contributed by the scholars of the university abroad were cited the most. It was because of these scholars that the university’s international outlook improved. All those scholars were sent abroad during 2009 and 2017 – the time when Dr Ihsan Ali was the vice-chancellor. After his retirement, the university remained without a vice-chancellor for several months. Dr Khurshed from University of Bedford was finally appointed the vice-chancellor for three-year term. He has now returned to resume his work at the University of Birmingham. Surprisingly, the university has been functioning without a regular vice-chancellor for the last eight months. It is on the record no teacher or other staff member was hired during the last three years and none could be sent abroad for higher studies. The financial position of the university deteriorated after Dr Ihsan Ali’s retirement. Instead some 300 employees of the university were terminated during the three years after him.

Also, the University of Bedford from where the vice-chancellor had been brought has got a position far below than AWKUM. It stands somewhere near 900th position in the international rankings.

The article is originally published at The News.