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Global University rankings are true estimates

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UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY

The last time that I vividly recall, when the list sported only some 400 countries, only South Africa made the cut. And this year, too, they decently made the list, with the University of Cape Town ranked at 120, and some four or five other major universities in that country also making the cut.

UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY
As usual, I went looking for my graduate alma mater on the list and was a bit chagrined to see that the Owls, as Temple University alumni are affectionately called, had plunged down from 200, the last time that I checked, to between 351-400. Now that is quite a plunge.

The California Institute of Technology (Cal-Tech), I understand, was being ranked number one for the fifth, or so, time, which was not very surprising, in view of the fact that this long-established and globally renowned institution has been at the forefront, or cutting-edge, of science and technology research and corporate-technology transfer for quite some time now.

In the rest of the African continent, Uganda?s Makerere University was positioned at 401-500 on this expanded list of some 800 institutions, while Kenya?s University of Nairobi, the single-largest university campus in Africa on the list, and the University of Ghana, the largest-listed West African University, and Nigeria?s University of Ibadan, literally brought up the rear.

But if it would be of any consolation, Paris-Sorbonne 4 was also ranked among this bottom group of major world academies. Predictably, none of the two other major Ghanaian universities, namely, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and the University of Cape Coast, made the cut. And so in a real sense, when it comes to global-level scholarship and technology production, the putative Doyen of Gold Coast and Modern Ghanaian Politics, Dr. Joseph (Kwame Kyeretwie) Boakye-Danquah, still rules the roost.

I am also convinced, based on the breakdown of the factors that went into the latest rankings, that the latter provides a fairly realistic picture of the true nature of African tertiary academies. The University of Ghana also reflected the most international student enrolment component on the continent, at 2-percent, other than the major South African academies. Nairobi University, with a 72,000-plus student population and 1-percent international student component, perhaps tied with Legon, as the University of Ghana is popularly known in that country, in this sphere of academic internationalism.

I cannot, however, claim to have fully appreciated the meanings of all the factors taken into consideration and upon which these rankings were based. What is clear to me, however, is the fact that much more teaching needs to be done in nearly every major African university, with the possible exception of Cape Town. This may also well have something to do with inadequate supply of teaching materials, particularly in terms of hard- and software technology.

At the University of Ghana, for example, only about 16-percent of effective teaching was observed to be taking place, with the same low-quality level of research being conducted by faculty. Nevertheless, at nearly 50-percentage points, the international outlook of the Danquah Academy (as I have affectionately and historically accurately dubbed the University of Ghana) was quite salutary.

However, Legon?s international student enrolment of just 2-percent, for a population of just over 37,000 leaves much to be desired. Then also, its student-to-faculty ratio of 38:1/1:38 per class is rather high and bound to negatively impact the qualitative delivery of pedagogy.

Compare the foregoing statistic to that of the California Institute of Technology, with a total student enrolment of just over 2,000, and a faculty-to-student ratio of 1:7/7:1, and it becomes poignantly clear that the latter?s number one global ranking has everything to do with its healthily elitist orientation.

Cal-Tech also has an international student enrolment of 27-percent. Compare the foregoing statistic to that of second-ranked Oxford University, with a student population of just under 20,000 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 12:1 /1:12, and the picture of qualitative elitism could not be more poignant.

Whoever thought that at a student population of 37,000, that Legon, or the University of Ghana, would be 10,000-student strong higher than that of its foundational rival and contemporary in the West African sub-region, the University of Ibadan, in a country with a population about seven times the size of Ghana?s? Envisaged in the preceding terms, Legon may not be doing nearly as badly as the gross mismanagement of the country may make it seem.

But what is also clear is the imperative need for industry, or the corporate sector, to massively support the country?s flagship academy, as well as the other major public and private academies, of course. That the student-to-faculty ratio at Ibadan is 17:1 /1:17, makes the 37:1/1:37 situation at Legon all the more crisis-prone. Something ought to be done about this, and promptly so.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net

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