ISLAMIC STATES: Plan to measure university standards

Ministers of 57 Islamic states have agreed to establish a system to measure the performance of universities, in an effort to promote innovation and world-class higher education standards.

Performance measurement plans were adopted by the 38th session of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC's) Council of Foreign Ministers, held in Kazakhstan, and included in its resolutions linked to the Astana Declaration of 30 June.

The introduction of key performance indicators for universities in the Islamic world, based on the system used by the University Rankings of the Islamic Countries, is part of the ongoing response to the organisation's 10-year programme of action, which calls for performance reviews of OIC-affiliated universities to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.

It will serve as a tool for promoting excellence and enhancing quality measures across member states' universities as well as providing guidance and criteria for Islamic universities seeking support in competing with world-class universities.

The classification system of the Islamic World Science Citation Centre will be applied to universities in all member states. The key performance indicators cover research (50%) and education (35%) performance, international outlook (7%), facilities (3%) and socio-economic impact (5%).

They will include the number of patents granted to universities, and research quality, performance and volume and its rate of growth. Education indicators will include the number of faculty members with awards, highly cited researchers, the proportion of faculty members with a PhD, ratio of faculty to students, ratio of postgraduate students, rate of growth of postgraduate students and students wining international Olympiads.

International outlook will be measured using the following indicators: ratio of international faculty to total faculty; ratio of international students to total students; ratio of faculty members with foreign PhDs; faculty members with PhDs; international conferences organised; and the numbers of international exchange programmes and beneficiaries.

Facilities will be measured by indicators including number of book titles per student, number of journals and periodicals accessible, and number of research institutes and centres. Socio-economic impact will be measured by calculating contracts and consultancies incomes, lifelong learning courses, entrepreneurship programmes and industrial linkages, as well as the number of incubated projects and spin-off companies

The results of measuring the performance of universities in Islamic countries will be presented at an extraordinary Islamic conference of ministers of higher education and scientific research, to be hosted by Saudi Arabia later this year.

Hassanuddeen Abd Aziz, dean of the Centre for Postgraduate Studies at the International Islamic University Malaysia, told University World News: "It is a good step in a long road for reforming universities in the Islamic world."

But Hilmi Salem, Director General of Applied Sciences and Engineering Research Centres at the Palestine Technical University, said: "These university performance indicators are just re-inventing a broken wheel. It imitates global university ranking systems, as it focuses significantly on research, but at the same time gives little attention to socio-economic impact, which is one of the main roles of universities towards society's development."

He suggested employability as a good indicator for the outcome of education and research skills acquired. "With graduate unemployment being one of the main reasons for the Arab revolutions, employability must be added to the strategic indicators for measuring performance of universities."

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