By Laila Azzeh for the Jordan Times
The Jordanian cabinet approved the mandating reasons of the draft by-law of the Jordanian universities' ranking system, designed to enable the Higher Education Council to ensure a higher quality of education.
The universities will be ranked according to specific criteria, including scientific research and publications, the number of faculty members and enrolled students, in addition to the ratio of foreign students to the total number of students, among others, according to Higher Education Minister Adel Tweisi.
"The main aim of the by-law is to motivate universities to improve their programmes and educational outcomes. Having a local ranking system for higher educational institutions will also enhance their competitiveness in international rankings," he told The Jordan Times on Wednesday.
Tweisi noted that the by-law draft will soon be referred to the Legislation and Opinion Bureau, expecting it be applied as of next month.
On the other hand, at least one public university president criticised the ranking system as being "unfair", saying it cannot be applied to the vast majority of universities.
"The ranking criteria are unfair to most universities, especially those located in remote areas. For example, evaluating a university based on the number of foreigners is very illogical considering the fact they prefer universities in big cities," said president of Tafileh Technical University, Shteiwi Abdulla.
He added that there are less than 40,000 foreign students in Jordanian universities, with most enrolled in Amman and other main cities.
"The criteria will also assess the quality of professors, which is also unfair because those who are highly qualified serve at the University of Jordan [UJ]. The majority of professors in other universities will never be able to compete," Abdulla charged.
He noted that the number of faculty members at the UJ exceeds 2,000, while there are only 240 at his Tafileh-based university.
However, Tweisi highlighted that the evaluation system will be in the form of ranking rather than listing, which tends to determine the position of a country according to a list.
"The ranking will evaluate each programme offered at a university on its own. This means that Al Hussein Bin Talal University, for instance, might be on top in mining engineering or scientific research," the minister clarified.
Abdulla claimed that such a strategy will "not bode well", saying that competing in international rankings should be the focus of universities.
"International rankings are not partial and enable local universities to compete without favouritism, a thing that is unlikely to be the case in local rankings," he said, citing an Australian ranking that placed the Tafileh Technical University among the top five local universities in terms of technical education.
Other university presidents declined to comment on the issue or were unavailable despite several attempts to reach them by The Jordan Times.