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UJ is 5 stars!

Jul 25,2019 - Last updated at Jul 25,2019

A couple of days ago, the University of Jordan (UJ) received the thrilling news from one of the leading international organisations in university rankings, QS, that it has made it to the five-star category for the year 2019.

This is a huge leap forward, and a development of great significance.

Much can be said about this auspicious historic moment.

However, I wish to confine myself to the following points.

First of all, what happened is indeed a “leap”. In 2013, UJ was awarded the humble three-star status by QS. In 2017, it made it to the four-star category. A few days ago, it became five stars. 

So in just five years, it jumped from three to five stars: A top, prestigious category.

This is no small feat.

But the details of this historic leap are equally, if not more, interesting.

Universities are assessed by QS and rated on the basis of a total of eight standards. In six of them, UJ scored five. These are: teaching, employability, internationalisation, facilities, inclusiveness and innovation. In two of them, it got four and three: Four in specialist subjects and three in research.

The six categories in which UJ scored five speak for themselves.

Regarding specialist subjects, in which UJ obtained four, there is a lot of good news. In chemistry, UJ ranked among the top 500 in the globe, in medicine among the top 450, in electrical engineering among the top 400, in mechanical engineering and IT among the top 350, in pharmacy and agriculture among the top 300.

And it did extremely well in the humanities, social sciences and business. 

As for research, in which UJ obtained three, this is primarily due to the fact that all the research UJ publishes in Arabic is invisible internationally, and therefore does not count for UJ. Thus, UJ is rated on the basis of the research it produces in English only — which is unfair, as UJ is an Arab university that is committed to research relevant to its society and the Arab nation, and as the humanities and social sciences schools, which compose half of the university, teach and do research primarily in Arabic.

Had the research produced by UJ in Arabic been internationally visible, UJ would have easily made it to five in this component.

The second point I wish to underscore is that this remarkable achievement is both cumulative and a result of teamwork.

Cumulative because since 1962, UJ was born a quality institution that took its mission seriously and executed its tasks professionally. The various UJ administrations, with varying degrees of course, have all pushed in the direction of making UJ viable, reliable and outstanding. 

More recently, however, a great deal of effort has been exerted to push for speedier changes and a great deal of efficiency and creativity.

And the outcome testifies to the relevance and success of these efforts.

Teamwork because all members of the UJ community — students, faculty members, administrative staff, the university Quality Assurance and Accreditation Centre, and UJ’s top management and leadership of course — have contributed to this deserved success.

The third point, one which is very little known, is that UJ has achieved this and more with very little means. The budget available to UJ, a university which caters to the needs of 45,000 graduate and undergraduate students, is in the neighbourhood of JD170 million. The budget available to a comparable university in Europe or the US is at least one to two billion euros or dollars: 10 to 20 times higher than the UJ budget. This is not to mention some of those European or American universities, with fewer students than UJ, whose budgets reach as high as 30 or 40 billion.

One hundred and seventy million compared to 1 to 30 billion! Let your imagination do the math, and you will appreciate what UJ has done.

The third point is that the said result is a direct response to those, either out of ignorance and negative second-nature cynicism or maliciousness, who keep putting us and our institutions down, and venting venom that is extremely damaging and subversive.

QS is an extremely professional world organisation which reaches outcomes not on the basis of opinion or observation, but careful assessment of concrete indicators and a meticulous process of evidence-based conclusions.

Its highly positive rating of UJ, which is among only four universities in the Arab world to reach this top five-star standing, and its positive rating of some other Jordanian universities, is an indicator of the health and success of the Jordanian higher education sector: A sector which is both complex, multifaceted and diverse. 

The fifth point is that this milestone achievement, pleasing and uplifting as it obviously is, does by no means mean that UJ is perfect or that all is milk and honey.

Far from it, there are so many problems, mishaps and challenges that need to be addressed, and addressed courageously and head on.

This is why this news will be another incentive for UJ to improve more, reform more, rectify more, innovate more and explore more new avenues.

There is still QS 5+, which is the highest rating, and the dawning of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is posing unprecedented challenges, but is also offering immense opportunities.

Hurray UJ! But much hard work lies ahead.


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