MONROVIA – The indications that Liberia’s education has been on a decline in recent time and falls far below standards that it cannot be compared with what is obtainable in other countries came to the fore last week when the 2022 edition of the acclaimed Times Higher Education World University Rankings stated that none of the universities in Liberia made the list of the first 300 universities out of some 2090 universities surveyed in Africa during the period under review.
The University of Liberia, the oldest and largest public higher institution in the country was ranked at 337th, making it the least rated government university in the West African Subregion and it is ranked at 6,470th on the global stage while the closest the African Methodist Episcopal University(AMEU) is ranked at 1032nd in Africa while on globally is at number 20204.
According to the detailed listing, South Africa topped the list of the universities surveyed in Africa with four of its universities occupying the first 4 places which in descending order included the Universities of Cape Town, Witwatersrand, Stellenbosh and Pretoria. The University of Cairo in Egypt is at the 5th place, thereafter other universities from South Africa and Egypt dominated places followed by Morocco, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Ghana and Nigeria.
The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are the only global performance tables that judge research-intensive universities across all their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. It also used 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons, trusted by researchers, academics, university leaders, industry and governments.
The performance indicators are grouped into five areas: Teaching (the learning environment); Research (volume, income and reputation); Citations (research influence); International outlook (staff, students and research); and Industry income (knowledge transfer).
The latest ranking is not far from the reality that one of the oldest higher institutions of learning in West Africa has failed to live up to its expectation and there has not been a real program set up to put the institution at par with its counterparts in the subregion. There has been growing number of students getting enrolled every year, probably because of the tuition free initiative embarked upon by the government to ‘remove the burden of the cost of education from parents and students”
As good as the policy may be, stakeholders including lecturers and students believe the exercise was cleverly designed by the government to divert its attention from funding the University of Liberia and the real cost of it all is the sharp decline in the quality of education being offered at the largest institution of learning in the country.
“The ranking at 337 should not even be the figure, it should have been worse than this because the standard of education has really dropped and you can see it from the output of the graduates in recent times. One finds it very difficult to distinguish a graduate and a student when you hear them speak or you give them something to write. This is shameful”, an education rights activist , Steven Worjlah-Worjlah II told the paper recently.
It will be extremely hard for any of the universities in Liberia, be it public or private to meet an appreciable benchmark set up by the international rating institutions because there has not been enough investment towards attaining the standards set for higher institutions key among them being the learning environment and research where qualified teachers, mainly professors are needed to teach, direct and supervise students and studies in the various departments of the university for scholarly production.