Tanzanian Universities Falling Behind Global Rankings: A Critical Look at Education Quality

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Tanzanian universities totalling 30 plus have seen only 27 picking some ranking, with three universities getting unmarked. Days are gone when local universities used to be pillars of education as international orders keep cutting them down to their measly sizes. This article reviews factors universities’ rankers use to determine the quality of education each university offers, and the strengths and weaknesses of such rankings are now considered. Just imagine that the reputable university in East Africa, the University of Dar es Salaam, is wobbling in those continental rankings.

The top 7 positions in the international ranking of universities in Tanzania are grabbed by public universities and religiously affiliated churches following suit. The topmost university in those rankings is the University of Dar es Salaam, but the African order stands at 37.

The University of Nairobi is number one in East Africa, while in Africa, scoops number 7. Makerere University is second in East Africa and 16th in Africa. Kenyatta University is third in East Africa and 28th in Africa. Strathmore is fourth in East Africa, and in Africa is 28th. Once the epitome of academic excellence, the University of Dar es Salaam is fifth in East Africa and, as we have already said, is 37th overall in Africa.

The University of Dar es Salaam is a public university in Tanzania. It was established in 1961 as an affiliated college of the University of London. The university has five campuses in and around Dar es Salaam and operates academically through ten faculties, some exclusive to specific campuses. For example, the College of Engineering and Technology campus houses the faculties of mechanical and chemical engineering, electrical and computer systems engineering, and civil engineering and the built environment.

The humanities and social sciences faculty is active in the Mkwawa University College of Education campus and the Dar es Salaam University College of Education. The University of Dar es Salaam was ranked #701+ in QS World University Rankings 2016.

It was also ranked 1501 in World University Rankings by Times Higher Education. On 3rd August 2021, the University of Dar es Salaam bragged about its exquisite ranking, claiming it had emerged as the only University in Tanzania among the leading 50 Universities in Africa in the Ranking Web of World Universities (Webometrics). In the list of top universities released in July 2021, UDSM was in 42nd position in Africa, the 1,911th globally and the 1st among 51 Universities in Tanzania.

The Webometrics ranking measures the volume, visibility and impact of the web pages published by universities, particularly emphasising the scientific output. The 2021 ranking by Webometrics shows that the UDSM had made progress globally compared to the ranking released in January 2021, where it emerged at 1,971th and has continued to maintain its 1st position in Tanzania.

The top rank of the University of Dar es Salaam was never in doubt, but her continental and global ranking slide is worrisome. As it takes a tumble, other local universities follow suit for some arcane reasons, showing no sign of challenging her from her unenvious perch! UDSM seems content with its domestic academic laurels!

Read Related: Strategies to Embrace Tanzanian Education with AI-Powered Tech.

Except for Webometrics, other universities ranking institutions depend on the information the universities share. The nasty lessons from the North American universities have doubted the logic of permitting universities to evaluate themselves.

Universities are in business to make money, so they have every reason to speed up their academic inventories to scale up the education ladder. The rewards are bountiful. Students and parents alike do take university ranking akin to a holy grail. They trust them as reflective of reality, but revelations in North American universities have left us smarting up from being intentionally misled. The rankings have turned out to be opportunities for indoctrination, brainwashing and propaganda. Top universities attract top donors, top students and top faculty.

But if universities cheat about their academic assets, most rankers will take them for their word, opening the door to cooked data. Even Webometrics is not above criticism. Although it tracks all relevant data linked to most universities’ education quality, it ran into a ditch when appraising published academic work.

Webometrics is limited to tallying the number of publications without assaying their quality. So, the data assembled speaks of quantities but makes no effort to address the quality issues that tell us about any university’s academic strengths. Webometrics cannot ascertain the integrity of the paper qualifications the dons armed themselves with. Bogus certificates will still be regarded as genuine by Webometrics.

Almost all university-ranking institutions take the number of academic certifications and experience of the teaching staff for granted without considering the proliferation of bogus degrees and unqualified dons in some of these universities.

At the development of Dodoma University, many applicants and those who qualified and were hired had forged degrees. The issues were raised, but how they were resolved was unclear or straightforward. Assuming fake doctorates were applied in determining the quality of education at this university, the public was taken for a ride.

The Rot in Tanzanian Universities

The quality of education begins at its foundation: a primary school, which few care about. The type of education in primary schools is still based on learning by rote with an overemphasis on sitting for examinations and passing them. Out of pressure to excellence, an effort to steal exams or having non-students do the exams on the student’s behalf is no longer an exception but a growing problem.

Lecturers selling their paper exams no longer news or sexual favours exchanged for passing exams have been recorded. Still, given the simplistic way students are evaluated, there are too many loopholes to cheat to obtain academic paperwork one needs to secure a plum job somewhere.

Having to pay for higher education has also posed a challenge to students as insufficient funds or lack of them lead to side jobs that may not exclude prostitution. Cases of students enduring hunger for days without relief have been shared, leaving us with one question about giving cash instead of food stamps. Money can be misdirected to non-foodstuffs, but food stamps make it challenging to dispose of non-foodstuffs, albeit a black market can also arise as demand grows.

Of the academic parameters, none of these ranking institutions ever evaluate the relevance of education in the 21st century. While the Ministry of Education recalibrated the teaching curriculum, the content of subjects remains a stagnation factor. A feeble effort is taken to equip students with relevant education that will transition them from studying to self-employment. Our education teaching curriculum is a dinosaur and should be demolished immediately. We have to endpaper examinations and promote practical skills.

Colonial education that we religiously observed was aimed at preparing Africans to work in auxiliary jobs that demanded cramming skills, with very little creativity needed. We were being cooked to obey colonial orders, but such a scenario no longer bogged us down in the information age. We need more skills leading to startup companies rather than honing the skills of job seekers. We must budget at least a trillion Shillings annually to encourage projects that generate income and jobs.

We have been doling our money to entertainers who add very little wealth beyond wealth transfer. We bribe them with loans to build stately homes for themselves, but those sweating to produce new ideas that have a multiplier effect are rarely rewarded for their toil. Our economy is structured to sustain political class rather than production. As a result, poverty shall never depart from us.

In flashback, is Nairobi University better than the University of Dar es Salaam? Nobody knows, but all ranking systems are faulty and should not be taken seriously.

Also read: Unemployment Crisis: Should the Government Be Blamed or Are the Youth a Burden to the Nation?

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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1 month ago

100% am in agreement! Did they forgot about the lecturers cum predators? I have my own daughter at one of the universities here! Some very sad stories of forceful sexual advances in the pretext of academic scores!
Some should not only be ranked low but banned from running the business

1 month ago

You are very right!

Elias Nyanza
Elias Nyanza
28 days ago

1st – The entire Discussion is about the University of Dar es Salaam and not the Tanzanian Universities. 2-The top 7 universities in TZA are not all public ones.

Rutashubanyuma Nestory
Rutashubanyuma Nestory
21 days ago
Reply to  Elias Nyanza

Is what was recorded on UDOM part of UDSM?

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