Volume I, Issue 1           Monday, August 4th, 2003           Florida State University - Panama Student E-Zine

The Panama University Rankings: Truth or Perception?

(part 1 of a series)
by Leonel Jiménez

     Last July 21, La Prensa published a survey in which they polled students and faculty of Panama’s most prominent universities. The study sought to rate the quality of the local institutions of higher education.

     The report titled "Ranking Universitario 2003,” (University Ranking—UR) takes three areas into consideration: Academic Offerings, Faculty Opinions, and Student Satisfaction. Each factor has a different weight in the survey.

     The survey, based on interviews and polls taken among students and faculty members of each university, highlights the major problems that each institution faces. The main issue, however, is whether the survey is accurate, or is it in fact just a matter of the participants’ perceptions?

     Juan Moreno, the Director of the Institute of National Studies at the University of Panama, states in La Prensa’s July 29 edition: "The ranking is not an institutional evaluation, but rather a collection of perceptions. It is necessary that in future studies the reason for being and the nature of each university is taken into account."

     In any event, our university, Florida State-Panama, according to the UR, is in 6th place, with an overall score of 74.3%. That places us slightly above the University of Panama.

     Although our ranking may seem a bit disappointing, according to the survey our university does exhibit some strong points.

     For instance, with regard to participation in sports we are ranked second. This high showing is thanks to the diversity of sports practiced at FSU-Panama, such as softball, soccer and football. Because we are a smaller school, 66% of our students claimed to have participated in intercollegiate and intramural sports.

     Another strong showing for FSU-Panama is in the efficiency of our registration system for classes, a category in which we had an overall approval score of 96%. Surprisingly, we ranked very high in our cafeteria service as well. FSU-Panama had a high approval rating of 92 % with regard to food services, outscoring the Universidad de Santa María de la Antigua (USMA), which has two highly touted cafeterias on its campus.

     However, not everything came up roses for FSU-Panama in this report. One category suggests that the University drastically needs to improve in the teaching of research skills. In this area FSU-Panama score only a 12 % approval rating. Furthermore, in the category that explores ways in which student performance is evaluated, 38% of our students who were surveyed declared that in many classes they were required to memorize course content. Thus, the conclusion reached by the study suggests that FSU-Panama ranks very low in the area of teaching analytical skills.

     Apart from this, as we well know, FSU-Panama is the most expensive institution in the country. This factor weighs heavily when we talk about the total number of students enrolled here. The average cost to attend FSU-Panama is of $3,160.00 per academic year, and that does not includes insurance, books, and the other fees. Because of the cost, perhaps, FSU-Panama has the smallest student population among the universities surveyed.

     Although we can take pride in our high marks, and at the same time exhibit concern over our low ones, we must keep in mind that the University Rankings is mostly about perceptions. The problem with perceptions is that they tend to distort reality and facts. I, for one, have no doubts that FSU-Panama is a much better institution than indicated by La Prensa’s groundbreaking study.*

*Leonel Jiménez will continue in Pananole News’ next issues with further reflections about La Prensa’s university rankings.

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The Editorials on this website are the opinions of the Editors and may not reflect the official policies of FSU-Tallahassee or FSU-Panama. Articles and columns are the expressed views of the authors and may not represent the opinions of the Editors or FSU-Panama.