Asia’s innovative varsities list: Low ranking of IITs, IISc not surprising | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Asia’s innovative varsities list: Low ranking of IITs, IISc not surprising

Two IITs and IISc are at the bottom of the Reuters Top 75: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities list. This will cause heartburn , but isn’t it high time that we ask why other institutions of higher learning in India don’t even figure on these lists

analysis Updated: Sep 01, 2016 09:30 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
It will be a futile exercise to promote research and scholarship in universities without a public policy commitment to have a better faculty-student ratio, says C Raj Kumar, founding vice chancellor, OP Jindal Global University
It will be a futile exercise to promote research and scholarship in universities without a public policy commitment to have a better faculty-student ratio, says C Raj Kumar, founding vice chancellor, OP Jindal Global University (Saumya Khandelwal/HT Photo)

The Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi and Mumbai are at the bottom of Reuters Top 75: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities list. The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the only other Indian institute in the list, is ranked 73.

“World-class campuses like IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay may have ranked much higher on the list if they weren’t grouped in with smaller and newer institutes like IIT Tirupati and IIT Palakkad,” said Reuters.

Read: IITs at the bottom of Asia’s innovative univ ranking, patent system to be blamed

The embarrassingly low rankings will lead to heartburn and discussion on what ails these institutes, but isn’t it high time that we also ask why other institutions of higher learning in India don’t even ever figure on these lists.

The fact that IIT Delhi and IIT Bombay could have ranked higher if they were not “grouped” with under-performing institutes only proves that are too many under-performers in the system.

Reuters ranking is based on a methodology that focuses on academic papers, which indicate basic research performed at a university, and patent filings, which point to an institution’s interest in protecting and commercializing its discoveries.

WHAT AILS HIGHER EDUCATION IN INDIA?

Political interference: Here’s an example: The BJP-run Gujarat government recently gave a list of 82 ‘preferred’ topics to universities for doctoral theses. The list includes central and state government programmes such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and the Gujarat government’s Kanya Kelavani, Gunotsav and MA Yojana.

In other words, PhD candidates — who are supposed to come up with their own topics after researching them well — are now being nudged towards “pre-determined topics”. So they really don’t need to spend time on the process of arriving at a topic, it is already there on a platter.

Read: Politics killing India’s higher education system

Second, modernisation of syllabus or curriculum is imperative in today’s world.

Third, lack of autonomy and regulation: “The first and most important reform for world-class universities is to free them from the shackles of academic bureaucracy and from all forms of external intervention that impedes their growth and evolution,” says C Raj Kumar, founding vice chancellor, OP Jindal Global University. The existing regulatory framework makes universities function like mediocre departments within the government structure where decision-making is hierarchical, frustratingly slow and lacks the vision and imagination for institution building.

Funding and Resources: Every aspect of it, be it the recruitment of faculty, funding for research, support for research centres, creation of incubation centres, development of physical infrastructure, use of technology, provision for holistic learning and student experiences on campus and beyond, and international opportunities for students — all require significant funding.

Faculty and Research: There cannot be a standardised system of faculty salaries in which all members, regardless of their qualification, academic performance, academic standing, and research work and publication record need to be given same salaries because of their years of work experience, or for that matter seniority. “It will be a futile exercise to promote research and scholarship in universities and encourage faculty members to take research seriously without an equally important public policy commitment to have a better faculty-student ratio. This can help in reducing the teaching responsibilities so that they engage in research and knowledge creation,” added C Raj Kumar.

Writer tweets @kumkumdasgupta