The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings published earlier this week have come as an unpleasant surprise to those who believe that, despite the dismal quality of our primary education, our institutions of higher learning, especially the Indian Institutes of Technology, are world class.
Of the leading Indian universities, IIT Delhi is ranked globally at 222 with a 49.4% score with IIT Bombay making it to 233 and IIT Kanpur to 295. Delhi University is ranked at 441 while the University of Mumbai made it to a dismal 601.
In contrast, China has three universities in the top 100 with Peking and Tsinghua placed at 46 and 48 and Fudan at 88. Quite shockingly, no Indian university has made it to the top 200.
Few statistics could have brought out as clearly the distance we have to traverse to catch up with our giant neighbour. A sound education is the foundation on which strong nations are built and there's little doubt that the absence of truly exemplary institutions of learning is terrible news for a country that aspires to be a world leader.
Since we can't seem to go forward ourselves, perhaps we can reap some educational benefit from foreign universities that are eager to set up shop here. The government has just announced that it will allow foreign universities to offer degrees at campuses set up in India.
This means Indian students can soon pay in rupees for a world class education without ever leaving Indian shores. Educational institutions that want to operate in India need to be ranked among the top 400 universities in the world.
Let's hope it's the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, ranked the best university in the world, that intends to establish a presence in the Indian higher educational market currently worth Rs 46,200 crore, and not the University of Turin that's ranked 399 or Northeastern University from the US that's ranked at 397 - both, incidentally, way ahead of the Universities of Pune and Kolkata at 701!