Giving India a leg-up

  • Gauri Kohli, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 08, 2014 13:10 IST

The performance of Indian universities in the recent major global rankings has hardly sprung any surprises. No Indian institute features among the top 200 in the 2014 QS World University Rankings. As last year, the top placed Indian institution is 222nd in the world, a position held this time by IIT Bombay, which overtakes IIT Delhi for the first time, the latter slipping to rank 235. In the Times Higher Education (THE) rankings for 2014-15, apart from Panjab University and IISc, Bangalore, only the IITs of Bombay and Roorkee could make it to the top 400.

India’s strength is in the QS survey of academics, in which two leading IITs, Delhi University and IISc feature in the top 200. The weakest elements for India are the proportions of foreign staff and students. Ben Sowter, who is responsible for the rankings as head of the QS Intelligence Unit, says: “India may not have made as much progress as it would have liked in the new rankings, but Indian universities are engaging with the rankings more than ever before and this should bear fruit in the medium term.”

QS and THE are two of the major ranking systems globally and officials from both the rankings have expressed interest in lending support to India and also help in developing the necessary system for an India-specific ranking, if needed. So, is QS working on developing a ranking system for Indian universities? “We have always maintained that domestic rankings should be led by domain experts who are better placed to understand the nuance, mood and requirements of the country where they are based. The Indian Centre for Assessment & Accreditation (ICAA) has been instrumental in helping many Indian institutions understand our approach and in engaging with key policy makers in India. In return, should they proceed with a ranking in India, QS would gladly lend expertise and counsel, and subject to the agreement of institutions, sharedata where we have it. Any such conversation is at an early stage and would require extensive consultation with the sector,” says a spokesperson from QS World University Rankings.

As an external observer, QS is also interested in HRD minister Smriti Irani’s ambitious plans for a higher education system overhaul, which includes a proposal to create a national ranking system of central universities.

“It is certainly an interesting idea. Rankings create a data-driven culture which can have a positive impact on the governance of universities, access to public funding and private investments. This, in turn, will affect and hopefully improve the overall students’ experience,” adds the QS spokesperson.

Times Higher Education Rankings is happy to be working with the Indian government to share data and insights over time to ensure that India’s top universities can track progress towards their goals. Phil Baty, editor of the THE’s World University Rankings, says that if more Indian varsities open up for evaluation against global benchmarks, a new matrix could be developed specifically for India. “The global rankings don’t perfectly capture everything that India does, the local nuances and the good work Indian universities do, but officials in the government, the Planning Commission and Indian varsities now agree that one has to compare themselves with the best globally, otherwise India risks falling behind. We ran a policy dialogue on rankings with the MHRD and Planning Commission in 2013, and have remained in informal discussions about this,” says Baty.

Top institutes on global rankings

Rank 222
IIT Bombay has overtaken IIT Delhi for the first time on the QS World Rankings 2014-15

IIT Delhi slipped to 235 on the latest QS rankings. However, it does not feature in the top 400 of the THE rankings

The institution falls under the 351-400
bracket in the latest THE rankings

The Indian Institute of Science was among the top ranked Indian institutions in the THE 2014 rankings

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