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How to make it to THE list

What has IIT-Guwahati been doing right to secure 87th rank in the Times Higher Education list of promising young institutes under the age of 50?

education Updated: May 07, 2014 10:21 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

It’s young, “dynamic”, and in the news. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, which has made it to the Times Higher Education (THE) 2014 list of 100 of the world’s top universities under 50 years of age recently, is just 20 years old. Set up in 1994, it is ranked 87 with the New University of Lisbon, Portugal, and the University of Western Sydney, Australia.

On why IIT-G fared better than other “young” IITs in Mandi, Patna, Jodhpur or Indore, Phil Baty, editor, THE, says the institute “stands out” because of its very high research impact. The papers it has published are highly influential and cited by other scholars around the world. “The fact that it made to the top 100 is because its research output is starting to influence global research, pushing boundaries of knowledge and being disseminated around the world community.” It has also done relatively well on the teaching indicator and has good indicators for faculty student ratio,” Baty adds.

Contacted before the release of the THE list and unaware of the ranking, Professor Gautam Biswas, director, IIT-G, which gave India its ` symbol (it was designed by D Udaya Kumar of the design department), said he had been for long focusing on breaking the “jinx of rankings.” Faculty members and students, he said, were being motivated by being repeatedly reminded that the country had produced great scientists like CV Raman, Sir JC Bose, Satyendra Nath Bose and Dr Homi Bhabha. “IIT-G faculty members are very keen to perform and publish their work in typical top-tier journals,” Biswas adds.

Baty says THE refers to the under-50 list as ‘bespoke rankings’ as the methodology for the traditional world rankings is “recalibrated’. The weight given to “reputation” is reduced as younger institutes have not had the time, say like Oxford or Harvard, to build global reputations and more of the hard objective indicators are used.

IIT-G has key focus on pathbreaking collaborations. The faculty of the department of electronics and electrical engineering has made significant advances in the area of smart grids and is participating in a project with the Assam Electricity Grid Corporation Limited. Another group has been interacting with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)to try and develop high power microwave tubes. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is in the process of setting up a space engineering centre on campus. Faculty members in mechanical engineering have been able to create efficient biomass reactors for fuel conversion process. A significant contribution has been made in the field of computational fluid dynamics (science of fluids in motion — the subdisciplines of which include aerodynamics and hydrodynamics). A programme is also being created for the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. Work is also continuing on the development of new generation cancer gene therapy vectors.

For an international reach, IIT-G has tied up with Gifu University, Japan, in advanced manufacturing processes and plant biology. Other student and knowledge exchange programmes are being worked out with universities in Australia, Professor Biswas adds.

Since Assam has a number of refineries, the chemical engineering department is working with the petroleum industry on a number of interesting projects, including energy-based research, conversion of biomass into fuel, and helping develop new combustion technology.

The surprise element in the rankings, says Baty, is the very rich diverse range of countries. US, UK, and western European dominance has reduced to give way to institutes from the Middle East, East Asia and now India. “This list of the young prospects shows that the future is more bright and there is cause for optimism that the young institutions can make an impact. Hopefully, the other young universities will make an appearance in the not too distant future,” he concludes.

Coming up tops in desh ki seva
# As Assam makes significant contribution to the petroleum industry and has a number of oil refineries, IIT-G faculty is working with refineries for energy-based research, conversion of biomass into fuel, helping develop new ­combustion technology
# The civil engineering department is working on collaborative projects with the Indian Railways to lay tracks and build stations, aiming to
connect remote northeast areas
# Water resources engineering and geology-geophysics departments to set up a Centre for Disaster Mitigation in association with the Government of Assam

Some ranking indicators

Research from industry/academic staff

Reputation survey – teaching

Staff-to-student ratio

PhDs awarded/­undergraduate degrees awarded

PhDs awarded/academic staff

Institutional income/­academic staff

Citation impact (­normalised average ­citations per paper)Research – volume, income and reputation

Reputation survey – research

Research income/­academic staff

Scholarly papers/(academic and research staff)