When we started preparing the first perspective plan for IIM Udaipur, one of the questions we asked ourselves was: could we learn from the ranking lists of top global institutions. One of the best known of these lists is the QS Top 100 World University Rankings. In 2011, when IIMU was created, there were no Indian institutes on this list and that is still the case today. But when we looked at the list more closely, we saw that there were four schools from Hong Kong and two from Singapore.
How was it possible that these small regions, with populations almost half of India, had succeeded in placing so many schools on the Top 100 list while India had none? We raised this issue with reputed academics in India and abroad, and were told that emphasis on research was a key factor if an institute wanted to establish an international reputation.
Of course, it is unlikely that Indian institutions will ever have the resources that are available in universities in Hong Kong and Singapore. But even at top schools like Harvard and MIT, the deans have often complained about inadequate resources. Indian institutions cannot let their ambitions be limited by their resources. As a first step, we need to challenge ourselves by setting aspirational targets. For example, why can we not see if it is possible to place ten Indian universities in the global top 100 by 2036?
At IIM Udaipur our priorities are clear. We want to create a culture of academic excellence fostered by rigour in both research and teaching. But more than that, our goal is to become a globally recognised institute that focuses on research that builds theory and inspires practice. Thus, for our faculty we are actively recruiting recent PhD graduates of Indian origin with degrees from some of the best international and Indian schools who show potential for research of the highest quality. We provide them with the time, resources and mentorship to help them grow into world-class researchers.
In a departure from the structure in many B-schools in India, administrative roles at IIMU for functions such as programme management, student affairs, admissions and placements are handled primarily by professionals and overseen by faculty groups. This frees individual faculty members to focus on their core responsibilities of teaching and research. We support faculty research with a range of initiatives that are among the most comprehensive and generous of any B-school in India, including seed money grants, publication incentives and a development fund that provides faculty members with an annual research allowance. Equally important, we ensure that 50% of the faculty workload is allocated for research. We have already started to see impressive results: two IIMU faculty members had papers published in top level international journals in 2015-16 and one more faculty member has had a paper accepted for publication later in 2016.
For us at IIM Udaipur, this is a good beginning but there are many challenges ahead. Excellence in research is not enough. We must instill not only knowledge but strongly-rooted values and we must make a meaningful difference in our region. Building a new institution is at minimum a 20-year journey but what one does in the initial years has a huge impact.
Let me conclude by taking another look at the target of placing ten Indian universities in the global top 100 by 2036. Is this simply wishful thinking or is there a realistic chance of success? If Indian institutions actively prioritise research, if our commitment is to a long-term orientation, and if we focus on finding innovative ways to get better results with frugal resources – who knows what we can accomplish.
Coordinated by Rozelle Laha