With the release of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF), Indian institutions should now be able to introspect on their weaknesses and strengths and improve themselves. Rankings will help create an ecosystem conducive for them to participate in global ranking systems. As for students and parents, rankings based on objective data will be useful for taking decisions regarding choice of institutions for study for themselves or their wards.
Professor Surendra Prasad, who is part of the core committee involved in devising the ranking framework, says, “For teachers, and more importantly for the aspiring faculty, rankings offer similar help in identifying the right institutions where their talents can be best used or honed. For the employers in the industry, they know which campuses can provide them with the kind of manpower that they need for their business or professional growth.”
Ashok Thakur, former secretary to the government of India, department of higher education, HRD ministry, says, there are several institutional ratings floating around in the country often with contradictory findings, creating confusion in the minds of the public and the students at large.
“NIRF, on the other hand, is sponsored by the government and is based on upfront stated parameters worked out by leading academics of top institutions like IITs. The ranking system keeps institutions and the faculty on its toes to perform better year after year. It can start a virtuous cycle of good education leading to good ranking which, in turn, leads to attracting good students and faculty. For the industry, it facilitates efficient campus recruitments both for employment as well as research.” Another pertinent question is whether this will help Indian institutions make a mark globally.
“The exercise initiated under NIRF will definitely create an ecosystem conducive to participation in ranking systems, including international ones. Since broadly the parameters and processes in both remain the same, it could prove to be a good training ground for the eventual storming of the international rankings by our top educational institutions in future. India being one of the largest higher education systems in the world with enrollments crossing the 30 million mark, no ranking agency worth its name can afford to ignore it. No wonder these ranking agencies were more than willing to conduct India-specific ranking system even before it was decided that it should be done in-house,” says Thakur.
A section of experts feels that at the moment, NIRF may be of little help in going global. Karthick Sridhar, vice chairman, Indian Centre for Academic Rankings and Excellence Pvt Ltd, says, “Our universities have started appreciating the importance of data collection. They have performed poorly in global rankings such as QS and THE because of absence of quality data. Institutions such as IIT-Delhi, University of Delhi and Mumbai University are all lagging behind since ranking agencies have little data on them and these institutions have done little to improve that.
“A classic example is IISC Bangalore. When it took professional assistance and put together the right data, understood the rules of the game better, its rankings went straight into the top 5 of the QS BRICS Universities Rankings. Indian institutions must all appoint a nodal officer and ensure the availability of right data which will help immensely improve their positions in NIRF, besides QS & THE Rankings.”