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‘India is the only BRIC nation not to have a top-ranking university’

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, feels it is a “rigorous global measure of academic prestige,” and talks about why the results have been ‘disappointing’ where India is concerned

education Updated: Mar 19, 2014 10:58 IST
Ayesha Banerjee
Ayesha Banerjee
Hindustan Times

The Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings are subjective and opinion-based and finalised after isolating the ‘reputation’ indicator used in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Select academics (volunteers to are not allowed to take part in the survey) nominate no more than 15 of the best institutions in their narrow field of expertise, based on their experience and knowledge. Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, feels it is a “rigorous global measure of academic prestige,” and talks about why the results have been ‘disappointing’ where India is concerned

What have been your biggest surprises? Disappointments?
The table has actually been very stable over time, giving us confidence in the quality of our annual survey sample.

However, one of the biggest disappointments for us this year has been that India is the only one of the so-called BRIC nations — those large, exciting developing economic powers — which does not have a university in the world top 100: mainland China has two, both in the top 50, Russia and Brazil have one each.

This should be a cause for concern for India. While we only officially rank the world’s top 100 institutions, I can reveal that India is some way off the pace. Its most prestigious institution, based on the results of our expert global opinion poll, is the Indian Institute of Science - but it sits roughly around the 200th ranking position and has fallen further since last year. The IITs — Bombay, Delhi and Kanpur — are also top of India’s ranking, but again, they fall below the 200th rank and slipping. For a country with India’s great intellectual history and huge economic potential, this will be seen as a concern. Strong universities that can compete on a world stage are essential to India’s future success.

You have said six London ­institutes have made it to the top 100 in this year’s rankings? Does the city where the ­institute is located make a ­difference?

It’s hard for us to say – as this is a subjective ranking, based on the opinion of academics, we cannot tell what causes them to nominate particular institutions.

However, it has been suggested that a ‘halo effect’ in London, for example, might have something to do with it, with success breeding success.

In simple terms, this means that the excellent reputation that some of these London based institutions already have for research and the best international staff and students, is rubbing off on others – the London brand, if you will, is strengthening.

What makes a Harvard or an MIT better than an Oxford or a Cambridge?

There is no simple, single recipe for success when it comes to improving reputation, but there are several factors that are bound to help. For a start, increased investment ensures that the best faculty is attracted to a university, and allows for the provision of facilities to attract the best students. It also permits the proliferation of world-class research papers – all this will not go unnoticed by the academic community.

How have the Indian institutes fared this time round? Can you give us some details?

The Indian Institutes have actually experienced a collective drop in their positions for reputation according to this year’s ranking, meaning that no Indian institution features above 200. Whilst we do not officially rank institutions below 100, we can exclusively reveal that the Indian Institute of Science continues to be the most highly rated universities in India, although it has seen its position drop from around 130th place to just below 200 in the world. IIT, Bombay has also dropped to the 210-220 group, while IIT, Delhi and IIT, Kanpur both now feature just below 250th position in the world.

The Times World Reputation Rankings

The survey is available in 10 languages and is distributed based on United Nations data to ensure that it accurately reflects the global distribution of scholars. Times Higher Education does not allow volunteers to take part in the survey and, importantly, accepts no nominations from institutions or any third party. The survey is carried out by Ipsos MediaCT for Thomson Reuters, data supplier to the Times Higher Education rankings. The 2014 World Reputation Rankings are based on 10,536 responses from 133 countries to the survey distributed in March-May 2013.

First Published: Mar 19, 2014 10:38 IST