World rankings: Poor research pushes India’s grades down

Updated on Oct 30, 2013 10:45 AM IST

More Indian institutions should consider themselves globally competitive and aspire to participate in global rankings for universities, say experts

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Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

They are elite institutions attracting the best of faculty and the crème de la crème of students from across the country.

But if one goes by the recent world university rankings, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have slipped from their positions in 2012. Students, teachers and experts have expressed concern over this and suggested ways for improvement.

“The parameters largely responsible for the drop in the rankings of the IITs include academic reputation, faculty-student ratio and research capacity. We also need more students who are keen on pursuing research. Industry participation should also be increased if we wish to improve,” says Anup Raaj, an IIT Bombay student.

Recently, UK’s Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), one of the major global education ranking organisations, released its list of the top 200 universities in the world for 2013. No Indian institute featured among the top 200. IIT Delhi was ranked 222, down from 212 in 2012, and IIT Bombay at 233, down from 227 in 2012. IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras were ranked 295 and 313, respectively.

The story was similar in the latest Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings with no Indian institution being ranked among the top 200.

Joy Deep Nath, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur says, “Indian universities seldom produce impactful research projects which depend upon a lot of things like good and motivated faculty, infrastructure and industry-academia partnerships. The government could allocate more funds for research in pure sciences, provide incentives for quality faculty to stay in the universities.”

Pushing for change
Positioning of the IITs globally has also been a point of discussion at the recent meeting of the IIT Council. Another important topic that was discussed was the existing potential for improving the composite indicator rankings, even though the undergraduate engineering programmes of the IITs are some of the best offered globally.

The focus is also on augmenting research. A number of measures have been approved to encourage students to enrol in PhD programmes in IITs. For instance, for students of CFTIs, with CGPA above 7.0, admission into IITs would be possible without the GATE.

Elaborating on the general opinion on global university rankings after THE’s discussions with Indian academia and Indian government officials and the Planning Commission, Phil Baty, editor, THE rankings, says, “There was a very strong sense coming from the government that India can no longer afford to ignore the world university rankings, and universities must stop pretending that the global rankings are not relevant to India. An official from the department of higher education at the HRD ministry said at the meeting that we must play the same game the rest of the world is playing. We need not be shy about it.”

Baty believes that a country of India’s rich intellectual history, vast size and growing economic power needs at least some world-class universities that can compete with the very best universities in the world. “We have seen a steady and encouraging increase in participation in the rankings process by Indian institutions. This year, 19 of India’s leading institutions took part in the assessment process, and there was a healthy mix of public and private. But over time, we would like to see many more Indian institutions taking part in our exercise. The Planning Commission believes there are around 100 institutions which should consider themselves globally competitive and should look to the global rankings,” adds Baty.

While rankings may not be the “be-all and end-all” factor, a section of experts says that it is more important that every Indian institution, whether it is an IIT or a non-technical university, delivers what it is supposed to. “We should not over-fixate ourselves with the ranking phenomenon. It is more important to create an excellent R&D environment,” says Pradipta Banerjee, director, IIT Roorkee.

Where India lacks
According to Baty, the key issue for Indian universities, in terms of their global competitiveness in the rankings, is their research output. “We measure institutions across the full range of their activities – teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook – but the main indicators look at research quality, the impact of each university’s research in pushing forward the boundaries of our understanding. This is an area where India’s institutions are lagging,” explains Baty. The rankings are “absolutely relevant” to India, he says.

Other reasons for the paucity of Indian higher education institutions in the world rankings are lack of resources and a profession of higher education, say experts.

“Building world-class universities requires abundance of resources, including, capital, time, effort and talent. Given the priority of expansion in Indian higher education, these resources could not have been concentrated in a handful of universities to help them achieve world-class standards,” says Rahul Choudaha, a New-York based higher education expert and director of research at World Education Services.

How we can go up the ladder

The government could ­allocate more funds for research in pure sciences, provide incentives for quality faculty to stay in the ­universities, say students

Experts say that the existing potential for improving the composite indicator rankings could be looked at

Given the priority of expansion in Indian higher education, resources such as capital and talent should not be concentrated in a handful of universities to help them achieve world-class standards

More students should take up research. Industry participation should be increased too

2013 World ranking for indian institutes

Quacquarelli Symonds

IIT Delhi 222

IIT Bombay 233

IIT kanpur 295

Times higher education

Panjab university 226 -250

IIT Delhi 351 - 400

IIT Bombay 351 - 400


    Gauri Kohli has nearly 12 years of experience covering education, HR, real estate, and other beats

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