What’s missing in the Indian ranking for varsities?
SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT Many prominent institutes across disciplines did not make it to India’s first national higher education ranking
The all-India ranking for higher education institutions in the country released by the human resource development (HRD) ministry last week is being seen as a big step in improving the quality of education imparted by Indian universities. It also aims to make these universities globally competitive. While 100 institutions each were ranked under the university and engineering categories, 50 each were ranked in management ( research and teaching) and pharmacy (research and teaching) categories. PROMINENT NAMES MISSING FROM THE LIST One of the surprise elements was t hat s ome prominent institutions in different disciplines were missing in the National Institutional Ranking Framework ( NIRF). These i nclude Delhi I nstitute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, National Law School of India University (Bengaluru), Faculty of Management Studies (Delhi), National Institute of Design (Ahmedabad), Mudra Institute of Communication (Ahmedabad), Indian Institute of Mass Communication (Delhi/Dhenkanal) and School of Planning and Architecture (Delhi and others).
The rankings were arrived at after detailed analysis and validation of the data submitted by more than 3,600 higher educational institutions in the country classified in six categories. These rankings followed an Indian approach, where an academic institute was assessed on parameters, including teaching-learning; research; collaborative practice and professional performance; graduate outcomes; placements; outreach and inclusive action and peer r group perception. Each of these was subdivided into nearly 20 sub criteria to comprehensively assess an institution.
Citing reasons for prominent names not making the cut, Ashok Thakur, for mer secretary to the government of India, department of higher r education, HRD ministry, says, “This is the first year of NIRF and it is possible that many institutions, including some very good ones could not participate or could not upload com- plete information. For example, in the category of universities, though we have more than 7400 in the country, only about 2500 of them participated.”
Professor Surendra Prasad, who is part of the core committee involved in devising the ranking framework, says, “NIRF has ranked only those institutions, which registered with it for ranking. Those who registered, were allowed to submit the data required for the rankings. Those who did not, were out of our loop. It was entirely their choice.”
Karthick Sridhar, vice chairman, Indian Centre for Academic Rankings and Excellence Pvt Ltd, however, says, NIRF could have been more proactive in reaching out to institutions. “Conducting workshops at regional levels, addressing queries, setting up a dedicated phone and email assist- ance service and engaging more closely with stakeholders so as to educate them on the requirements could have been done in a better way. Many technical universities felt handicapped as they were not aware if they were to participate as a university or an engineering college or both. The data requirements set forth by NIRF was way too demanding such as data of the last three years. There was no proper channel of communication between institutions and NIRF. All phone calls made to a particular number at National Board of Accreditation were either unanswered or queries redirected to UGC or AICTE. No one agency took complete charge and addressed the situation. In the process, many wellknown institutions ignored the rankings and hence many notso-well-known institutions got their chance under the sun.”
Institutions cite their own reasons for not being able to make a mark on the NIRF. “I think institutions like FMS have been clubbed with their parent university as FMS is not a standalone institute. It is a constituent component of University of Delhi. So the university has been ranked and not individual faculties and departments,” says ML Singla, dean, Faculty of Management Studies.
FCATEGORIES NOT EXHAUSTIVE Another aspect where there is scope for improvement in the NIRF is the number of categories under which institutions have been ranked. This number isn’t exhaustive.
“In the years to come, the number of categories will have to be increased in order to cater to various types of institutions as one can only compare apples with apples. For example, apart from subject-wise categories, even within the universities, the newer ones want separate parameters for ranking, which, 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 fac- ulty. 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 inhouse,” says Thakur.
A section of experts feels that at the moment, NIRF may be of lit- tle 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.”
NIRF has ranked only those institutions, which registered with it for ranking and prominent names were missing.