Varsities to be ranked for overall and discipline-specific excellence
NIRF 2017 HRD ministry’s ranking framework for this year will have greater thrust on quality parameters in research
The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) – India’s own top university rankings, launched last year by the HRDministry will have unique features this year. Institutes will be considered eligible for ranking on the basis of overall and discipline-specific excellence.
All data presented for checks for rankings by the universities will have to be published. Professor Surendra Prasad, part of the core committee developing this framework, says, “For the smaller institutes, NIRF will have just a discipline-specific rank. Universities will also have to publish all data which the general public and stakeholders can view. This, we hope will reduce the possibilities of misrepresentation.”
In 2016, the parameters for selection were broadly divided into five categories – resources for teaching and learning, research and collaborative effort, graduation outcome, outreach and inclusivity and peer and stakeholder perception. Nearly 20 parameters were identified over these five heads.
There will also be a greater thrust on quality parameters in research (beyond volume of research and simple measures of quality). “There will be greater objectivity through rationalisation of parameters to eliminate those that are extremely difficult to authenticate on such a large scale. It will be easier for institutions to enter the necessary data for evaluation. The database of peers for peer perception has been enhanced significantly,” says Professor Prasad.
The methodology of ranking will largely be the same as 2016. “We have tried to fine tune the parameters for greater objectivity. For the discipline-specific rankings, the parameters have been tweaked to better suit the concerned disciplines,” he adds.
Broadly, the parameters used to rank the institutions are similar to those of 2016. However, improvements have been made based on last year’s learnings.
In another major change, the categorisation of the previous year has been eliminated. All institutions catering to a mini- mum student population will be eligible for an overall rank, independent of their status or discipline. However, there will also be discipline-specific rankings, as mentioned already, for certain disciplines. Thus, it is possible for an institution to have multiple ranks.
Recalling how the entire process started and looking forward, Prof Prasad says the first ranking process was intense, but also very educative. “We had identified some areas of weakness. Going forward there is definitely a need to strengthen these. The biggest positive was the overwhelming interest to participate in the effort. The biggest concern was the somewhat careless attitude in providing the required data on the part of many institutions. The biggest takeaway, however, was the confidence we developed that meaningful and objective rankings can be done even in a large higher education system like India’s. We have learnt a lot. Hopefully, we will be able to use these learnings for the coming cycle,” he says.
This year, all participating institutions, independent of their discipline or nature, will be eligible for a common overall rank. For this, however, they need to have at least 1,000 enrolled students (calculated on the basis of approved intake). The institute also has to be a Centrally-funded institution/university.
Highly focused institutions with a single main discipline (engineering, medical, law, management, pharmacy or UG degree colleges in arts, science and commerce, etc.) with less than 1,000 enrolled students will be given only a discipline-specific rank.
To be ranked on basis of discipline, schools or departments of universities or institutions (such as arts, architecture, engineering, health and life sciences, humanities and social sciences, law faculty, medical school, management departments and pharmacy) will have to register separately and provide additional data related to the school or department.
Discipline-specific ranks will be announced only for disciplines in which a significant number of institutions have applied for rankings. The list includes some of the prominent institutions in that discipline, with an acceptable ranking score. Open universities and affiliated varsities (state or Centre approved/funded) will not normally be registered for ranking. If these varsities have a teaching or research campus of their own, they can participate. The Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) Bill 2017 was approved by the Union Cabinet last week. The IIMs will now be declared as Institutes of National Importance and will be able to grant degrees to their students.
H o w e v e r, the private B-schools, including postgraduate diploma in management ( PGDM) institutions, will be affected too. According to Prof Harivansh Chaturvedi, alternate president, Education Promotion Society of India, an organisation which has been fighting for the autonomy of these B-schools legally, the passing of the Bill is going to create a big anomaly by disturbing an equilibrium between IIMs and over 500 selffinanced PGDM institutions which have been functioning for more than 35 years.
“I n t he s i xt i e s, private B-schools were allowed to be set up by the ministry of human resource development after it was thought that the three IIMs (Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Calcutta) will not be able to fulfil the needs of the Indian industries. PGDM institutions like XLRI, SP Jain Institute of Management and Research, and International Management Institute, were allowed by the MHRD to be run under the apron of the All- India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) as autonomous business schools,” he says.
It is imperative that the MHRD looks into the matter of autonomy of these PGDM institutions as, after the passage of the IIM Bill, the recruiters and foreign universities will have doubts about the legal identity of a postgraduate diploma in management, says Prof Chaturvedi. In 2010, the AICTE tried to curtail autonomy of over 500 PGDM institutions but the Supreme Court did not allow it to happen by issuing interim orders in the last six years. With the Budget scheduled for today, all stakeholders in the education sector are pinpointing to research and infrastructure as two key areas of focus for the government.
Academicians referred to last year’s announcement by finance minister Arun Jaitley of making 10 public and 10 private educational institutions world-class and said the government should first improve the infrastructure of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology. Those from IITs and IIMs said many of them, especially the newer institutes faced severe problems in terms of infrastructure.
A senior f aculty member of IIM Rohtak, who prefers to remain anonymous says, “The HRD minister has clarified in different forums to make the IITs and IIMs excellent institutions at par with global standards. In order to make it happen, these institutions need to exhibit brilliance both on teaching and research fronts. These two prime activities require different types of infrastructure.
Experts say when it comes to teaching, both the physical and digital infrastructure play an equally important role in the current scenario. Whereas on the research front, availability of databases, journals, books, software, and institutional support in terms of encouraging field visits and collaborating with foreign researchers and universities can make a difference.
Dr Vidya Yeravdekar, principal director of Symbiosis Society, wants “extensive funds” to be allocated for research in universities in India. “We are lagging behind in world rankings of universities because of the poor research output. If India claims that it will be a knowledge economy then generation of new knowledge through research in universities should be of paramount importance. Funding should be given to both public and private universities varsities depending on their quality of research, she says.
Given the fact that the education sector plays a pivotal role in the economic and social development of India, Prof Dr Uday Salunkhe, group director of the Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research (WeSchool), feels the need for a push for skill development initiatives. The government’s push to developing 10 private institutes was laudable. “It is also important to take measures to encourage academic research and involve participation of private institutions to advance the sector,” Salunkhe said.