Masters of Excellence
In its third edition, the INDIA TODAY Universities Rankings surveys 160 universities, more than in previous editions. Delhi University tops the list again, followed by Banaras Hindu University, University of Calcutta and the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
In its third edition, the INDIA TODAY Universities Rankings surveys 160 universities, more than in previous editions. Delhi University tops the list again, followed by Banaras Hindu University, University of Calcutta and Jawaharlal Nehru University.
For some exceptional individuals, going to university is a waste of time. Steve Jobs, a brilliant innovator and CEO par excellence, who put Apple on course to become the world’s first trillion- dollar company before his untimely death in October 2011, spent just six months reading for an undergraduate degree. Bill Gates, the world’s second richest man, and founder of Microsoft, spent only a little longer at Harvard. Closer home, the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani did not even get a chance to enrol in a university. He became India’s richest man nonetheless. Gautam Adani followed Ambani’s spirit, becoming a dollar billionaire after dropping out of college. There are plenty of other instances of hugely successful innovators and entrepreneurs who skipped university.
Unfortunately, a majority of individuals are
not exceptional, not endowed with genius, and devoid of entrepreneurial abilities. For the majority, a good university education is the only passport to success. But what, you might ask, is the value of postgraduate degrees ( MA, MSC, Mcom, Mphil, PHD) that do not provide a professional qualification— oriented to jobs— say, like an MBA does? The answer is, quite a lot, which is why INDIA TODAY decided to commission a special Universities Survey and Rankings in 2010 to measure the quality of India’s universities in postgraduate degree in the Arts, Science and Commerce.
Now in its third edition, the INDIA TODAY- Nielsen survey ranks India’s top 50 universities ( out of a total 160 surveyed) and just like our bestselling Colleges Survey, it has emerged as the gold standard for students, parents and academics across the country. This year, for the first time, we list separately the five fastest risers in the ranking and the five biggest losers. We also list the top universities by region.
In the advanced economies of the West, an undergraduate university degree is usually enough to get a good job. In India, an undergraduate degree is rarely enough to get a lucrative job, barring perhaps a handful of elite colleges in elite universities. An additional postgraduate degree helps. That isn’t because reading for a MA or MSC does anything to raise the productivity of a potential employee from the eyes of a prospective employer. But an additional degree is a signal of high ability. The American economist Michael Spence won a Nobel Prize for this observation. That is why students from top- ranked universities get better jobs than those from lower-
ranked universities. It isn’t because they have necessarily acquired more or superior quality learning, but because they have signalled their higher ability ( vis- à- vis others) by getting admission for additional degrees at the top- ranked universities.
Reputations are often intangible, difficult to quantify. The INDIA TODAY Best Universities Survey uses the rigour of extensive fieldwork and statistics combining subjective criteria ( like the perception of top academics from around the country) and objective criteria ( teacher- student ratio, courses offered) to rate India’s best universities. Like 2011, Delhi University comes out on top. It is followed by Banaras Hindu University, University of Calcutta, and Jawaharlal Nehru University, all of which featured in the top five in 2011 as well. There have been minor changes in
their ranks but it takes a long time for reputations to be built from scratch. Aligarh Muslim University ( AMU) is the new entrant into the top five. Its rise is partly explained by the fact that some universities such as Mumbai, IISC Bangalore and Pune University chose not to submit factual data for our survey due to their own constraints. But in part, AMU’S rise reflects the university’s effort to return to its long lost era of glory. It is of course possible to quibble about the exact ranks attained by different universities, but few would argue with the overall trend.
In advanced economies, people usually take up postgraduate degrees if they are looking at research or teaching oriented careers. India needs many more university teachers. According to Union Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal, India plans to add 200 universities by 2017. The education minister wants to double India’s gross enrolment ratio, the percentage of people moving from high school to university, from around 15 per cent to 30 per cent. The pursuit of postgraduate degrees and Phds, therefore, needs to be encouraged in India.
The private sector is already playing a crucial part in the expansion of India’s universities system. Its role will only grow, as the Government alone cannot meet the exponentially growing demand for higher education. Unfortunately, there was a phase in the mid- 2000s when many fly- bynight operators obtained deemed uni- versities status without necessarily meeting the highest standards in quality. Fortunately, that phase is now behind us. Now, some of the country’s top entrepreneurs are investing in universities with the clear aim of making them centres of global excellence. It is still too early for the Azim Premji University in Bangalore, Shiv Nadar University in Greater Noida and OP Jindal University in Sonepat to feature on these rankings but the future may belong to them rather than India’s creaking government- run universities and fly- by- night operators.
There is a tradition of top entrepreneurs funding excellent universities. The Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani, has been a consistent fixture in INDIA TODAY’S rankings. It was founded as a university by G. D. Birla. The university’s present chancellor is Kumar Mangalam Birla, head of the Rs 1,75,000 crore Aditya Birla Group.
India’s universities still have a long way to go in climbing up the global pecking order. Most often, only the IITS and IIMS find their way into international rankings of best universities. Competition between universities can help the pursuit of excellence. If nothing else, rankings such as these should spur all of India’s 300- odd universities to each raise their bar. India will be the gainer.
JAWAHARLAL NEHRU UNIVERSITY
BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY OF CALCUTTA
STUDENTS IN THE LIBRARYAT UNIVERSITY OFMADRAS, CHENNAI
AFINE ARTS CLASS IN PROGRESS AT JAMIA MILLIA ISLAMIA, DELHI