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.

India Today - - INSIDE - By Dhi­raj Nay­yar

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.

YASHBANT NEGI/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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JAWA­HAR­LAL NEHRU UNIVER­SITY

VIKRAM SHARMA/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

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DELHI UNIVER­SITY

BA­NARAS HINDU UNIVER­SITY

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UNIVER­SITY OF CAL­CUTTA

H K RA­JASHEKAR/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

STU­DENTS IN THE LIBRARYAT UNIVER­SITY OFMADRAS, CHEN­NAI

AFINE ARTS CLASS IN PROGRESS AT JAMIA MIL­LIA IS­LAMIA, DELHI

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