THE BEST COLLEGES SURVEY
The India Today Best Colleges survey shows quality education has broken the national capital barrier—Bengaluru colleges get the top rank in four streams
India Today’s annual ready reckoner on the country’s best educational institutes
TWO DECADES AGO, WHEN india today published its first ever Best Colleges survey on June 23, 1997, it became a pioneering effort. No such study had ever been done to rank colleges across the states. Since then, several attempts have been made to replicate our study. The Union government has also recognised the importance of healthy competition among educational institutes and launched its own rankings for the past two years.
But what sets the india today survey apart is the continuous endeavour to innovate, expand and improvise. In our first year, we brought out a joint list of top 10 colleges across three streams—arts, science and commerce—and five colleges in two streams—engineering and medicine. We consulted the principals of 145 colleges in 10 cities. Today, our survey covers 2,965 colleges examined in 13 streams. The survey has expanded to 18 cities for arts, science and commerce and all over India for the other 10 streams. As the methodology (see box: How the Colleges Were Ranked) shows, the goal is to make the study more scientific and flawless.
There have been some encouraging trends, too, with quality educational institutes coming up in cities other than the national capital. For instance, colleges in Bengaluru top in four streams, and several of the city’s colleges have significantly improved their rankings over the past three years. This year, we have seen colleges from Mumbai and Kolkata debut in the top five in a couple of streams.
Technical education has grown rapidly in recent years with the annual enrolment of scientists, engineers and technicians exceeding 2 million. Private professional institutes have a big role to play in the coming years. So this year, we have ranked the top promising institutes to watch out for.
Yet, certain things in higher education refuse to change. In 1997, we wrote: “Only 3.7 per cent of the GDP is promised to education.” Two decades later, things look to be taking a sad turn. Spending on education as a share of the Central government’s total budgeted expenditure has been falling for the past three years. Spending on education has steadily declined from 4.57 per cent in 2013-14 to 3.65 per cent in 201617. The estimated outlay for 2017-18 is 3.7 per cent, the same as in 1997.
Compare this. Nearly 300,000 Indian students study abroad, mostly in postgraduate and doctorate
programmes, spending about Rs 60,000 crore per year, says the report by the T.S.R. Subramanian Committee on a new education policy for the country. The amount is twice the allocation in the Union budget for higher education and nearly 20 times what Indian higher education institutions spend on research collectively. No wonder, India’s overall share in research publications in the world is 3.4 per cent, just marginally better than 2.8 per cent over a decade ago.
Add to that the dearth of teachers. India has 39,000 colleges, 11,000 standalone institutions and over 760 universities, which employ 800,000 teachers for 30 million students. According to the Subramanian Committee report, about 40 per cent of faculty positions remain vacant in many institutes. Even IITs face around 41 per cent shortage of faculty.
The student enrolment ratio in higher education is 24 per cent (for the 18-23 age group) compared to almost 50 per cent in developed countries. Nearly 71 million youth in India are still out of the higher education system. The quality of education is equally dismal. Of the 2,780 colleges accredited by the University Grants Commission, 91 per cent have been rated average or below average.
Such scenarios make the india today survey even more significant since its primary objective is to promote a healthy competition among colleges. Education faces many roadblocks: a lot still depends on government initiatives, the country awaits a new education policy, but collective efforts can pay off, even if slowly. Consider this: a week before we had published our first Best Colleges survey, the Union cabinet passed a bill to make education a fundamental right. Thirteen years later, the bill became a reality in the form of the Right to Education Act.
The Best Colleges survey was put together with contributions from Shweta Punj, Ashish Misra, Aditi Pai, Aravind Gowda, Shadab Nazmi, Arpan Rai and Shelly Anand