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 - - INSIDE - By Kaushik Deka

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

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