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    Why higher learning institutes in India have to learn a thing or two if they want to secure better global rankings

    Synopsis

    Though India has some reputed universities, it has not been able to place any institute within the top 100.

    Scientists in India need to inculcate a higher level of ambition to improve research and education, chemistry Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan told ET Magazine while on a visit to Delhi last month. “Just investing in infrastructure isn’t enough. Scientists in China, for example, have big ambitions. They are interested in competing with the best in the West,” he said.

    Though India has some globally reputed universities, none of these has reached anywhere near the stature of the famous institutes of higher learning in the US and Europe. This even as universities from China are becoming standard fixtures on world university rankings.

    The UK-based Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2020, which covers 1,400 universities across 92 countries, showed that Mainland China now has three on the top 100 list. “The country’s universities have continued to expand their influence & presence on the world stage,” it said.

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    India has not been able to place any institute within the top 100. “It is the first time that an Indian university has not featured in the top 300 of the ranking since 2012, when just a single institution from the country, the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, was ranked,” THE said.

    The first Indian name on the 2020 list was IISc-Bangalore — ranked at 301-350, down from 251-300 earlier. The range indicates multiple universities are placed in the same rank. For example, 301-350 means 49 institutions are ranked at 301 and the next institution on the list will be ranked at 351. THE said the decline in the ranking was “due to a significant fall in IISc’s research citation impact score offsetting improvements in research environment, teaching environment and industry income”.

    However, there was a beacon of hope for the country. IIT-Ropar debuted on the list at 301-350. How did an Indian Institute of Technology set up only in 2008 make it to the list? “We set out with a strategic plan to achieve the ranking, with the help of IIM-Kolkata,” says the director of IIT-Ropar, Sarit Das. It focused on quality research to achieve 100% on the research citation parameter and hired faculty from universities in Chicago, Boston and Singapore, among others. “We also made huge resources available for them to set up labs and other infrastructure for research,” Das adds.

    This shows that Indian universities can score high if there is a sustained and determined effort to make improvements in parameters such as hiring more international faculty, investing in research facilities and improving student-faculty ratio. Poor rankings also impede the Study in India programme, which aims to attract global students. A good score makes it easier for an institute to enter into a partnership with a global one. “We use data analytics and rankings to decide which university is a good fit for us to partner with,” said Jenny Dixon, deputy vicechancellor (strategic engagement), at the University of Auckland, while in Delhi for a workshop in February.

    Top Indian institutions have started to understand that international rankings are not a conspiracy to downgrade India but a way to provide them with a global footing, says Ashwin Fernandes, regional director (MENA and South Asia) of Quacquarelli Symonds, a London-based organisation that puts out an annual university ranking. “The ministry of human resource development, especially minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, is paving the way for several initiatives to improve the global branding of institutions. We will soon see an Indian institute in the top 100,” Fernandes says.

    MARKING PARAMETERS

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    The rise of Chinese universities has made rankings all the more important, says Kanika T Bhal, dean-planning at IITDelhi. “We’re prioritising steps that will help improve our ranking,” says Bhal, explaining that the IIT has improved its student-faculty ratio and hired more international staff. “Last year, we improved our score on the rankings put out by every agency except QS World. So we must be getting it right on the ranking metrics.”

    Even the ministry of human resource development & the University Grants Commission have realised the importance of rankings. They have tagged 10 public and 10 private institutes that can emerge as world-class teaching and research centres as Institutions of Eminence. “Indian institutions were sceptical and dismissive of rankings earlier. But now the thinking has changed,” says C Raj Kumar, vice-chancellor of the Sonipat-based OP Jindal Global University ( JGU), which has found a place in Indian and global rankings. JGU, which was set up in 2009, set up a dedicated office two years ago to understand ranking methodologies.

    In fact, several new universities are making the necessary changes required to get a good ranking. “Our focus has been to improve research credentials and have tie-ups with foreign universities for internships, research and faculty development programmes,” says Sachin Jain, president of Bennett University. (Bennett University is a part of the Times Group, which publishes The ET Magazine.)

    Ashoka University, founded in 2014, says its 150 faculty members are engaged in teaching and doing cutting-edge research. Though the university has not participated in any ranking process, vicechancellor Malabika Sarkar says getting a good global score is a long-term goal. “When Ashoka does participate in rankings, these factors will definitely enhance the university’s performance,” she adds. It is time for universities to learn a lesson or two.
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    19 Comments on this Story

    Nisha Datte324 days ago
    GIVE OUR PROFESSORS CEO/Dir level top salaries and they will stay in India to teach. Make them sign contracts and give a portion of their salary as incentive pay.
    Sandeep Mohindra326 days ago
    Best talent is Gen category in IIT/IIM/AIIMS/PGI - Almost all move out of India
    Worst of passouts are reerved category - Almost all these become directors, MDs, CEOs of PSUs, whose status we all know.
    US takes the deserved,
    India takes the reserved.
    Recent SC/ST dispute at IIT Kanpur can hint at the status of IIT & the author is dreaming of world rankings. Author can go to any Govt Medical College of India & see that more than 90% heads & Principals are reserved categories
    raaj till326 days ago
    if u put donkeys with race horses rating can not go up hoping donkeys will become race horses by association they will pull down the rating
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