Monday, February 03, 2014

India and the World Rankings

There is an excellent article in Asian Scientist by Prof Pushkar of BITS Pilani that questions the developing obsession in India with getting into the top 100 or 200 of the world rankings.

Prof Pushkar observes that Indian universities have never done well in global rankings. He says:

"there is no doubt that Indian universities need to play ‘catch up’ in order to place more higher education institutions in the top 400 or 500 in the world. It is particularly confounding that a nation which has sent a successful mission to Mars does not boast of one single institution in the top 100. “Not even one!” sounds like a real downer. Whether one considers the country a wannabe “major” power or an “emerging” power (or not), it is still surprising that India’s universities do not make the grade." 


"It is also rather curious that the “lost decades” of India’s higher education – the 1980s and the 1990s – coincided with a period when the country registered high rates of economic growth. The neglect of higher education finally ended when the National Knowledge Commission drew attention to a “quiet crisis” in its 2006 report."

Even so: 

"(d)espite everything that is wrong with India’s higher education, there is no reason for panic about the absence of its universities in the top 100 or 200. Higher education experts agree that the world rankings of universities are limited in terms of what they measure. Chasing world rankings may do little to improve the overall quality of higher education in the country."

He also refers to the proposal that the Indian Institutes of Technology should combine just for the rankings. Apparently he has been in touch with Phil Baty of THE who is not buying the idea.

I would disagree with Professor Ashok's argument that combining universities would not be a good idea anyway because THE scales some indicators for size. That is true but the reputation survey is not scaled and adding votes in the survey would be beneficial  for a combined institution if one could be created and then accepted by the rankers . Also, you currently need 200 publications a year to be ranked by THE so there would be a case for smaller places around the world --although probably not the IITs -- banding together to get past this threshold.

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