Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Building Blocks for BRICS

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Building Blocks for BRICS

Article excerpt

Globally excellent institutions require greater resources, internationalisation and autonomy, says C. Raj Kumar

In the Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2016, published last December, there was not a single Indian institution in the top 10. But the ranking once again demonstrated the extraordinary progress achieved by China. China has 27 institutions in the top 100 and five in the top 10, with Peking University first and Tsinghua University second.

We should not become too fixated by rankings. Policymakers and university leaders in the BRICS and emerging economies urgently need to recognise that not all universities need to be engaged with all aspects of institution-building. Not all need to be the kinds of research-focused institutions that do well in international rankings - as long as they are judged to excel in other areas.

But if a country such as India (whose top institution in the 2016 rankings was the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, at 16th) is serious about establishing globally excellent universities, there are several steps that must be taken. One is that universities should be differentiated only on the basis of their quality, performance and contribution. More resources should be made available for those that are performing exceedingly well, regardless of whether they are public or private.

Taking inspiration from the Russian Federation's Project 5-100 initiative, which aims to propel five Russian institutions into the global top 100 by 2020, other BRICS and developing countries might also consider nurturing a substantial number of their top universities. Earlier this year, India took an important step towards enabling 20 universities (10 public, 10 private) to become world-class. China has also undertaken a number of such initiatives in the past two decades.

But success demands a substantial increase in the funding available for research in universities in the BRICS region. It is also imperative to re-examine the policy and management framework for disbursing research grants, to make sure that they are put to the best use. Relatedly, faculty members need to be given greater incentives to pursue research and publications.

Greater internationalisation of faculty members and students is also absolutely crucial, and is one of the major challenges facing universities in the BRICS nations. …

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