Newspaper article International New York Times

Indian Universities Still Lag Behind in World Rankings ; Country's Institutions Are Absent from Top-200 Lists of Leading Surveys

Newspaper article International New York Times

Indian Universities Still Lag Behind in World Rankings ; Country's Institutions Are Absent from Top-200 Lists of Leading Surveys

Article excerpt

None of its universities appear in the top-200 lists of the leading world university ranking surveys

India produces some of the world's brightest students and academics, yet none of its universities appear in the top-200 lists of the leading world university ranking surveys, compiled by Times Higher Education, Quacquarelli Symonds and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Indian institutions fare worse than their counterparts in South Korea, Turkey and Israel, not to mention those in Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, its companions among the so-called BRICS economies.

The results have caused dismay at the highest levels of government. India's president, Pranab Mukherjee, speaking at Puducherry University's convocation in September, said, "It is a sad reflection on us when the universal rankings of universities comes out." Earlier this year, at a conference of academic heads of state- run universities, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rued that "it is a sobering thought that not one Indian university figures in the top- 200 universities of the world today."

At 25.9 million, India has the world's second-highest number of students enrolled in higher education, according to Ernst & Young. Yet although 58.9 percent of these students are enrolled in private colleges and universities, the smartest applicants are drawn to publicly funded ones, including the 17 much-lauded Indian Institutes of Technology (I.I.T.s) and the 13 Indian Institutes of Management (I.I.M.s). In the 2013 global rankings, only publicly funded institutions featured anywhere at all.

Competition to get into elite state-run colleges is fierce. Last year, 512,000 applicants sought admission for 9,647 spots in the 15 technology institutes and the Indian School of Mines. Indian news media regularly report on the exorbitant percentages required of graduating high school students to gain a spot at state-run institutions like Delhi University or Bombay University, sometimes upward of 99 percent in certain colleges for degrees in commerce or technology.

Although publicly funded colleges and universities are meant to be autonomous, in reality the government has a degree of control. "Our education sector is, in some respects, overregulated and undergoverned," said Shashi Tharoor, head of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, which oversees higher education, in a telephone interview. "We need to be less regulated and better governed."

The three ranking surveys use methodologies that emphasize academic research and faculty citation in journals, followed by other measures like employer reputation, academic reputation, faculty-student ratio, and the international composition of faculty and students. Indian universities lose out on many of these fronts. In addition to lack of research citations, they perform badly on other metrics like faculty-to-student ratios and lack of internationalism.

To be sure, there is a debate around rankings methodology and whether it is fair to rate Indian universities against older and richer Western institutions.

"India has domestic priorities to educate more young people," said Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Still, he said, "there should be an elite group of institutions that focus on global competitiveness."

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS World University Rankings, also said that "with an economy the size of India's, it's a fundamental need for Indian higher education to be more globally competitive. …

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