DO UNIVERSITY RANKINGS MATTER?

By Research Desk
about 4 years ago

 

By Ruma Dubey

Two Indian universities finally make it to the “Top 200” QS World University Rankings 2015/16. Indian Institute of Science (IISc) of Bangalore came in at 147 and IIT Delhi made it to 179. IIT Bombay is at 202, IIT Madras is at 254, IIT Kanpur at 271, IIT Kharagpur at 286, IIT Roorkee at 391 and IIT Guwahati at 451-460. BHU or Banaras Hindu University came in at over 701 , ditto for University of Mumbai and Pune.

Many are perturbed that we get ranked so poorly, even the crème de la crème of India’s education – the IITs that we are so proud of. But the question is – should it worry us at all? We have thousands of local brands, has even a single one of them become a global brand? It’s the same story….

For us Indians, IIMs and IITs are the irrefutable hallmarks of superlative quality of education. When we look at colleges or universities, we look at the employment opportunities which comes by once graduated. If IITs and IIMs did not have such fantastic success stories to tell, if stories of large pay packets ceased to make news, do you think we would continue to rate these institutes so highly? For us education, apart from getting knowledge is also about getting the right job with a very good pay. Do we look at faculty, infrastructure, campus life and clubs, food facilities ever while considering the choice of colleges? If your child gets an admission in an IIT, wouldn’t you jump to it rather than look at road connections, campus life and choice of food?  If tomorrow, there came a very mediocre college, with not-so-good faculty, located in a Tier III town but guaranteed jobs in some of the best companies of India, would you need too much convincing?

Yes, as the world gets flatter and more global, it does matter than products, which we consider to be the best in India, gets recognized as reputed brands worldwide too. But no recognition does not mean that it ceases to remain our favourite.  Quality of products made in USA are always considered to be superior – experience has proven this fact. Ditto for education – if given a choice between an Ivy League university in USA and an IIT or IIM, majority would opt for the Ivy League university as it ensures a global education and life gets set, not just in India but world over, opportunities become immense.  Yet, at the same time, some of the best brains world over come from these Indian universities who do not figure out in the top 100 global list. Raghuram Rajan shines bright – he is an IIT Delhi and IIM alumni, with a PhD from MIT.  And world over he has been recognized as a bright brain.

Studying in a reputed University, apart from knowledge is also about the experience of living away from home, living and studying in the campus, learning from the diverse student body and always be surrounded by brains and infrastructure that stimulates the mind.  Another very important aspect is that these universities should encourage research and publishing more papers, which adds to the knowledge pool. Sadly in India, we have some of the brightest brains but somehow, the best always migrate to foreign countries; we then take pride in reflected glory, by stating that ‘Indian Born scientist/economist/author wins….’.  The question is thus not about ranking but why we are unable to nurture and retain some of the best brains within India itself? 

This might sound like sour grapes but the truth is that college rankings have become more of a marketing tool and less about quality of education.  In the US itself there is a growing voice of dissent against this rating system, which most of the time, ignore the quality of education and concentrate on infrastructure, campus life, student retention, faculty resources, exclusivity, alumni giving. It leaves out the most important and pertinent questions – job placement rates, what students actually learn, loan repayment rates, which school produces graduates that work in the same field of their education. Ask any student making a choice and for them, there are only two criteria – graduation rate and job placements. But sadly, none of the rankings consider these.

The current QS World University Rankings 2015/16., which rated top 200 colleges, is based on six criteria - academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty student ratio, citations per faculty, international students and international faculty.

Thus rankings cannot tarnish the quality of some of the best institutions of India but at the same time, international recognition helps. There is no doubt that we need to overhaul our education system from mere rote learning to practical training based study.  Our graduates are not employable within the country itself and that is what needs to be changed. Education has become a money making machine and we need to take care that the quality does not fall in IIT and IIM.

Yes, our education system does have a lot of issues but not getting ranked amongst the top 200 by some wrongly used methodology does not mean our entire system has failed.  We have fallen from the days of Takshila and Nalanda, where the world once came to study in India. We do have some of the best brains in the world – we need to work on retaining them. Maybe Raghuram Rajan and the scientists at ISRO could become that source of inspiration?

2015/16 rank

University

2014/15 rank

1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

1

2

Harvard University

4

3

University of Cambridge

2

4

Stanford University

7

5

California Institute of Technology

8

6

University of Oxford

5

7

University College London

5

8

Imperial College London

2

9

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology

12

10

University of Chicago

11

11

Princeton University

9

12

National University of Singapore

22

13

Nanyang Technological University

39

14

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

17

15

Yale University

10

 

 

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