about 2 years ago
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The World University Ranking list for 2019 was released on Wednesday and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore ranked one and two respectively in the best universities in India list. 

Then there is JSS University, formerly known as the Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara University; it  is the only higher education institution in India which is featured in the top 500 World University Ranking apart from the IISc and IIT. 

The ranking of more than 1250 universities world wide has 49 Indian Universities in the list. The number one ranking is retained by Oxford University, followed by University of Cambridge and Stanford University at 2nd and 3rd position, just like last year. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which had 5th rank earlier and been ranked 4th this year. California Institute of Technology ranks the 5th among top Universities of the world. Most of our rankings come in much later – IISc was in 251-300 category and the IITs come in much lower but we are happy that they are among the top 1000 in the world.

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. 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 worldover 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 globally 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.

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.

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