Friday, Dec 19, 2014

Rank inconsistency

Written by Gautam Barua | Posted: October 5, 2013 1:51 am

Are Indian institutions as poor as the QS and Times global university ratings suggest?

Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) and Times Higher Education (THE) recently released their 2013 global university rankings. In both sets of rankings,institutions from India are nowhere in the picture. In fact,their ranks have fallen compared to last year. Are institutions from India that bad? Have institutions from India been “lazy” in providing the right data? To show that there are problems with the rankings,I analyse the parameters of the IIT-Guwahati data (since these are available to me,but the results can be easily generalised to other IITs; IIT-Delhi and Panjab University data are also shown). The first table is for QS,and the second for THE. All scores are relative,with the top-ranked institution in each category getting a score of 100.

One,the faculty-student ratio of IIT-G is the best among the IITs,but it is showing a decline and is much worse than IIT-D’s in the QS table. Clearly,there is an error here. Two,the IITs are not allowed to take international students at the BTech level. There is scope for increasing the number of foreign PhD students. But even here there is a restriction,as government assistantships can only be given to Indian citizens. Without aid,it is difficult to attract good international PhD students. Hiring international faculty on a regular basis is not allowed. They can be hired on contract for up to five years,but only if the salary is at least $25,000 annually (so,effectively,only professors are allowed). The question remains: is the internationalisation of campuses an important parameter for excellence? Western countries have a clear advantage.

Three,50 per cent of the weightage is based on “reputation” (AR: 40 per cent and ER: 10 per cent) in the QS rankings,and 33 per cent in THE (not shown in table). IIT-G got a score of 0 for academic reputation and a score of 1 in research reputation in THE. This is reflected in the scores for teaching and research. These organisations are now aggressively marketing their products through which institutions can enhance their “reputation”. Thus,we have been invited to advertise in their QS Top University Guide 2013 (with discounts if we opt to advertise in more than one language) and in other publications,to attend seminars and conferences (with registration fees of course),and so on. Can we rely primarily on reputations to decide ranks? Academics all over the world are asked their opinion of the top institutions globally and in their country. The chances of getting an IIT’s name included by a US professor are quite slim. The number of respondents is proportional to the number of institutes available for selection in that country. So the responses are heavily weighted in favour of developed countries. Respondents are not asked to give their inputs for each of the listed universities (it may be impractical to do so,as there is a large number of them). Instead,each respondent is asked to give a list of 5-10 universities he or she thinks are globally well known,and well known in their continued…

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