Most of India’s top higher education institutions have slipped in the latest edition of the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings (WUR) released on Wednesday, including at least 10 which had been marked out by the government under the Institution of Eminence (IoE) scheme.
Among the IoEs that have fallen in rank over the past 12 months are IIT-Delhi, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, IISc-Bangalore, Delhi University, Hyderabad Central University, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani (BITS-Pilani), Anna University and Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) (see box).
Overall, 21 Indian universities and institutes have found a place this year among the world’s top 1,000, as opposed to 25 last year. IIT-Bombay retains its status as country’s top university, followed by IISc-Bangalore, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Madras, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Kanpur, IIT-Roorkee, IIT-Guwahati, Delhi University and IIT-Hyderabad.
Of the 21, 14 have fallen in rank and only four – IIT-Guwahati, IIT-Hyderabad, OP Jindal University, and Savitribai Phule Pune University – have improved their position. Private IoEs BITS-Pilani and VIT are among the four institutions that have been dropped from the top 1,000 universities. Last year, they were placed in the 801-1000 band.
The IoE scheme, a pet project of the Prime Minister’s Office launched under the NDA-II government, is aimed at creating an enabling architecture for 10 public and 10 private institutions to help break into the top 500 ranks globally in a decade and eventually into the top 100.
The IoEs are proposed to have greater autonomy compared to other higher education institutions and the 10 government institutions, in addition to autonomy, are also to get Rs 1,000 crore each from the HRD Ministry over five years.
The lower ranks secured by the public IoEs are significant as their selection for the ’eminence’ status was based on their performance in the QS WUR, among other criteria.
Although the first tranche of institutions selected for the ’eminence’ status was announced in 2018, the public institutions haven’t been able to make much progress as they have only received about a quarter of the funding committed by the government for 2018-19 and 2019-20.
As first reported by The Indian Express on November 21 last year, IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and IISc had flagged concerns over the pace of funding by the HRD Ministry under the scheme. The problem was again discussed last week, at a meeting of all IoEs called by the HRD Minister.
The ranking agency attributes the “regressive performance” of Indian institutions to low levels of internationalisation and faculty-student ratio. “India’s universities continue to record low levels of internationalization and high class sizes, which is preventing improved performance. While the Indian Institutes of Technology perform well in our reputational and research metrics, they too receive low scores – when compared globally – for teaching capacity and internationalization levels,” Jack N Moran, public relations executive with QS, wrote in an emailed response to The Indian Express.
A senior faculty member holding an administrative post in IIT-Delhi, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, agreed that IITs need to work on internationalisation, but also expressed frustration over the “lack of transparency” in how ranking agencies score institutions against each metric.
“Every year, we have worked on our data based on their feedback. IIT-Delhi has hired new faculty and improved its faculty-student ratio. This year we gave them an exhaustive list of foreign academicians they can reach out to for the reputation or perception metric. In fact, we were even told that the data we provided this year is far superior to what we had in the past. Yet, we have dropped in the rankings,” the professor said.
IIT-Delhi dropped 11 places from 182 to 193 this year. According to Moran, the institute’s ranking over the last four editions of QS WUR has suffered on account of its performance drop in Academic Reputation, Citations per Faculty, and both of QS’s internationalisation indicators.
In April, seven IITs — Mumbai, Delhi, Kanpur, Guwahati, Madras, Roorkee and Kharagpur – collectively decided to pull out of the Times Higher Education World Rankings this year over issues of “transparency” in the ranking parameters.
“It’s silly to debate a change of a few positions in the ranking. I don’t think we should worry about that,” said a professor with IISc who did not wish to be identified. IISc’s performance dropped by one rank this year. The teacher conceded a lot of the work planned by the institute under the IoE scheme hasn’t got off the ground because of the slow funding by the HRD Ministry.
MAHE said it cannot comment on its performance since it hasn’t “received the full report from QS world ranking agency”. BITS-Pilani did not respond to the query shared over email.
Globally, MIT is the number one university, followed by Stanford University and Harvard University. While no Indian institution is among the world’s top 100, there are, however, 26 Asian universities that have made it. Of these 26, Mainland China and South Korea have six each, Hong Kong and Japan have five each, Singapore has two universities and Malaysia and Taiwan have one each.
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