In a striking trend thrown up by the latest QS World University Rankings by subject, the country’s premier engineering schools have broken into the top 500 league for subjects covered under arts and humanities.
IIT Delhi and IIT Mumbai, for instance, have made their debut in the global rankings this year for their performance in linguistics. IIT Delhi figures in the 201-250 band, IIT Bombay in the 251-300 band. IIT Kharagpur and IIT Kanpur, meanwhile, have entered the top 500 for social sciences & management.
In a year when Delhi University, one of the country’s top institutions for arts and social sciences, slipped 42 spots — from rank 210 last year to 252 now — for this faculty, IIT Delhi gained 57 ranks in arts and humanities.
The QS World University Rankings by subject is in its eight year, and covers 48 subjects. The top 500 institutes for each subject are compiled by judging performance on four parameters — international reputation among academics, among employers, research citations, and H-index in the relevant subjects. The H-index is a benchmark that uses citation analysis to determine a scholar or a scientist’s research impact.
While the IITs have either maintained their performance or made significant gains on the arts and humanities front, they found themselves slipping in the rankings for some of the core engineering subjects and sciences
IIT-Bombay, for instance, slid in five subjects — physics and astronomy, statistics and operational research, mathematics, environmental sciences and biological sciences. IIT-Madras’s performance slipped in computer science and information systems, biological sciences, chemistry, mathematics and physics & astronomy, and IIT-Delhi’s ranking dipped in chemical engineering, electrical and electronic engineering and biological sciences.
IIT directors, however, are wary of making year-on-year comparisons. “The fluctuations in rankings can be for different reasons,” said IIT Madras director Bhaskar Ramamurti. “For instance, we are in the process of building and expanding the computer science department and we have hired new faculty to take the total number [of teachers] up from 18 to 30. The research published by new faculty will obviously be small in number. So I maybe hit in terms of rankings, but I can’t let that stop me from building my department. We have to look at long-term gains, and not year-on-year comparisons.”
Ramamurti added, “If you look at our physics department, and this is probably true for all IITs, more than half our physicists work with materials. Many of their papers are in journals that the rankings classify as material sciences journals. They don’t go by which department we put our faculty in. They go by which journals they publish in. What they [QS rankings] call physics is particle physics. Our strength in that is not very large.”
“The changes are marginal and not significant,” IIT Bombay director Devang Khakhar told The Indian Express. “You also need to understand that these rankings too have some inherent flaws and small changes up or down do not mean too much.”
IIT Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao said: “Our overall rankings in engineering and technology [faculty] has increased [from 71 to 64]. So there is a gain. As for pure sciences, they will always play a secondary role in the IITs. For example, we will not be able to compete for physics and chemistry with, say, IISc.”
Asked about the dip in core engineering subjects such as chemical and electrical and electronics, Rao said the institute is still analysing the subject-wise breakup.