Despite dropping from its previously held position of the highest ranked Indian university in the annual world university rankings put out by global education analysts QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the over 100-year-old Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru has achieved the highest ever ranking for an Indian university in one of the important parameters in the 2018 rankings. IISc has been ranked number 6 among 959 universities in the QS World University Rankings for ‘Citations per Faculty’ — where the number of times research papers from a university is cited in the research work of others is calculated and calibrated against its faculty strength.
IISc has scored a perfect 100 for citations per faculty in the 2018 rankings. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia has topped the list, followed by Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in Gwangju, South Korea, California Institute of Technology, and Princeton University. “IISc research papers were cited nearly 82,000 times over the five-year period QS uses for this metric. This is almost twice as many as India’s second most research-intensive university, IIT Kharagpur, whose papers were cited 41,000 times over the five-year window,” QS said.
IISc has done consistently well in citations per faculty. It was ranked number 11 in the world in 2017 with a score of 99.9, and number 18 in 2016 with a score of 99.3. In 2015, IISc came in at 11th, again with a score of 99.9. IISc has, however, lost its position as India’s top ranking university in the QS World University Rankings, falling to an overall rank of 190, and an overall score of 49. IIT-Delhi has replaced it at the top, rising to a rank of 172 from 185 in the 2017 rankings, with an overall score of 50.7. IIT-Bombay has been ranked 179 — up from 219 in 2017 — with a score of 49.7. IISc had an overall rank of 152 in 2017 with a 53.8 score, and a rank of 147 in 2016 with a 62 score.
The QS rankings give highest weightage of 40% to academic reputation, followed by faculty-student ratio and citations per faculty (20% each), and employer reputation (10%). IISc has lost ground in academic reputation — it has scored 38.3, ranking 272 in 2018, having falling from rank 230 with a score of 42.4 in the 2017 QS rankings, and 212 in 2016 with a score of 52.5. IIT-Bombay has ranked 149 for academic reputation with a score of 62.3 in 2018, while IIT-Delhi has ranked 172 with a score of 54.9. IISc’s faculty-student ratio of 56.1 has brought it a ranking of 242 in 2018 — the highest for an Indian university. IIT-Bombay with 403 is next. In 2017, IISc was ranked 161 for faculty-student ratio and, in 2016, 108.
A senior IISc official familiar with the institute’s participation in the QS and other global rankings, who did not want to be named, said the change in the overall ranking of the institute may be a result of changes in the scoring system for parameters like academic reputation and employer reputation. “A small change of a few points results in significantly higher or lower rankings. The institute has not, however, changed in the last three years. It cannot change overnight,” the official said. “We have not gone into the details of the rankings, and it needs to be studied. We have consistently been ranked alongside the top universities in research impact.”
The higher citations per faculty seems to indicate that more papers published by IISc researchers are being cited by other researchers, since faculty strength has not changed significantly, the official said. “We try to improve every year. We have to look at the database ourselves and see if there has been any big change in citations in the last year.” IISc currently has a faculty strength of 426 and a student strength of 3,743 of whom 89% are post graduate students. There are 35 international students in post graduate programmes. The institute has 39 departments, and is classified as a small university.
IISc has fared well in international university rankings in recent years. A dedicated cell has been created in the Archives and Publications unit of the university to ensure that details of aspects of ranking systems like funding, research work etc., are available to ranking agencies and systems, according to officials. QS collects information for citations per faculty metric using Scopus, a database of research abstracts and citations. “The latest five complete years of data are used, and the total citation count is assessed in relation to the number of academic faculty members at the university, so that larger institutions do not have an unfair advantage. For the 2016-17 rankings, QS analysed 10.3 million research papers and 66.3 million citations,” the agency has said. This year, those numbers were 12.3 million papers and 75.1 million citations, according to a QS release.