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More reasons why India Rankings 2016 falls short

A closer look at shortcomings in the government's ranking of universities in India
BY Braingain Staff Writer |   22-07-2016

Some months ago, when the Indian government released its first edition of India Rankings, BrainGain Magazine ran this article, which examined whether they could be considered a reliable guide for students seeking admission to higher education institutions in the country (the answer was no, partly because of the low number of institutions covered, the quality of the data, and the way in which institutions were categorized). Now, a new analysis takes a closer look at some of the data issues in India Rankings 2016.

Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – the country’s top-ranked institute of higher education (photo by Sissssou, used under CC BY 2.0 licence)

The analysis, published recently on the IndiaSpend data journalism website, notes that no Indian name figures among the top 250 universities in the Times Higher Education (THE) global rankings, and only one (the Indian Institute of Science, or IISc, Bangalore) is among the top 300. The analysis notes that China is the only BRICS country to make THE’s top 100, with Peking University at No. 42, University of Hong Kong at No. 44, and Tsinghua University in the 47th spot.

The analysis notes that India Rankings 2016 fell short on three important criteria. The first was the lack of data on doctorates awarded, which indicate how committed an institution is to nurturing the next generation of academics, and which are an important driver of research.

The second major gap is data on institutional income, which gives a sense of the facilities available for students and staff, research income to nurture world-class research, and industry income to show how much businesses are willing to pay for quality research. The India Rankings do assess actual facilities – important in a country where some institutions exist only on paper – but these do not indicate the availability of resources to pay top-notch faculty, which determines the quality of teaching and research.

And the third major gap is related to measures of the global reputation of Indian universities, which generally fall short on faculty-student, male-female and international-local student ratios. In the THE rankings, the global reputation survey result accounts for 50% of the teaching score and 60% of the research score. The India Rankings do include a faculty-student ratio, an international-to-local student ratio, and a male-female student ratio. Unfortunately, these do not cast Indian universities in a good light.

For instance, the staff-to-student ratio at India’s top-ranked university, IISc, is 1:8.2, which compares reasonably well with 1:6.9 at Caltech, the top-ranked school on THE’s global list. But Indian institutions that are ranked lower fare poorly. For instance, Delhi University, ranked sixth in India (and in the 601-800 rank band in the THE list) has a faculty student ratio of 1:22.9.

In terms of attracting international students, the world’s top institutions have anywhere from 10% (University of Tokyo) to 37% (ETH Zurich, known in English as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). But in India, the proportion of international students at top schools such as the IITs is between zero and 1%.

Clearly, Indian higher education has a long way to go, and more rigorous ranking measures could be the first step.



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