Monday, October 10, 2011

Investment crucial for establishing world-class universities: THE

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE WUR) was released last week. Phil Baty, editor, THE WUR, talks about the key findings.

What do you feel has caused Harvard Universitys slip after eight years to the second position and California Institute of Technology bagging the number one position?
The differences at the peak of the table are small. California Institute of Technology has made it to number one this year, because it performed almost faultlessly across all indicators, marginally improving on Harvard with regards to research volume, income and reputation, and research influence. The most substantial influence on California Institute of Technology's success this year has been the income it attracts from industry. Indeed, with the race to the top being so neck-and-neck, simple factors can become huge differentiators. In this instance, money has made all the difference.

India is represented in the bubbling under section by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay. Do you think India possesses the potential to make rapid advances?
If the Indian government stays committed to higher education, with a focus on funding,research and teaching all things that count in the THE WUR, I see no reason why we won't see an Indian institution in the top 200 in the very near future. We are also now seeing a consistently increasing number of academic publications from India each year, so before too long we expect to see more Indian institutions in the rankings.

What is it about India that makes it lag behind in almost all world university rankings, while smaller and developing nations are coming up in the list?
One thing that could be said to be holding India back is that its traditional institutions, such as the University of Mumbai, are too large some with half a million students on their campuses and in their affiliated undergraduate colleges. This does not allow for effective management and focus. Indian universities also seem to be suffering from having been under-funded for decades and with no formal evaluation system for academic staff - where people are promoted on the basis of seniority - it is taking a while for the recently renewed efforts to improve India's higher education system to show effect in real terms.

Does this year's ranking establish any new trend that you would like to mention?
In today's world of higher education, it seems it is all about money. Indeed, if we look at the US it is clear that this year its institutions have suffered the effects of the global financial crisis. As funding cuts start to kick in, some of the prestigious public US institutions such as Berkeley, University of California, Los Angeles and UC San Diego have all witnessed a drop in real terms. In short, investment is crucial in order to produce world-class universities.

Source: Education Times (The Times of India), October 10, 2011

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