Thursday, September 20, 2012

IITs unfazed at not making it to global university rankings

Indian universities, for the second time in a row, failed to make it to the top 200 institutes in the QS World University Rankings, but they are not losing sleep over it. The institutes say though they have not featured in the top 200, they certainly figure in the top 50 in their respective areas of specialisation. For instance, the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) might have slipped several notches to rank below 200, but all of them figure in the top 50 engineering and technology institutes internationally.

Agrees Danny Byrne, editor of “Despite not having a single university in the top 200 in the overall rankings, India’s concerted focus on engineering and technology is reflected in the appearance of IIT Bombay in the top 50.”

IITs Business Standard spoke to said they were not going to change any policies to improve their international rankings. “Ranking is not everything. No institution works merely to improve their ranking. We are doing things to give good experiences to our students and to do more research, and this is going on. Things other than these are only a byproduct,” said Devang Khakhar, Director, IIT Bombay.

IIT Bombay slipped two positions this year to rank at 227. Its peer, IIT Delhi, figures at 212th position, up six positions compared to the previous year. IIT Kanpur is at 278th position. “When you look at criterion like academic reputation or employer reputation, the IITs are doing well. What the IITs can really look at improving is the citation and faculty-student ratio,” said a professor at IIT Delhi. Khakhar agrees: “One has to take everything in context. The budget that international institutes have, IITs do not have. Certainly, rankings will go up if there is more investment, but this is not the whole idea.”

QS World University Rankings are based on data covering four key areas of concern for students, namely research, employability, teaching and internationalisation. Internationalisation has been identified as a major issue with the institutes in India. “We see India once again underperforming, with only 11 universities in the ranking, the vast majority of which are various IITs. Internationalisation has been identified as a key issue,” said the rankings. IITs, however, say internationalisation is not high on their agenda. “Foreign faculty and foreign students will improve, but not much, as our resources are focused on providing good education to Indian students,” said Professor Khakhar. Besides, IITs says they are not a university but a sub-set, and if one looks at what is their forte, they are not doing badly, given the investments.

Industry experts believe lack of awareness is a major reason for Indian institutes’ poor performance. Narayanan Ramaswamy, head of education practice at consultancy major KPMG, said several universities did not even participate in this process due to lack of awareness and did not give adequate information when asked for it. “The issue here is, we do not even have people to validate the necessary information when institutes are contacted by the authorities concerned,” he added. Ramaswamy said there was still a long distance for Indian universities to cover in terms of rigour of research and publication. “I hope the rankings have a positive influence on the institutions here to improve their performance,” he said. Experts said Indian institutes have to improve factors like internationalisation, emphasis on research faculty and incentivised research to be featured among the top institutes of the world.

“World rankings lay huge emphasis on research and research output. This is what Indian institutions lack. Though institutions like the IITs rank well in engineering disciplines, we do not have multi-disciplinary universities undertaking world-class research in the full range of disciplines. This is why they do not feature among the top universities in the world,” said Nikhil Sinha, vice-chancellor, Shiv Nadar University. QS says several young universities — such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST); Korea’s KAIST and POSTECH, which are certainly younger than the IITs — are raising millions of funds to fuel their growth and help build state-of-the-art laboratories and facilities. Nanyang Technological University (NTU) spent Singaporean $830 million in sustainability research. HKUST’s budget for research in 2009-2010 was Hong Kong $426 million, and KAIST has set a goal to raise one trillion won by 2013 for various academic advancement programmes.

The research currently considers over 2,000 universities, and ranks over 700. The top 400 are ranked individually, whereas those placed 401 and over are ranked in groups. Though some of the IITs have been around for about 50 years, they still need a lot to do in terms of research and to be financially independent. The fact that international university NTU can break the world top 60, just 20 years after it was established, certainly means Indian institutes can and do the same. Hope, the IITs are listening.

Source: Business Standard, September 20, 2012

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